As you might guess from the headline of this post, we recently celebrated a milestone birthday at our house.
I don’t have any trouble thinking of my daughter as a teenager—she’s always seemed older and wiser than her years, in mostly good ways. I do, however, start having a little difficulty breathing when I think about the mass onslaught of letting go that will happen in the coming years. This process is right and necessary, but it also can be somewhat scary, especially in the world in which we live.
When our children are little, it’s easier to manage much of what they do, see and hear. As parents, we are the primary gatekeepers for what influences them, and though bad influences can and sometimes do creep in, it’s not so hard to quash them.
The older they get, however, the more they start to think for themselves. Again, this is as it should be, but there’s always the possibility that the thoughts they start thinking might not line up with the thoughts I want them to think. They also start to experience more hard things—issues with friends, unmet expectations, struggles in school, emotional swings, physical pain, and so on.
While I don’t worry about all these areas, there are one or two that have the potential to send me into orbit.
Once when I was particularly spun up—to the point of extrapolating my fears into ridiculous future outcomes—I heard a sermon that transformed my thinking about the matter. One of the elders at my church was preaching about God’s sovereignty and used an experience from his daughter’s childhood to illustrate how God brings good from bad.
I don’t remember all the details, but I do recall that his daughter suffered some kind of injury when she was younger that led to years of pain and difficult rehabilitation. As he talked about how his daughter’s interactions with caring medical professionals later led her to become a nurse, I had one of those a-ha moments that are usually reserved for the shower.
Would God have plucked my daughter out of hundreds of millions in China and brought her over here to be part of my little family just to disappear when the going got a bit rough? I asked myself.
And are any struggles she may have—in any area—enough to negate the plans He has for her life, whatever they may entail?
The answer to both, of course, is absolutely not. In fact, those struggles very well might be the tools He uses to make her into what He designed her to be before she was ever born.
Struggles build character. They force perseverance. They foster patience. They produce empathy.
All I have to do is look at my own life for proof. I was a good kid. I followed all the “rules.” But back then, my faith walk was more of a “works walk.” My being a Christian had much more to do with everything I did or didn’t do than it had to do with a personal relationship with God.
I’m not necessarily complaining about this. I’m grateful for the hurts I may have been spared because I was so strictly adhering to my do-not-do list.
But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I experienced anything close to what you might call spiritual growth. And you know what brought those growth spurts on?
It was trouble. It took on various forms, but no matter the trial, it was during those times when I started learning what it means to walk by faith and not by sight, what it means to die to myself so that others may experience life, what it means to live like Jesus is enough.
(Notice I said “started learning.” This is an ongoing process, sometimes marked by progress, sometimes by the exact opposite.)
I must confess that, often, I want my children to have life easy. I want to shield them from pain and loss and challenging math problems, not just because I don’t want them to hurt, but because it is easier for me.
That is not necessarily best for them, however. This makes me cringe a bit, because I don’t know what kinds of trouble might be in store for them. But while Randy and I are their parents and are responsible for many things regarding their lives, there is a Power much greater than us at work in them.
And that brings me both comfort and hope as I watch my daughter embark on her teenage years.
Yes, I am her mother. Yes, Randy is her father.
But God, her heavenly Father, is with her. He is for her. He loves her.
None of that has changed now that she is 13.
Nor will it ever change, for her, or for her little sister, or for me, or for you.