Friday, January 10, 2014

I'm Not Here to Write Their Story

I fell into bed completely exhausted from a typical full day. Steven was still brushing his teeth. As I was dozing off, I remember asking him one last question:

"Am I a bad mom?"

The next morning I woke up and thought back to my last words as I fell asleep. I began to consider how often this question is the topic on my brain as I put my head on my pillow.

I rarely ponder if I'm a bad friend, even a bad wife. But somehow when Isaiah arrived into my life nearly 12 years ago, this is the question I wrestle with the most. I know I'm not unique. I would venture to say that most mothers reading this are nodding their heads in agreement.

There is just so much darn pressure. Parenting magazines made me ask if I spent enough time on the floor with my toddler. Blogs made me question if I am stimulating my children's artistic abilities or even presenting their food creatively enough (sorry, peeps, but my kid's sandwich will forever take the shape of a box). In our sane moments, moms realize that their way to much expectation put on motherhood; but the thoughts still nag at the back of our brains.

But it doesn't stop there.

Then there is the world of Christian parenting. This opens a whole new can of parenting worms in my heart. Why isn't my kid obeying me instantly like that parenting book tells me I need to teach them to do? I don't remember any resources touching on what to do when your one son punches the this that normal behavior? Am I doing something wrong? Am I ruining them? What if I never see my child become a Christian? Will they be in therapy in the future because I yelled at them today? What if I have to parent through intense rebellion as a teenager?

What's wrong with every single question I just asked myself? It's all about me. My control, my fears, my image.

Elyse Fitzpatrick said something that hit me hard: "We were never meant to carry the ultimate responsibility for anyone's soul: neither our own nor our children's. Only the Good Shepherd is strong enough to carry a soul- that's his job, not ours. And although this kind of committed parenting appears godly, it is nothing less than works righteousness and idolatry."

I actually started to breathe easier the first time I heard this. I felt like I had been carrying around an unbelievably heavy load, and the Lord was whispering, "That's mine."

I was meant to nurture, love, and preach the gospel to my kids. But it stops there. I was never meant to carry the burden of redeeming their souls.

I think back on my life. Even though I am in the middle of my journey, I can still see the way God has and is writing my story. Do I want that for my children? Do I want to let God write their story or do I want to write it? Who am I to say that a perfectly trained child and a young conversion is the story they should have?

So what can I do? In my brain, I've whittled it down to a few major responsibilities I have. Here are four major ones:

1. I can let them know they have a problem....and a solution
I often tell my kids that the kindest thing I can do for them is help them see that they are slaves to their own sin, and that someone is going to have pay the punishment for sinning against a Holy God. Then I can help them see the mind-blowing truth that God sent His Son take that punishment for them. I can do my make the gospel exciting and attractive. BUT it ends there. I cannot convert them and should not pressure them into conversion but allow the beautiful Savior to woo them to Himself.

2. I can let them know I'm ready to walk with them through the muck.
Let me give an example to this: Steven and I talked to the boys in honest terms about pornography. My gut instinct would be to simply tell them "don't you dare!", but that would just be opening the door to secret sin and shame. Instead we when we discussed it, though we did talk about the dangerous trap that it is, our emphasis was letting us walk with them through these waters. We told them that they are welcome to freely share what they've seen with no angry parent response. We promised them that we would do our best to walk through their temptations with them. Sin is most poisonous when it is in the dark. Are we will to help them walk in the light by being willing to get down in the dirty waters with them instead of simply standing a those waters edge and shouting at them to get out?

3. I can let them know they can't lose my love.
No matter what stage I have been at in my life, my parent's home has always been a safe haven. I know I will encounter love and acceptance. There were times they didn't accept my attitude or my choices, but I knew they accepted me and the fact that I was part of the family God knit together in their home. I want that for my kids. I want home to be safe, a place to be honest without fear of rejection.

4. I can pray. And then pray some more.
I need to really let that sink in. I have access to the God who has the king's heart as a stream of water in His hands. That is no light thing. Don't underestimate getting on your knees beside your bed and pouring your heart for your kids out to your own Father.

So I'm asking God to position my heart to take a backseat to His story writing. Will His version include a young person impassioned for eternity or will it include a teenage pregnancy? I'm praying that He gives me the grace to mother lovingly regardless, but I have to tell you it feels freeing not to be weighed down with having to figure it out myself.

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