What You Don’t Get to Decide for Your Children
Blood poured from his soaking nose and chin. My insides lurched. You know the feeling when you see one of your children physically hurt?
It is a primal ache.
The words, “I told you so,” caught in my throat.
I did in fact tell him so. Just moments before I had advised my seven-year-old son, Sam, and his five-year-old brother, Charlie, not to cannonball into the pool, holding a three-gallon metal bucket.
But I turned to get the sunscreen, and they did it anyway.
Sam got bumped in the face, and now, he was hurt. Not badly, but swim time was definitely over.
I pleaded with him, “Why did you do this?”
And Sam whimpered, “Charlie talked me into it! Herm looks smarter.”
Yeah, he looks wise for his years.
Still, after 23 plus years of parenting, I know that kids can be talked into a lot more than they can be talked out of.
With now only three out of six left at home, the last week has left me a little worse for wear.
Sophie, the youngest of our biological children, is seventeen. Up until about a month ago, she and her brother Luke still wandered our halls. Luke left late last month to continue his yoga instructor training in Colorado.
I knew it was coming, and I knew what he would say when I saw his name light up on my cell phone.
The thing about Luke is, he has always been loved, where ever he goes. And the owner of the institute adores him. She sees his potential and she has offered him great favor.
So, he is not coming back to wander my halls, eat all my bacon, or leave his socks on the coffee table.
It makes perfect sense, and yet, I am baffled.
Baffled at how fast time flies, and how quickly things change.
I have been criticized for “letting” him study yoga.
And I am used to being criticized for my parenting adventures; military school choices, nickname preferences, and my near arrest for possession of an illegal narcotic. Sorry, you’ll have to read the book.
So, Luke called to let me know, something I was pretty sure of already, and I had a good cry. I am happy for Luke, but I would be lying if I didn’t also confess, it would have been grand if he had picked Christian missionary in Ohio or feather pillow inspector in New Hampshire.
Yeah, I googled safest places to live. And I begged John not to become a Marine because feather pillow inspecting is an excellent and safe career.
He didn’t oblige.
So, Maggie works with needles, John blows things up, and Luke… is embarking on a career, among beautiful, good and decent humans, who cherish nature, peace, health, and wellness, and do not embrace the God of my heart.
What I do not get to decide for my children is who they love or their spiritual walk.
I thought I did. Honestly, I fully believed, this was up to me.
Worse still, I believed I would be judged by my God if I failed to make them believe. If the lost their virginity out of wedlock, were arrested, kicked out school, failed, stumbled or hurt someone, that was on me.
And I can tell you, I did all the things. My kids are incredible humans.
But I do not get to decide what they believe.
I have said it before; you can’t make your child love Jesus.
And I am not saying that any of my kids don’t love Him, but I am here to testify, their relationship with Him, is not mine to fix or fabricate.
I told my children about Him, and they know I love Him. We sang the songs and prayed the prayers. We went to church and watched Veggie Tales. They know who Adam, Eve, Noah, Job, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are.
John called me two nights ago to ask me how to make salmon. Maggie texted and asked me about gentle cycles. Luke called to ask how to register his car. Sophie lay on my bed and asked me how to end a relationship. And I answered each question to the best of my ability.
Sometimes, I am wrong.
Occasionally, I am right. And I know how to stop a bloody nose and embrace a teachable moment with two little boys and a metal bucket.
But there is no formula for making someone love someone else.
What I take great comfort in, what grants me the most peace is this truth, I can’t save them, so He did.
Of the emails I receive, the heartbreak I have heard, so many Christian mommas want to know how to bring a child back to the beliefs of their childhood home.
I have this answer, the one that I hold as my own, “you can’t, and why would you want to?”
It wasn’t until I was well into my forties that I came to really know my Jesus. I wish I could say it didn’t take so long. But I would not trade the journey for the blessing of arriving in the arms of this Christ, who is entirely real.
To need Him meant a valley where He alone was my only hope. To know Him meant a season of wandering. And to fully be set free, I was forced to look at the bondage of the law, and know, there was no answer but Grace… and I would never go back.
At my worst, I taught my children that God was unreachable unless they were “good.” At my best, I confessed I had been wrong. He loved them, just as I did, no matter what.
I sent my children out into the world armed with Truth.
But I cannot make them choose it as their own. My friend, Bev Sheasby, once told me, “within the seed is the entire plant.”
I planted a seed.At my worst, I taught my children that God was unreachable unless they were “good.” At my best, I confessed I had been wrong. He loved them, just as I did, no matter what. Click To Tweet
Sometimes, I over watered it. Other times, it was barely enough. And still other times, the sun beat down on it, the wind and the weather pummeled it, but still, its roots were deep.
I have had to ask myself this, can I make an apple tree grow apples?
I can plant a seed. And I might see a tree spring forth, but the miracle of fruit is outside of my control.
This is where I rest. Under the shade of a good and loving God, who adored me unto His death, I rest. I pray for my children, and I believe that is the continuation of my role in their growth outside the (somewhat) safe haven we call home.
I am here if they need me. And in many cases, they already know what I will say.
And, I trust Him to produce the fruit.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of that not yet seen. Hebrews 11:1
It is not easy, especially in this day and age, to “keep” our teens in line with our beliefs. Today I want to invite you to check out this beautiful book by my dear Grace Sister, Christine Carter of themomcafe.com. Christine has put together an incredible guide for teens and I am eager to share this important work with you. We can’t choose what they believe when they leave, but we can instill that seed of truth and help them navigate the online world with wisdom and conviction. Grab a copy of Chris’ book “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World” below, and empower your young people with the Good News purchased for them long before the internet was invented.
Thank you, Christine, this is a treasure. May Jesus bless your precious heart and work… may this book change lives, protect hearts, and guide a generation into the arms of the Jesus who knows… Well done my friend. I love you, Jj
The featured image of this post is for sale in my Etsy shop. It is an original mixed media piece created by me and is titled, “Be Still.” You can find it by following this link!