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The last month or so has been hard. Really hard. I caught a bug the day after Christmas, a really evil bug, that caused me to lose my voice from 3 weeks of coughing day and night, and sapped me of all energy, physical and emotional. During that time, I also allowed myself to become just about drained spiritually, as well.
So, while I was down there in the gutter, I took some time to contemplate the future, which contains some huge challenges. What challenges, you might ask?
Well, for one, I am the mother of a 16 year old son, and a 13 year old daughter. And this parenting of adolescents thing is not for cowards. Now, my kids, in relation to lots and lots of kids their age, are wonderful kids. They really are! Everyone (who doesn’t live with them) says so! So far, in fact, I’ve probably gotten off really easy. No one has gone to Juvie. I’m not in the pen sporting a non-fashion-forward orange jumpsuit, for having killed one of them. Hey: life is good! In fact, in light of not having to wear an orange jumpsuit, it’s not just good, it’s great!
So, anyway, I was talking to my friend the other day about what was dragging me down, and she said, “You know, I’m pretty sure it sounds like a lot of what is getting to you is fear.” And then she said a lot of other stuff, which probably registered on my brain as “Blah, Blah, Blah, Ginger” (That’s a reference to one of my favorite Far Side comics that compares what we say to dogs, to what dogs actually understand.) A light bulb had gone on inside my brain. I AM wrestling with a lot of fear. Because, I HAVE seen some of the most wonderful Moms I know, some of the finest human beings I’ve ever met, watch their children make some stupid, stupid choices. And it has finally really and truly registered with me how incredibly little control I actually have over my kids lives and choices. And while you may think, “Well, duh….”, nevertheless, if/when it ever happens to YOU, you may find yourself remembering that somewhere in your distant past, somebody might have mentioned to you reaching this stage in parenting is terribly, terribly hard. I have found myself second guessing some of the most basic decisions I have made on this journey, including whether or not homeschooling was actually the best thing for my kids.
While I was down in my cozy little Pit of Despair, the Lord, bless Him, stopped by to have a chat with me. (He’s awfully good about remembering those who find themselves in prison, whether it’s an actual, real life prison, or just an emotional prison that we have built for ourselves.) Which is sure a good thing, because I really desperately, desperately needed a bit of Divine Tail-Kicking. I was working on my BSF lesson, in Isaiah chapter 35, and I believe the Holy Spirit made a verse come alive for me in a way it never had before. In that chapter, in verses 3 and 4, God tells the prophet Isaiah that Isaiah is to “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear, your God will come.'” Now, before my friend had mentioned that I was wrestling with fear, I really hadn’t thought of it that way. I just thought I was depressed in light of the probable reality of my situation. Adolescents make stupid choices. They just do. Over the doorway to adolescence, I read the sign that I myself had hung, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.
And there IS an element of letting go of cherished hopes that I’ve had to do, lately. And that IS hard. No doubt about it. But somehow or another, as parents, even as we’re letting go of some of our old dreams and hopes for this child, paradoxically, at the very same time, we’ve got to be the ones who look that child square in the eye and let them know that we have the GREATEST hope and belief in them. So, we let go, and we hold on, all at the same time. No wonder so many mothers I know are in agony. Day by day we try to navigate as best we can these shoals, fraught with uncertainty, and even danger.
God does not call us to be in a happy little place of denial in regard to our children and their choices. He asks us to look at the reality of the situation, face the facts, and then offer up our fears to the One who loves us so deeply that He chose to die for the love of us. The promise is there for us that if we strengthen our feeble hands and steady our knees by casting our cares on Him, because he cares for us, that He WILL come. He will not leave us to face whatever may come alone. He will be with us. Always. Even to the end of the world. We are not alone. We are loved. Our children are loved. He loves them more than we love them. He WILL come.
And as my heart realized that His Spirit was speaking these words to me, I felt like He was kneeling down, leaning over my ankle, and unlocking that ball and chain of fear I’d been dragging around. It’s a beautiful thing how much lighter my spirit feels! Not that trouble won’t come. In this world we WILL have tribulation, right? Comes with the territory. But we are to take heart, for He has overcome the world.
So, I don’t know if I’ve exactly exchanged my draggin’ heart for a dragon heart (bold, courageous, fearless), but I’d at least say that God came to me in my prison, and reminded me to whom I should turn when I am afraid. He’s so good!
Fears can be fiery, due to real and present danger, or more of a slow simmer, due to a dread of what MIGHT happen. Whatever the case, they always reveal in whom or what we have placed our trust. Are you struggling with fear? Maybe God has something He’d like to whisper to your heart as well. Cast all your fears on Him, because He cares for you.