I’m well aware his God loves him way more than I do and that He’s “got this.” The kid’s studied for years. He is fiercely determined and his heart has longed for the mountains and the trees since long before he was old enough to articulate that longing. I gave him his name because every man I knew who had it was strong and courageous and gentlemanly and determined. He is those things, and more. But I can’t seem to stop crying every time I think of my second son’s leaving on this first big journey of his lifetime, off to hike the Appalachian Trail. I’m trusting God in parenting, but that doesn’t make this moment one. bit. easier. Truthfully, I’m fighting images of his having to pry me off, because I don’t want to let go.
I promised I’d be honest; I wouldn’t trade one moment of it for all the giddy laughter in the world. But truthfully speaking, parenting a strong-willed adventurer has not been easy. He’s needed to go against the grain since birth, although a big-sister-in-faith called it long before my young mama-eyes saw it. “He’s your strong willed one,” she said. “Him? Nooooo…” My smallest baby at birth, the funny guy, the one we thought would have his own comedy show, he couldn’t be that. But he has always known the way he would go (even if it was just NOT the way he was expected to), and he has determined to take step after step in that direction, regardless of anyone’s mere opinion, and whether or not those in charge could tell if his heart was in the right place.
As a home-schooling mom, I admit with sadness that I threatened to send him away to learn, because I found it so difficult to teach this boy. But can I tell you? My heart broke when I realized the not-just-pointlessness of my threats, but the damage they might cause, because really, I couldn’t have done it, and really, he was teaching me along the way. Or for sure God was, because sometimes moms need their little ones to show them Truth where they might not otherwise see it.
The truth is, when I felt a failure as a mom, when I’ve felt ill-equipped or unable, those are the times I needed to hit my knees and beg help from my God. And those times rang familiar when my boy also found it impossible to do what was hard, but good. And together, we’ve had to cling to our Hope in the One who did what was impossible, so that we could keep going.
Those conversations I talk about? There have been plenty with my boy. Far too many that went round-and-round as two determined people circled a given issue, and many that required the at-times-unwanted intervention of a dad who wisely said, “STOP,” and often, “PRAY.” Sometimes there weren’t easy answers to our parenting or his child questions. Sometimes answers meant revising everything we thought we should do as parents. Sometimes we had to come to verbal blows to break through to a truth that needed to be understood. But always, always, underlying our journey as parents-and-son, as a family with lots of moving people-parts, there has been the flavor of Love. The knowledge that God made us for each other, and He made us each for a higher calling, too, that really ultimately only points to His glory, for our good, that has held us aloft.
Can I tell you? Parenting isn’t what I expected. When the kids were tiny and there were several of them, well-meaning onlookers would say, “wait till they’re teenagers.” It was said with what, as a young mom, I saw as a sneer. An all-knowing lilt of doom colored their words, ripe with expectation of dark times when hormones hit. The truth I fought for, though, is that God doesn’t create beings that lose their humanity when their age reaches double digits. They’re broken, yes, and they’ve got certain traits that make work necessary, but so do we all. And can I tell you? I still fight that ridiculous notion that all teenagers must hate their parents and rebel hopelessly against them. Still, there are tough times that call for greatest attention in those years, and most of all they call for us to plunge into the deep end, to fearlessly pursue when sometimes we want to run, because if we look closely we’ll find a sort of looking-glass, a mirror of our own brokenness, our own fears, and our own desperate need for a Savior to rescue us from our own stupidity.
So young mama, look that stranger in they eyes when they speak “knowingly,” boding hardship for your future. Dare them to respond to a calm, measured reply like, “Isn’t God awesome?” Because their foreboding is unbiased. God promises us He will work for His glory and their good, when our children love Him. He promises us that His word will never return void. As my friend Tami told me time and again over the years, if I fail everything but to point my kids to Jesus on a given day, I have not failed at all. J, my son, I’m letting you go (just a little bit) today… but I’m pointing you to Jesus. He’s your only life, and He’s your only reason. He is your strength to live that life and that reason.
Our second sets out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail this week, the week he’s turned 18, man-years by our country’s measurement. But God measures a man by far higher standards. And I’m a mom who’s spoiled enough to see those standards coming to fruition. Imperfectly, with stumbles along the way, but by God’s grace, step by step, he’s walking forward in Grace.
What are your hardest parenting moments? The ones where you know you can’t take one more step without desperately needed help?