Hands-off Parenting

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“If knowing answers to life’s questions is absolutely necessary to you, then forget the journey. You will never make it, for this is a journey of unknowables – of unanswered questions, enigmas, incomprehensibles, and, most of all, things unfair.”

– Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon

I often hear God speak to me through reading fictional stories in books and watching films in a way that methodical Bible study can’t. It’s helpful to have developed the fine art of bone-spitting because sometimes the precious morsel that nourishes me is buried in distraction.

As I lay in bed, too sore after surgery to sleep anymore last night, I watched a British movie, Housewife, 49. The film tells the story of a woman whose role as an attentive mother was no longer required. The problem was that her sons had grown up and she was learning the art of hands-off parenting just as World War II was breaking out over their heads where they lived near the shipyards in England. She suffered from severe anxiety.

Her story is one of gradually rejecting the defining edges of the box others put her in. She discovered, under duress, she was capable of more than she knew. The crisis came when her beloved son, who up until that point served in a relatively safe post close to home, wanted to volunteer for a much riskier assignment.

It’s one thing to learn to trust God to guide your own life through unforeseen twists and turns in the road. It’s another to take your hands off your children and let them take risks when you have first-hand experience of seeing the negative consequences of  decisions made by friends and family over the years. You have read a lot more news stories and bailed out a lot more people from wrecks along the way. It’s so hard not to try to convince your adult children to play it safe.

In the film our heroine (for she was truly that) discovered that much of the frustration in her life had been because of her husband’s need to keep her shut up in the house like Peter the Pumpkin-eater tried to keep his in a pumpkin shell. He finally confessed it was his fear for her safety that motivated his actions. But it was those actions that increased her anxiety and feelings of meaninglessness.

She realized she could not impose her fear on her son, even if the consequence was his death on the battlefield. She let him go.

I’ve had to make those letting go decisions with my own kids. More than anything in the world I wanted to be a mother. I enjoyed being a mother. At one point you could say I was a professional mother, filling in and taking foster children into our home until their mothers could care for them again. But there was always a time to let go – and it was always before the road ahead was smooth and predictable.

My daughter moved to a Caribbean Island to take a teaching position. I still have a photo of her the day she left smiling in anticipation of “awesome year in the sun.”

It was not awesome. She was in two seriously life-threatening-sized hurricanes in the first month. Her job was not as advertised, everything she owned was stolen from a storage facility at home, including tax information and personal diaries. She nearly died of sudden hemorrhage and experienced emergency major surgery in a tiny six-bed hospital that did not provide linens or food or fly swatters. That’s where she was told she had a condition that meant she would be unable to have children. The man she loved told her he was marrying someone else. She became homeless because of greedy developers, and one day, while out jogging, was chased by a pack of wild dogs with evil intent.

I had a lot of questions about why God didn’t give my precious girl an awesome year in the sun. I was reluctant to do any letting go for some time after that.

A few years later she went through a really tough time. Nurses brought her into a room in the ICU to say goodbye to her husband who lay dying from flesh-eating disease. I was with her at the time and was amazed at her faith and ability to praise God in the worst  circumstances.

He didn’t die. He was miraculously healed and now they and their three miraculously conceived children are on another adventure. People asked how she had such faith and she pointed back to her time on the island, particularly the moment when she faced the wild dogs knowing she was defenseless and there was no one around.

She heard a voice that said, “Stop!” She obeyed, stopped running, turned and faced the dogs. Instead of lunging at her throat they dropped their heads, whined, and disappeared into the undergrowth. She met the God who is her keeper on a hot dusty road that day.

Parenting adult children means taking our hands off so God can put his hands on. God has no grandchildren. They need to know for themselves that he is their God, and not merely the God of their parents. They need to know he will take them farther along the road than we have gone.

It’s been a struggle. Hands-off doesn’t mean heart-off. If my kids or grandkids need me I am willing to drop everything and go. I pray constantly, but I am still learning that prayer for family means standing in the gap without standing in the way.

God is God and I am not. He is much more capable of loving them than I am.

When they became parents, our kids all invited us back into their lives. They’ve included us in business and creative partnerships and encourage us to be active influencers in their children’s lives. They are all competent experts in their own fields and we frequently consult them. I love them very much and am proud of all of them – and their spouses. If we were not related it would still be an honour to know them. God is good.

Our daughter and her husband wrote about his miraculous recovery. It includes chapters by one of the attending physicians who verifies the medical aspects of the story and their bishop who gives insight into the spiritual implications of the events. Details, photos and videos here: While He Lay Dying

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Trickle Down Word

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“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

    You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!”

(Isaiah 55:8-12 NLT)

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Breathe

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The devil is a terrorist.

My friend, Jeff, pointed out yesterday that while the motivating force behind heaven’s actions is love, the motivating force the powers of evil try to sell us is fear. The world is saturated in fear and constantly trying to manipulate with fear. All stress is fear based and includes “What if [insert nightmare here].”

Graham Cooke points out that fear and intimidation is a low-budget item for the enemy of our souls.  But God’s love? Love is costly. And He was willing to pay the price.

This week we have again been hit with fear bombs, the ill wind of dire predictions, and a feeling of being corralled by lack of options. The devil is nasty. Terror is custom-made; it hits where you are most vulnerable. Many friends, some of my family and myself have had these kind of sneak attacks happening lately.

Jeff pointed out that those who have turned to Christ learn to thrive by breathing the joyful, peaceful atmosphere of heaven. If you panic and pull your mask off you will immediately breathe in the poisonous atmosphere of fear.

When we keep focusing on Christ we build a relationship with him through thanksgiving for what he has already done, by praising him for his character and attributes and by taking time to breathe the cleansing pneuma of the Holy Spirit.

When we cry. “Abba! Father!” and rest our weary heads on the chest of the One who loves us most the atmosphere changes and grows from the kind offered via oxygen mask that falls down in emergencies to entire bio-domes where the Kingdom of heaven is being established in a community and where Christ’s love is at the center of all our actions. Love casts out fear.

At the moment I am conscious of the need to firmly hold that mask of thanksgiving and praise and trust close to my face and to reject clouds of toxic fear swirling in the atmosphere. The joy of the Lord is my strength because I am loved by the Creator of the universe. I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

No matter which way the storm winds blow I am a much loved child of God and if you want to attack me, you’re going to have to go through Him.

John, the disciple who knew he was loved, wrote:

Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

 

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