This girl. This one with the grown up smile, who is now taller than me is one of the best gifts I was ever given. And the process of her growing up is also a tool in the hand of the Lord to reveal my own heart. She is now firmly in the middle of middle school. Middle School. And let me just tell you that Middle School is not for the faint of heart. Oh, not for all of the reasons that you have heard. All of the girl drama and the boyfriend drama (what in the world?!?) and ALL OF THE PUBERTY. Well...all of that, yes. But, it's more than that. Underlying everything is this unmistakable sense that she is leaving me. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. She is becoming independent. She is growing and changing and becoming less an extension of me, and more of an individual all on her own. And I know that this is a good thing. But it hurts a little, this leaving. And it scares me, too.
You see, when she was young, Loren and I were her world. For the most part, we made the decisions. We decided what she could do and, in some ways, who she would be for a while. I signed her up for soccer. I took her to piano. My friend's kids were her friends. That's the way it was, the way it should be. The fabric of her life was firmly stitched to my own. She had some say, of course, but she had less of a say. The daily decisions were mostly mine to make, and it was exhausting in a lot of ways. The dailyness of parenting small children is exhausting. What will they eat? What will they wear? When will they play, do chores, brush their teeth, go to bed? But, these days, I am learning that the alternative...that place that middle-schoolers begin to occupy is exhausting in a whole new way. Because now, they choose. More and more, they are making their own choices about who they will be and what they want their lives to be about. And the mental energy it takes to guide, but not boss, to have meaningful conversations, instead of bark orders, to be open to doing things differently than when I was a kid can wear my brain out. Not to mention the constant, heart wrenching process of allowing that firmly stitched fabric of my child's life to be ripped from my own bit by bit. Sometimes, the feeling of losing her dependence on me often leaves me grasping for some kind of control, leaves me feeling frayed and raw. Because what happens when she chooses wrong? And I know, at some point, she will. So, even though it was exhausting, I can start to miss those days when I had the reigns. When I decided who she would be.
But the truth is, I never really had the reigns. I never really controlled anything. It was an illusion. And so, middle school actually clears things up a little. These children have their own will, their own redeemable soul, their own passions. And, that can be a little terrifying. That is, until I make peace with a sovereign God who has control.
The truth is that I can't do enough or say enough or love Jesus enough to make my children's life free from pain or to make them follow Him. I can't make them choose Him above anything else, even though it's what I want most for my kids. I can't love him enough to make anything happen in their lives, but most days I badly want to have that kind of guarantee. I would like to know that if I love him enough, they will, too. But, that's not true. And I'm pretty sure that I would fail at that sort of exchange anyway. But here's what I CAN do. I can love him and then trust him with their lives. I can set aside my desire for control and surrender to the God who loves them more than I do. I can know that my kids are more than just a reflection of me and I can parent them out of a love that was freely bestowed upon me, instead of out of a desire for a certain outcome in their lives. A friend reminded me recently that Romans 8 says, "...the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." That, if we follow Christ, we aren't required to live to produce certain outcomes. Instead, the freedom that Christ brings is that we live in His love, as a vehicle of His Spirit. Outcomes are produced, but they aren't controlled by us. And there is freedom there. Freedom for my life, and freedom for my kids as I trust their lives to him and parent in a way that shows evidence of that trust.
My days with this girl under my roof are numbered. Trying to hold onto her is like trying to hold sand. But she has a bigger story than the one that takes place under our roof. And I am learning to trust that the One who numbers the grains of sand and the hairs on her head is also the One who holds her future, the One who created the fabric of her life and who stitches it with love and for her good. There is freedom there for both of us.