In my previous life, before God healed the hemorrhage of shame that was bleeding my soul dry, I wanted–needed–so badly to control the things that happened to my children and to my life. Don’t misunderstand. I never could actually control anything, but the illusion was so powerful, and the false security was so alluring, that I did my best to try. With disastrous results, I might add. Powerlessness and helplessness are feelings magnified by shame, because, in my case anyway, the triggers that caused me to feel shame often also caused me to feel helpless. It was a never-ending cycle of triggers that fed one another, and I was a mess.
Dee’s pregnancy, had it happened four years ago, could have ripped our family apart. I am not sure what would have happened, but God is merciful, and somewhere in the last few years, He began to teach me about grace. Grace does not say sin is okay….grace simply acknowledges that only God can adequately deal with sin, and we must rely on Him to do so. Grace freed me from having to be in control of everything because I could lean on Him, the One who actually IS in control of everything. Grace was the gift of forgiveness through Jesus to me when I least deserved it, when I was yet dead in my sins. Oh, that was glorious!
But Grace is even more than that to me. Grace has given me the supernatural ability to realize that I do not have to take on shame. There is therefore now NO condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8: 1 reassures me. It also reassures me that it is okay to be helpless, as long as I am leaning on the One who is never helpless….in fact, He is the very present help in time of need (Psalm 46).
I saw a friend for the first time in a long time a few weeks ago. She and I met when we were at the Center together, going through Making Peace with Your Past and then Wounded Heart. We did not get along all that well in the beginning…we were both abrasive, protective of our own hearts, scarred by life and the damage we had done to ourselves. Now, though, I can see the beauty of what Jesus is doing in her, and she sees the same in me. And we are friends. When I told her about Dee, she looked at me and beamed, “And look at you! NO SHAME!” She was right. No shame. We went to lunch last week, and as we poured out our souls, the subject of our children was a huge topic of our conversation.
One of the most difficult realities of walking out of my own dysfunction was not when I recognized the damage that had been done to me. (That was difficult, though!) No, it was actually harder to face the damage I had done to myself and to those whom I love. When you look at your children and you see the ways they relate–the wrong ways, the sinful ways, the damaging ways–and you realize that you are seeing your OWN SINFUL damage at play, it slays you. But just as I had to at some point stop blaming what had been done to me and take responsibility for what I had done to myself, my children will have to do the same.
My friend and I discussed Abraham and Isaac. How hard it must have been for Abraham to walk up that mountain with his precious, promised son, Isaac, knowing that he had been asked to sacrifice him. We know that God had a different plan all along, but I am not convinced that Abraham knew that. By faith, Abraham said that God would provide himself a lamb when Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, but did Abraham really know that the sacrifice would not be his son as God had told him? The Bible says that God was testing testing Abraham. But if God is Omniscient, as His Word declares Him to be, then it stands to reason that God already knew what Abraham would do. I do not think the test was for God to see if Abraham would obey, but for Abraham to know that he would obey, and for Abraham to see God provide for him just in time. Like the way God sent Jesus to us, just in time. I digress… the point is that when it comes to releasing our children, we must keep in mind that whatever has happened to them at our hands, God can use. (Not that we should ever purposely hurt our children…that would be abuse. I am speaking here of the inadvertent ways we have damaged them as they have observed and modeled themselves on our sinful patterns of behavior.)
Another set of dear friends had a crisis just before Christmas. Their 14 year old daughter, a good friend of Gladys-Mae, ran away. There is nothing more heart-wrenching than to get a call saying that your friend’s child is gone, except it being your child that is gone. We prayed, we called Gladys Mae home from her Grandma’s house so we could go through letters to see if there were any clues. We made calls, talked to the police, questioned Gladys Mae again and again to see if there were any details she did not know she knew. In the end, their daughter was found. Safe. Many miles from home, but okay.
There is nothing my friend can ultimately do to keep her child from running away again, short of locking her up. It is a helpless feeling to know that you cannot control your children. Yes, you can train them, love them, teach them right from wrong, show them Jesus, live your life as consistently as you are able within the fleshy confines of your sin nature as it battles against the Holy Spirit in you…but in the end, your child is responsible for his or her choices. And that is hard to watch. It is hard to live. It is hard to let them go.
In many ways, parenting is a helpless enterprise. We can only go so far with our children before they MUST go on alone. Only, if they have come to know the Lord, they are NOT alone. The great factor I cannot ever forget is that God has plans for my children far greater than any plans I could imagine for them.
Life is full of helpless moments, full of potentially shame-filled moments. We can wallow in those defeating things or we can rise above as we behold the helplessness of Jesus, the One who made himself helpless even though he could have called on legions of Heavenly Host to free him from the agony of the cross. Jesus knows what it is to be helpless, and yet He also knows what it is to place all trust in the only One who is All-Powerful. It is the only place where helplessness is an asset. What I cannot do for myself, I must allow God to do for me. Whether that means parenting my children, or letting them go, God is the one who is never helpless. I can either lean on Him or try to maneuver around in my own helplessness. For me, the choice is clear, if only I will remember that when those feelings of helplessness overwhelm me.
And now, some pictures from this week….(as you can clearly see, mopping the kitchen floor is not the top priority. The miracle here is that I feel no shame. We live with mud, folks. Lots and LOTS of mud. And little boys and dogs who track it in….this is the state of my kitchen floor all the time, except for the golden 30 minutes after it gets mopped.)
Okay, who am I kidding? This child is the main focus this week. We are completely smitten up here. My father spent the afternoon with us…
And one by Curious George to prove that we do something besides baby-gaze around here….we do phonics, too! Lil’ Adventurer’s reading is progressing well. We are almost out of the short vowel books. Can I get an amen and hallelujah?