As any parent does, we reflect upon our childhood as we partake and shape the childhood of those entrusted to us – our kids. Where we may have experienced broken promises as a child, we seek to keep our own as an adult. Where circumstances affected our lives in unexpected ways and created cradles in our hearts, we as parents seek to prevent the same from happening to our own kids. Wherever there was bad with us, we basically seek to shield the same from happening to our kids and promote or duplicate as much of the good memories as we possible can. In all of this, we as parents say, “Lord, I trust you with them” but our actions grounded in fear and control issues reveal we really don’t. Here begins yet another challenging lesson of aiming God’s arrows in His direction.
From becoming a part of a new body of believers to attending my uncle’s funeral, over the last couple of months I have been faced with this ugly truth that I fear and worry over my children mainly due to my past. Fear of the unknown (sudden life & parental job transitions), fear of loss (sudden deaths & tangible losses), fear of no control (molestations), fear of failure (false/unrealistic expectations) and more from my own past had seeped into how I was parenting our sons – my responses, what/how we did things, etc. As much as I love them, God showed me that I fear FOR them the most. Hence, I attempt to control their environments (and their actions) in order to prevent or protect them from unforeseen (and mostly nonexistent) harm… in my mind.
And all this time I thought I was raising them in an amazing way that glorified God. The truth is that I was glorifying myself and my ability to be “prepared” for the unexpected, even manipulating it as being “vigilant and alert.” I’m pretty sure that’s not what that verse in the Bible meant.
Now, in some ways, God truly has graced me to be strategic in different areas of training them. Like making God/Jesus/Holy Spirit applicable in ALL areas of their life and not just when we’re at church (applying it to sibling disagreements, school, etc.) Sharing and being mindful of community in our home and with our neighbors. But when we go places or are visiting at friends’ homes, I’m pretty sure it’s NOT the Holy Spirit making me anxious to know every waking detail of their location or doings or asking them after we leave a service or even where they’re with other kids, “Did you keep your hands to yourself? Did other people keep their hands to themselves?”
Yes, these are questions that, at their age, are needed to be asked to make them aware about their surroundings and interactions and just for parental purposes. But is the spirit and heart behind my questions and conversations with them based out of a desire for them to be trained in respecting God’s temple (their own and others) or do I ask those questions out of an unnatural and OVERWHELMING sense of fear because of my own experiences?
In thinking of this, God began to show me different things. Like their individual fears/worries and even how it affects their physical health (some, natural for their age; others, needing to be bathed in serious prayer). Also, why I say “no” to some activities or things they ask to do. Sometimes, it’s just realistically not feasible (“can we go see grandma tonight?” No, she lives hours away, and it’s 7:30pm lol). Other times, it’s purely not an option (“can we go play outside in the rain?” Uhm… did you not just see the lightning show currently playing outside??) But then there are times when they ask for or to do simple things that draw the card of worry into the palm of my hand of which I selfishly hold in my heart, responding “no.” Is it wisdom at times? Maybe. Is it anxiety? Probably. Is it me being self-centered/selfishly-focused on MY mindset, worries and fears of the unknown? Completely.
I’m not sure what social media stage it was read on, but someone said something to the affect that using our past as an excuse or even reference for the way we THINK and how we move NOW has an expiration date. Another person, Pastor Brian Williams out of Columbus, Ohio said, “When decisions are made with only ourselves in mind, never considering the impact on others, we reveal our lack of love and wisdom.” The “others” also includes our children. Making decisions that are actually rooted in fear, yet we call it love or wisdom, simply cannot exist.
Every individual has a story, from infant to now, that contains different highs and lows. Some of those individuals became husbands. Wives. Parents. Archers. It is so very important for us to give God glory for the story He has and is writing in our lives, even the not so pretty paragraphs and chapters. How do we do that? How do we overcome the mental paths that difficult memories have carved into our mindsets and hearts so we can reflect God’s power? How do we become free and trusting in the Sovereign Lord we say we believe in when our actions are derived from our past or “what ifs”?
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:10-11
We must 1) recognize who the accuser is (Satan), 2) know his job description (eternally separate us from God by any means necessary…steal/kill/destroy. John 10:10) and 3) believe we can overcome him by way of Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain in order that we may be “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17). New creations have renewed minds (Romans 12:2). One version specifically says our minds are “renewing” implying it is always learning new ways of thinking. We testify of yes, what has happened in our lives, but the greatest proof of that testimony is how we presently think AND ACT or MOVE FORWARD. What decisions are we making and HOW are we coming to those decisions – based on our temporary feelings, memories (verse 11, the loving of OUR lives) or the promises of God and who He is?
I encourage and admonish every parent to do a self-examination one day or night alone – just you and God – of HOW you are parenting your child in specific instances (decisions, attire, travel, friendships, environment, etc.) Questions to ask:
In what areas are you not being COMPLETELY led by the Word of God and His Spirit? Why not? What are your fears concerning your child? Why do you fear that? What did you fear as a child or worry about? Do any of your children have the same fears or worries? Are there any similarities between your parenting styles and your parent/guardian’s parenting styles? How do you respond to inconveniences from your child? How do you respond or address praiseworthy efforts and actions of your child? Do you verbally apologize to your child when in error? How often do you say I love you? Do you know HOW your child loves? HOW do YOU love (what’s your language)? When you make a decision, how quickly or often do you think about its affects on your schedule, budget, reputation, state of being, etc.? There will probably be more or different questions when you do this. Then, if married, share these things with your believing spouse (if not, Biblically-based and accountability person or mentor) so that intentional prayer (and maybe even fasting) can commence.
By no means am I about to go to one extreme by letting the boys just venture out when and where and however with whomever. No sleepovers is and will remain a rule. There are some other circumstances I have had to confront though. Not just for my sake, but theirs. The events of their childhood will mold and make their mindsets. I am with much fervor and more compelled to make sure they feel it being molded in the love of Jesus Christ and the sovereignty of God more than the fears of mommy. Out of my control, life will happen. Things will change. So I pray to God He uses it all for His glory in their lives, rebuking all fear, but growing greater love as my husband and I teach and SHOW them how to trust God in the midst of it all.
So to you (and myself 🙂 ) I say… Dig deep. Go where it is uncomfortable or where you’ve found unbiblical comfort. Confront your idols – those things/people/memories you’ve placed as a false, powerful priority over trusting God. It will hurt. It will convict. Yet with repentance (turning away from acts and mindsets before), it will heal. And overtime, as I’m now learning, the quiet nudgings of His Spirit through prayer and reading His Word will guide your actions and words in daily situations to show you the way in which you should go. For with a mind stayed on Him and not ourselves (our memories & our emotions) comes perfect peace. We trust not at all in ourselves or the past realities of what we know… we only trust God. (Isaiah 26:3)