As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.
But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua
My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel. It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.
I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter. I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way. So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.
Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:
God never gives up on me.
So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made. This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate. But he really wasn’t interested.
I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing: “I give up. He doesn’t care—why should I?” And every day God responded with the same words: “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”
So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average. For which he is grateful.
I am weak and prayer is my strength.
Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears. Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life. We were desperate.
So we did what most people do when they are desperate. We prayed. I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative. But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.
Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed. Prayer became my life breath. It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will. Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.
I am so grateful.
Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.
One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give. By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it. Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with. He couldn’t betray her by loving me
I understood that. I was patient. My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded. And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.” I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.
So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return. If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.” So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.
It took 13 years before he could say those words. I am so grateful I waited.
These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.
But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over. We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.
I have felt like giving up. And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you. Keep believing.”
I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.
My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.
Yes, as parents we teach our children so much. But I think God uses them to teach us even more. And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.
I’m ready to get off the carousel. Probably the roller coaster is next.
What about you? What lessons are you still learning?
C2012 Judy Douglass