Tuesday, July 29, 2008

30 Days of Praise - Day 23

Sigh. Parenting is hard. Parenting a teenager is especially hard. There is this process from birth of allowing your children to grow into who they are, you have to lead and direct. At some point you have to begin to allow them to make choices for themselves. When they're little it starts out easily, "red shirt or blue?" "Fruity Pebbles or a Pop Tart?" Little by little you give them more times of opportunity to make choices for themselves. Sometimes you have to reign them in, "No you cannot wear your pink pajamas to church." "No you cannot have ice cream for dinner." But when they are little the power struggles are smaller, the consequences minor and you sort of work out the challenges. You learn a lot about your children in those days, the greatest science experiment is going on, and you discover your children's strengths, and their weaknesses.

These teen years, they are harder. You are in the earliest days of the eventual separation, you begin to see the glimpses of the days when your participation in their choices is strictly advisory, and they have absolute choice in whether they heed or ignore those opinions. Sometimes you look ahead and see there will be bumps they will have to weather. Other times you can just see magnified in your child the ways they are different from you. It may be as mild as differences in personal preference ("No, I would NEVER wear the pink plaid shorts with that green checkered blouse.") Or you may find it to be as frightening as values you hold that have somehow not passed on into your child's core. ("I'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission.")

There is this safety net in this time frame of life that you can pull out if you have to. It's four simple words, "Because I said so." You can play that card and lay down the law to force your will, but not arbitrarily, you have to choose your battles. You HAVE to choose your battles. These teen years are the days where the groundwork is being laid for the adult relationship you'll have with your child. Of course all of the years leading up to this point play a part too, but there is something more significant about these years, the TEEN years.

Of course I believe firmly in non-negotiables, the "my house, my rules" arena of parenting. For example, in our home church is a non-negotiable. Our priorities are God and family, and we will be at church on Sundays and Wednesdays with very few exceptions. In our home there are other rules, like no lying or deception (which is a very broad category in our home) and no drinking alcohol, not before or after it's "legal." Every family has their own choices to make for these non-negotiables, these are just a few of ours.

Alas, it is those "negotiables" that try your heart in these transition years. You make your case, you explain your stand, but ultimately you have to let them make their own decisions, and you have to let them own them, and live with the consequences. And what an interesting quandary you find yourself in in those experiences. You want your children not to suffer, but you also want them to learn lessons. Do you hope to be right or do you hope to be wrong? It is exhausting.

I'm exhausted, and my teen is only 14! And you wonder, are you looking into personality flaws that will be a lifetime struggle? Or will he learn lessons from the consequences of his choices? Or are you and your child just different? Only time will tell, and to some degree you can only sit back and watch and wait.

Prayer, this is only your only certain means of participation. You pray for wisdom, for both you and your child. You pray for grace to protect Him and steady, and for God's discipline to teach him, and perhaps you. And when it all comes down to it, you have to put your trust once again in God's sovereignty over your child's life, just as you have trusted it for your own. And it is harder to trust it for your child then for yourself, because , well, you just want your kids to be OK, and to have that perfect testimony, of always following the Lord, always making good choices and getting through life unscathed. Unfortunately that testimony doesn't exist. So all you can do is lay your child at the Father's feet and trust Him, knowing He loves that little one, whether he/she is 3, 13 or 30, and remember God loves that child far more than you can ever even comprehend. And He has a good plan and purpose for that child, that includes all their choices, both good and bad. You pray for that soft malleable heart and that sensitive spirit, and as time continues, little by little more and more you let go, sit further back, and find the day when that child is an adult and they will make all their own choices, live their own lives, own their decisions and reap what they sow. Your best hope will be to have earned the right to be a trusted advisor, perhaps someday even a friend.

I praise God for the assurance that I can trust Him. He will take care of my kids. And I praise God that I am blessed that so far it seems my teen son at least has his priorities of God and family in order; and trust that God is working to grow him into a man who will live a life that honors Him, even if I don't always agree with every decision he makes along the way. And I will watch from the sidelines, maybe someday even with pride in the man he has become.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:8-14

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