So many emotions raced through my mind. Things that I wasn’t prepared for or had even expected to feel.
The biggest one of all was the simple letting go.
“I’m kinda nervous,” he admitted with a shy smile as we walked through the church parking lot.
I gave him a quick hug. “You’re going to do well, buddy,” I whispered. “I’m proud of you for giving it a try.” (This is my child that deals with a fair amount of social anxiety, especially now as he’s approaching the teen years. I knew this was a big stretch for him.)
We turned a corner and found crowds of kids—some inside the crowded room and other spilling onto the sidewalk outside. Kids I’d never met before (this was a new church to us). Girls standing in cliquish groups looking nervous, cautiously nibbling at pizza in their hands. Boys standing outside near the makeshift basketball court being loud and obnoxious trying to impress the girls.
You know, middle school.
As we walked in, I heard one boy yell to his friend: “Ya, tell her that I think she’s beautiful.”
Oh, man. I really didn’t need to hear that.
My mind flashed back to something I’d witnessed just a few days before: two kids my sons age (or younger) kissing in front of our local library.
Our kids have always been homeschooled, and we’ve done our best to ground them in the faith and surround them with other families doing the same. Of course my son has friends that aren’t homeschooled, and have been lessons/activities where there were both Christians and non-Christians involved.
But this was the first time that I was about to leave my son alone in an unfamiliar environment with kids that had the potential to definitely be different from him (I knew most were not homeschooled) and also potentially have great influence on him in core areas of the faith.
Yes I was leaving him in a church, and at an event that would be talking about God. This wasn’t a satanic-worshipping heavy metal rock concert.
However, I am not naive enough to believe that (even in the best of youth groups) every kid is a Christian or even cares about God at all. I’ve also heard the stats—huge numbers of kids that simply walk away from Christianity the second they leave for college, despite the valiant, faithful efforts of youth groups everywhere. And I’ve met some of those “grown-up-in-youth-group” kids that spent those years doing anything but follow Christ.
Nevertheless, I also knew that tonight was the first of many micro-steps I’d have to take between now and the day he left for college or chose to live on his own. Steps that required me to trust in the good foundation of faith God had lain in his heart. Steps that required me to realize that his walk of faith was in fact his, and that he was going to have to make the choice to live it out for himself, even in situations where others possibly only pretended to do so.
“Will I choose God for myself?” I knew that this was the authentic, difficult question that my son—like every one of us—was about to face for himself in the next few years.
And for a mom—especially a homeschool mom that spends every moment with her kids during the day—it can be frightening to think about situations where a child could either incrementally or suddenly choose to make poor decisions that affect them for the rest of their life.
But, under the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit, we must do this. Even though it is ridiculously scary, we’ve got to listen to God when he says, “It’s OK. Let’s give them some room to use those wings to fly.”
Real Faith—More Than “Dos” and “Don’ts”
Lately, as my son has been exhibiting more teen-like characteristics, God has been challenging my husband and I into a new understanding of this “let go and trust me” phase of parenting.
In the early years of parenting we try to protect our kids from everything—Don’t touch! Leave that alone!—in order to protect them and teach them about what’s harmful.
But are we only teaching the “dos and don’ts” of life, even in the early years? No, I’d argue that something else is happening: we’re allowing them the ability to interact and discover the world, giving them ever-increasing freedom as they mature physically and mentally.
As Christian parents we do the same: yes, teaching them about the ways that God calls His people to live; but also, more importantly, giving kids the ability to explore the joyous heights and depths of God’s wondrous love and call on their lives.
In short, we want our kids to not just “do” church and “go” to a building (even to a “church sanctified event” like a youth group). We want them to, from an early age, experience Him and be called to follow Him because they see for themselves that a deep relationship with Christ is the only hope for a purposeful and meaningful life.
My husband and I have done our imperfect best to do just that. This is what we have prayed for them since they were in my womb. And, thanks be to the Lord, we can see our children growing toward this end.
But it’s in moments like these—the letting gos—where true faith is revealed and tested for purity.
Parenting: Letting Them Fall or Fly
We are all human, and we all can fail at any time. And I knew that my son is no less vulnerable than anyone else to these temptations.
I’m learning, however, that I have to surrender my kids to God—little by little, as He calls me to. I want to listen to Him on how to guide my kids… and then slowly open my hands and release them back to Him.
No matter how scary it is, no matter what I imagine can happen—if the Lord is calling me to let go in an area, I have to step back and let my children fly on their own.
I’m so grateful that God has allowed the teenage years as a time of being able to fly… with Momma Bird right beside them for the occasional flying lesson as needed.
But what’s most comforting is that God Himself promises to never leave us (and that means our kids too). Never is a pretty strong word, no matter how you translate it.
Ironically, my son shared Psalm 1:1-3 as part of his presentation time during our homeschooling co-op today:
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
I also opened my Bible app just now and saw this as the verse of the day (Isaiah 46:4):
I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.
I’m praying this for his life, and for all of my children. A child must make his own choices, and we must realize that sometimes these choices oppose the great intentions of our mother’s heart. This is the difficult part of the release.
I’m grateful, however, that even in the letting go, we still have prayer as an incredible asset to propel our kids toward the right path.
So once again, I am praying for this child. Cheering for this child. Loving this child regardless of his choices. Tonight, taking one more incremental step back.
And shedding a few tears too—tears that only a momma understands.
How about you? How have you handles these micro-transitions to adulthood with your children?