I alluded to this idea of “letting go” in my last post. If you’ve been called to this ministry of parenting, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. When our kids are newborns, there is no “letting go.” We are at our child’s beckon call, running towards them at the first sign of discomfort; silently peering into their crib in the middle of the night, just to hear and be comforted by the constant rhythm of their breath.
As they begin to explore the world around them, we take a step back…but remain within arms reach, just in case we need to break their fall. For whatever reason (let’s blame all of the textbooks I was reading for graduate school), I took a more liberal approach during this stage of parenting. I can’t tell you how many times I got the “stink eye” from other parents, as I allowed our children to fall (within reason) on the playground, bump their head at the top of the slide, or settle their own dispute with a stranger at Discovery Place.
Allowing them the opportunity to fail, get hurt, or feel disappointed, was sometimes difficult in the moment, but I’m so grateful that this was our approach during those tricky toddler years. Today, we have the privledge of witnessing the benefits of our girls toughness, their independence, and ability to overcome obstacles. At 6 and 3, these obstacles are small and temporary, but they are safe, and excellent practice for what’s to come.
You’ve been waiting for the spiritual component, haven’t you? Ok, here goes nothing:
Floating in the ocean with my youngest daughter yesterday, I was struck by my instinct to hold her small body tightly to mine as the waves approached us. I didn’t want her to be scared, I wanted her to feel safe in my arms. I believe this desire was good, but not entirely…
She needs to feel fear in the pit of her stomach, to recognize the power, strength and mystery of the ocean. After all, nothing displays God’s strength and power quite like the ocean. With this realization, I loosened by grip, allowing the steady waves to carry her small body, up and down, up and down. She was apprehensve at first, but after a few moments, she began to delight in the experience, shouting, “Mommy, I’m swimming, I’m a fish, no, I’M A MERMAID!”
Looking back, I see the moments and seasons when God has held me tight to His chest, shielding me from the full effect of my own sin, or the impact of the pain around me. I am so grateful for His decisions in those moments. But I’m also uniquely aware of the times when He has allowed me to be completely devastated, riddled with anxiety, or buried in sorrow. These “dark nights of the soul,” are horrific, but necessary. They have produced perseverance, which has shaped my character, and filled me with hope.