Guest post by Janel Breitenstein
So I got a call this morning from the principal. I confess to even wishing her (rather brightly) a Happy Friday.
She responded pretty kindly, considering my son was there in the office with her. (It was only 8:40. What could happen before 8:40?)
So the details are a little sketchy. But the not-so-sketchy part: My nine-year-old was definitely in a a “substantial scuffle” (her words) over a kid not taking turns. Y’know, the student council member, chess club participant, after-school choirboy (literally), ex-missionary kid?
…Yeah. That’s the one. We used to joke he’d either be president someday, or leading all the other felons in prison.
None of my kids ever went to the office. But then again, I was homeschooling in Africa for a big part of that time, so I was the principal. I have joined the ranks of mortified mothers.
But then again, I’ve been a member for awhile. In case you have an idea that missionary kids are generally perfect kids, don’t worry: Mine are 100% far-from-perfect.
And this is after I did (this very morning) what I told you I do: Tell my kids as they’re walking out the door to listen to the Holy Spirit, to love on other kids, to make a difference.
(At least that last one happened. Maybe I should have said what kind of difference?)
On Days When the Darkness Wins
I write this to you because on some days of motherhood, we feel like we’re brightening our little corner, conquering just a little bit of darkness.
And on other days? Our candle gets blown out. Or someone sits on our helmet. And maybe we’re bleeding, limping a little.
I also write this knowing that for some of you, the fear is real of who your kids are choosing to become. Some of you are mothering true prodigals, begging the God who leaves the 99 to look for your lost sheep. You may be overwhelmed at soul level, fearful of the lifetime gravitas of teenaged decisions.
But even as we strive to raise kids who sprint after the high calling that is in Christ Jesus, we must acknowledge we’re not the Potter here. Our very good and noble desire to raise true world-changers can easily morph into Christian parenting perfectionism—an idol all its own, now accepting sacrifices of fear and control.
Will we submit our vision for our kids…to God’s path for them? I admit a part of me shudders to write this: We often say are willing for God to use our kids for anything he desires. Yet are we willing to leave the “anything” up to him?
God’s Long Game
A couple of years ago, my husband and I met with parents of kids my husband and I had in the youth group back in the day. (When I was…more youthful.) We leaned forward over our Pick Twos from Panera, or chatted in the slanting afternoon light of their living rooms.
And here is what I will remember: I am thankful for God’s long game.
They were the parents of kids with whom we remember sitting with late into the night, wrestling with questions of faith. I had a slumber party with the girls; we probably painted our toenails a few times. My husband tossed the football or grabbed a Coke with the guys.
Now, some of them are youth sponsors or young pastors or steadfast moms with their own babies smiling toothlessly up from their proud grandparents’ photos. Not all of them are out of the woods yet when it comes to faith.
But while I went away with a reverent fear for parenting adult children—I also departed with a reverent fear of God. Yes, God cares about the intricacies of these moments in front of us. But His elaborate complexity is so far beyond my scope.
His time-space architecture, quite frankly, is way out of my league. In those years, I saw kids in junior high. He saw them from before one of their days came to be. He sees them now as parents, community members. He sees their days long after this one.
Remember Who’s the World-Changer
I wonder what the biblical David’s mom thought if she was still alive when David’s utter crash-and-burn with Uriah and Bathsheba came to light. I wonder if Jeremiah’s mom hit her knees when he was suicidal. Or if Moses’ mother spiraled downward when he killed a man.
Were their sins and weaknesses grievous wrecking-balls? Absolutely. We can’t minimize a single bit of this. (God doesn’t.)
Were their kids world-changers? Unmistakably. Not because these guys were the cream of the crop because of anything they’d done.
Kids become world-changers because of a world-changing God.
Remember the words of Joseph to his brothers, who actually sold him into slavery (bet your kids haven’t done that!), setting off a domino effect that included his years in prison.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
Yes, your parenting matters. By all means, raise world changers! But your parenting—and Kristen will be the first to tell you this–is far from the last word.
I’ve had pastors and pastors’ kids and missionaries and excellent mothers and Christian businesspeople tell me about their wild days before God got ahold of them. And I try to stow them somewhere in my heart for days when I feel like I’m losing more ground than I’m gaining. Remember: He is the God of the long game.
Make no mistake, mother of a very human would-be world-changer. Any world-changing on our part is an act of grace.
On days when you want to hang up the phone and cry—remember that the God who raised us from the dead is the same one who raises our kids, and the world around them. May our kids not be marked by their perfection, but their repentance and God’s power and undeserved kindness.