My oldest son turned 18 this week. That’s just nutty.
And in about 6 weeks he’ll graduate from high school. That’s just crazy.
This week I have been reflecting back on these last 18 years—how my son has changed from a tank of a two-year-old to a long, lean 18-year-old, how his behavior has changed from compliant to contrary, etc. I’ve also been reflecting back on my parenting for the last 18 years—how I’ve changed from a raging parent to a reasoning one, how I’ve adapted to situations that have needed tough love vs. grace, etc. In some ways it’s been a marathon. But in others it’s been a total sprint. I now understand those older people who told me as a young parent to cherish these years because they fly by so quickly.
I was visiting with a co-worker recently who has a five-year-old and a seven-year-old. I was warning her about the crazy teenage years. And I quoted her my favorite line of the past year: “Parenting is not for the faint of heart.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have painted such a bleak picture to her. But there are certainly times when parenting, especially teenagers, feels like a game of survival.
In his book Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager, Eugene Peterson writes, “…in the rather awkward packaging of the adolescent God brings into our lives a challenge to grow, testing our love, chastening our hope, pushing our faith to the edge of the abyss.” Like I said…parenting is not for the faint of heart. It tests us, challenges us, weakens us, disappoints us, stretches us, grows us, kneads us, and refines us. While our teenagers are growing and changing and trying to navigate life, we must remember so are we. We fail just like they fail. We make poor choices just like they make poor choices. We don’t always learn from our mistakes just like they don’t always learn from theirs. Yet, God entrusts these little beings to us to direct and correct despite our own flawed selves.
We have to remember, even with the most difficult kids, our teenagers are not problems to be solved, but rather people to be loved. Our role as parent is brief in the grand scheme of things. And in this brief blip of time, our job is to point them God-ward. Instead of commanding and demanding, we must share the experiences of Christian growth. We must encourage them to go and make their faith their own rather than just blindly adopt the faith of their parents. If our own spiritual growth and maturity is a journey we give priority to, we must encourage our teenagers to get on this road as well.
I’m far from being a perfect parent. Just ask my boys, they’ll quickly agree. 🙂 But I don’t have to be a perfect parent to want and pray for the things of God for my kids:
- I want my boys grow up into faithful, godly men.
- I want them to be the spiritual leaders of their households.
- I want them to be readers and doers of God’s Word.
- I want them to serve God faithfully.
- I want them to know, love, and be excited about Jesus.
- I want them to see a need and meet a need.
- I want them to use their spiritual gifts to glorify God and not themselves.
- I want them to respect authority.
- I want them to be givers of grace.
- I want them to be unashamed of the gospel.
As once again I reflect back on the last 18 years, maybe in a weird sort of way, parenting IS for the faint of heart. The fainter we are, the more desperate we are to hit our knees, cry out to the One who is our Father, who can love, teach, mold, and make better than we as parents could ever do. I don’t know…it’s just a thought.
Be encouraged, parents. God’s got your back. As your well runs dry in your efforts to parent your kids, He’s right there to fill it back up again. We don’t have to have it all figured out. All we have to do is trust in the One who does.