Monday, August 7, 2017

Taking the Long View

Last week I had the chance to visit with a long-time friend.  As we talked about what we’d been doing lately, she told me about her family’s recent annual vacation to the beach with her adult children, husband, parents, and sister.  As she described what they did that week, I asked her whether they liked to cook or eat out.  “We usually do a little of both, but this time, we did more eating out than usual.  My son has become a foodie of sorts," she smiled, "and he brought a whole list of restaurants he wanted to try.  So my husband and I ended up going to many of them with him.”

As she talked about their time with their son, she paused.  “You know, he hasn’t joined us on our vacation the past few summers, so we were really glad he wanted to come.  And I was just struck by –and so grateful to see—how respectful he was . . . how honoring.  We just had a wonderful time together.”

Through our conversations over many years, my friend has shared that parenting this child has not always been easy.  And last week, she and I remembered some of the struggles she and her husband have faced with him—difficulties that, in the moment, were not just hard and frustrating, but sometimes frightening.  Even though I know my friend has been so faithful to love her children well, she has expressed that sometimes she's feared for this child’s future—worried whether he was going to “make it” as an adult.  And I have to wonder (even though she has no reason to feel this way) whether she's sometimes worried that she might be  missing the mark as a parent.  

I wonder that because I have felt that fear . . . . because I've wrestled with it in my own parenting journey.  

When my husband and I face hard things with our own children, there are moments when I start to believe that a particular difficulty is the beginning of one of my worst parenting fears:  a long, pain-filled experience of seeing a child struggle with issues that will wreak havoc on the rest of his or her life.  That fear is compounded by the thought that my child’s struggles may very likely be the result of my inadequate parenting.

Talk about catastrophizing . . . . I am a pro.

But my friend's story about her son last week—his pleasure in a vocation that took a long time for him to find, his dedication to his friends, his growing love for Jesus—planted a huge seed of hope into my heart.  I was reminded about how easily I get hooked into the paralyzing lie that a single struggle with my own children is the end of the story.  I remembered, again, my tendency to see one difficulty as the defining moment, instead of recognizing it for what it is:  just one small part of a much larger story that will never not include God’s redemptive work . . . . although (as both my friend and I continue to experience) that redemptive work may come later rather than sooner.

I’m so encouraged to hear stories like my friend’s:  Stories that take the long view of parenting.  Stories that include the good stuff and the scary stuff.  Stories about when His presence is easy to detect and stories about days when He just seems to be absent.  Stories that remind me it’s okay to keep trusting God.  

My friend’s story--and her son's--is a living example of how God actually is completing the good work He has begun in our children.   It also reminds me that He is continuing to complete the good work He began in me, too.  

Reminding me to take the long view of parenting is one way He is accomplishing that work.

[P.S.  I made sure to get my friend's permission to share this post.  Just didn't want anyone to wonder about that. . . . . ]