Here I am. Wife. Mother. Grammy. Sister-girlfriend. Educator. And…um…struggler. Yes, I am struggling. And in the midst of my sweet-tea drinkin’ and reflectin’ self this afternoon…because it is like 158 degrees outside and too hot for ((COFFEE))…God – the God who remembers EVERYTHING – has reminded me of a season of struggle I worked through in 2011. I naïvely thought…believed…that I had mastered that struggle. Apparently not. I think that was just a practice drill for the battlefield I am in right now. Let me take you back to 2011 to provide some context, then I will back up my truck and unload…(insert flashback harp music as we travel back four years)…
“The Hardest Thing…” — 5/7/11
“Train [dedicate] a child in the way [path, journey, manner, direction] he should go, and when he is old [shows age] he will not turn [depart, be removed, leave undone] from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Giving birth was relatively painless…thanks to modern medicine and epidurals. Even the long nights of interrupted sleep was temporary. Dealing with broken bones, stitches, stomach viruses, sibling rivalries, and responsibility for raising five children can be exhausting. Living with and raising four teenagers right now is quite trying at times…okay…almost every day; but, nothing…nothing has been as difficult as the parent-place I find myself in currently. [psh…I had no clue]
The hardest thing as a parent is learning how, when, and to what degree to let go, release our children, one-by-one, to make their own choices, discover who they are, and grow outside my protective (sometimes over-protective) presence. Proverbs 22:6 provides me comfort and confidence. I have dedicated our children to the Lord…trained them in and with the Truth through words and action…shown them the narrow path — how to recognize and follow it. Now I have to “put my faith where my mouth is.”
As our second child prepares to graduate from high school in three weeks, I am reminded of this Scripture when I start to mentally and emotionally hyperventilate. “…and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” I am compelled to rest in the assurance that all of our kids know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Whatever choices they make, I must pray that they will be drawn closer to Him. I must love our children unconditionally as Christ loves me. I must trust God to protect them when I cannot. I must have confidence that no matter what choices they will make, even those poor choices, God’s conviction and grace will abound (just as it does for me).
I pray that our children will desire God more than they desire any person or position.
I pray that our children will serve God before they serve man or themselves.
I pray that our children will seek and do God’s will – His absolute best for them – before they seek and do my will or any other man’s will.
I pray that our children will crave the Word of God more than they crave the words of others.
I pray that our children will hold to the teachings and foundation that they have received and not depart from it for very long or very far or at all.
I pray that our children will learn from our mistakes and embrace our successes to make them better parents than we have been.
At the end of the day, I can rejoice in the fact that God has carried us “Thus far…” We are blessed with kids who love the Lord beyond their layers of hormones, testosterone, arguing, and just plain ‘ole “teenagerness”… and for that, I am grateful.
(Insert harp music as we travel back to this very day…)
As I read those words of a former, much more whimsical and poetic version of myself, I am walking…no, tiptoeing…through a minefield of hazards designed by the enemy, packaged by the world, and delivered by our culture. You see, just four years ago I was an emotional case because our child had successfully completed high school and was transitioning into adulthood. Since 2011, we have watched two more of our five children graduate high school, and each time I’ve experienced less sorrow and more joy.
Today, however, this very moment and breath, I am emotionally wrecked and heartsick. While all of our children are secured for eternity in salvation, we have contended with them and for them through their tag-teaming seasons of walking out of God’s best for their lives. It’s like…they turn 17 and take their brains out to play with them like Play-Dough…or something like that. (Seriously.) Mr. Husband and I have always been age- and situation-appropriately open with our kids about our past failings and poor choices, which include such sins as addiction, promiscuity, rebellion, and self-pleasing living in the years before we knew Christ. They know that we have been well-acquainted with the world and the temptations of the enemy.
So, the hardest thing (revisited) is watching our kiddos choose to walk down some of the same crooked paths we have taken. It’s hard to know where those paths can lead and be ignored or dismissed when we try to offer this wisdom. It’s hard to watch our children engage in physically, emotionally, spiritually self-destructive behaviors/relationships. It’s hard to let go and let God handle it in His most perfect way and His most perfect time for His most perfect glory. It’s hard to set that boundary for our (barely legally adult) child by saying, “If you cannot respect our values while you live under the protection of our roof, then you have to live somewhere else to enjoy your unhealthy, self-destructive choices.” It. Is. Hard.
Two of our children eventually came back to their Father’s house and are in better and growing places. Another is realizing some things and slowly making his way back at the same time another of our five has completely rebelled and walked away. A fifth one watches…and I pray 🙏 is learning what choices not to make. I pray. I intercede. I do spiritual warfare. (Can I be real?) I cry. I (occasionally) cuss. I get angry at the enemy…real angry. And I pray some more.
My soul is a hot mess over our kids right now. But I know. My spirit knows. I know that God is faithful. I know that He is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:21). I know that our children are in His hand and cannot be snatched out of it. I know I have confidence that because God has begun a good work in our kids, He will also complete it until the day of Jesus (Phil. 1:6). God doesn’t leave things unfinished. We do. He doesn’t.
I’ve gone long on this one, but I also know that there are other heartsick parents out there with prodigal sons and daughters. Let me leave you with this prayer, and let’s invade the heavenlies together to contend for our kids:
Abba and El Elyon, You are my shield and strength…deliverer and redeemer…rock and peace. You are El Roi and see the grieving of my heart. The height and depth and breadth and width of my love for the kiddos You have entrusted to our care is not even a whisper compared to the love You have for our kiddos. You understand the groaning of my heart when I can’t pray words. You absorb my mom tears into Your presence and translate them into Kingdom prayers.
According to Ephesians 1, I ask you to give my prodigal child the spirit of wisdom and revelation in his knowledge of You…that the eyes of his understanding would be enlightened with Truth…that he would discover the hope of his calling and the glorious inheritance that is meant for him. Cause him to run into Your people, encounter Your Word, feel Your presence, and heed Your counsel. Expend his prodigal-ness quickly…cause him to reach the end of himself and find himself at the foot of Your throne. Cultivate in him the seed of salvation that’s already rooted…cause shoots to spring up and fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – to grow into the fullness and abundance of Your sanctification work.
Thank You, Lord, for the promise that Your Word does not return void, but it accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent out. I approach as one covered in Jesus’ blood and sealed by Your Spirit. So be it!
Learning and Growing With You ~ Tammy Sinclair
((For additional prayer for the prodigal based on Hosea, go here.))