When my kids were babies I remember just sitting there holding them in my arms, just staring. I would sit for long periods of time and watch them sleep sweetly. Sometimes they would do that little crooked smile where it looked like they were having a sweet dream, or crease their forehead like a worried old man. I love babies!
As toddlers my kids were adventurous and easygoing. They loved reading books and watching Veggie Tales. I loved teaching them new things and watching their little personalities develop. As grade schoolers they were obedient and hardworking at school. They were polite and almost always kind to one another. I was adamant that they keep their fighting to a minimum. We’d talk about them having each other’s backs and always being there for each other; they were on the same team. Their problems seemed so small and few. The biggest heartbreak was the momentary fight with a friend or temporary consequence for disobedience.
I didn’t cry when they went off to kindergarten, or get super sad when they outgrew my favorite outfits. I have always been one to embrace each new stage with open arms because it has brought with it new and exciting experiences and a closer relationship with each of my kids. I looked back on earlier times with fondness- I miss the funny way they’d say certain words, or nap when they were tired, but I have always loved seeing my kids succeed in new challenges.
I now have a daughter in high school, a TEENAGER. This has been my biggest transition so far but for reasons I suddenly find myself at a loss to explain. I think this transition has been so hard for me because what I’m experiencing is totally different from all the things I thought would be tough. My teen has not grown into a typical, moody eye-roller. We made it clear that that’s not really how things are going to work in our house and although she is far from perfect, she has (so far) gone along with that.
She seems to be adapting well. She is a phenomenal student, she is playing sports, and she was elected Freshman Vice President. She is independent and for the most part she is taking care of all of her responsibilities, chores, homework and calendar with ease and little help from me. She loves attending youth group. She is a super hard working athlete, putting in extra time regularly to better her skills. She goes to bed each night reading her devotions, shares her life with me, asks me for advice, genuinely likes hanging out with her family, and tucks her brother into bed each night. She is funny, kind, gracious, grateful, and a fiercely loyal friend. So what’s the problem right? I’ve spent the last few months trying to nail down why this phase has been the hardest one on me yet.
I finally realized that I need to do some mourning. I have to mourn the loss of innocence; the innocence that I had always worked so hard to protect. When our kids are little they are proud to obey the rules, to be kind, and do the right thing. As they get older the focus shifts to being cool and all other things take a backseat to that end. The focus becomes to make fun and to look down on those who do not make the same choices.
It breaks my heart that my daughter no longer feels comfortable being who she feels led to be; that her sweet innocence and desire to be pure of heart is no longer the norm of her peers. I hate that about adolescence, but it is something that I’m sure every American teenager must journey through, that I remember going through. I don’t want her to change one bit of who she is to keep her friends or impress the crowd. So far she isn’t willing to make these compromises and I love her for that. I tell myself I should be jumping for joy but it has been such a bubble burst for me. We are entering a time of transition where those who have been friends for so long may choose a different path than she will travel. It has been hard to see her confidence take a hit, holding back her conversation in social situations because her perspective is not always the popular one. That is the hardest part for me.
At Collide gatherings we have been talking a lot about the idea of “backwards blessings”. These are the blessings that come from Jesus’ promises, and they often do not look like those that the world values. In Matthew 5 Jesus talks about these backwards blessings. The Greek word “Makarios” is used and conveys the idea of being “favorably placed to receive something good”. This is the idea that maybe what God has for us looks different than what the world measures as good and worthy. Jesus says:
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Being blessed means taking yourself out the situation that “is” and placing yourself in the spot that waits for the “will be”. I feel like this concept is easier for me because I have experienced His true comfort when I have mourned, and His mercy when I have shown it to others. But to watch my sweet girl navigate this road of trust has challenged me in a new way. For a teenager this often means going against the flow, sticking out, and standing up, and it can be very lonely.
To navigate this sometimes lonely road takes faith and trust; a road of believing that choosing these “backwards blessings” will be worth the trouble and hurt that sometimes accompany those choices.
It takes patience to stand in that place of waiting for the ‘will be’ where you may wait alone, and for what seems like way too long.
I think it also takes support from people who have experienced the life those backward blessings give when they are realized. I will be this support for my kids. I will stand in that place of waiting alongside them, trusting and believing that what God has in store for them is so much bigger than I could ever ask for or imagine. I will pray for the friends of my children, that they can share this road with, ones that they can feel free to be their true selves around and grow spiritually with. I will pray that my kids will be brave enough to be set apart, but humble enough to not set themselves above. And through the inevitable bumps they will have along the way, I will pray that they always know that there is no place they can go that is so far that the love of Jesus (and their mama) cannot reach.