“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I read a blog last night written by a young woman who has trichotillomania, a disorder related to OCD where people compulsively pull out their hair, literally. She described the first time she engaged in this behavior in reaction to intense feelings of stress, and the reaction her mother had to discovering her fourth grade daughter in the aftermath of this first episode. Do you know what that mother did as tears filled her eyes? She climbed into bed with her daughter, who had been hiding under the covers, and hugged her– for three hours– without a word. Then, of course, she got her daughter the help she needed, learned all she could about the disorder, and kept her daughter’s secret until her daughter was ready to share it as a young adult.
That story struck my heart deeply. I still can’t think about it without tearing up. Not because I’m shocked by it. I’m somewhat familiar with trichotillomania and have known people diagnosed with it. What struck me was that image of a parent choosing to bypass all the questions, judgements, expressions of shock, attempts to reason, and just comforting a child who was hurting. This girl, now a mother herself, has a three year old boy who has struggled with behavioral and sensory issues, and she is getting him the help that he needs.
It made me wonder, will I be a mother who stops and really sees my children, sees through to the heart of what they are going through and does my best to meet those deep needs? Or will I stick to the surface level and write it all off as a discipline problem? Maybe sometimes it will be a discipline problem, but even still, will I focus solely on getting their behavior to conform to my expectations, or will I stop and look into their hearts, really connect with them, really meet the needs of these tender little souls? It seems to me that these children had a struggle going on inside, lies that they were believing or fears that were attacking them. I think we all do. Things like I need to be perfect in order to be loved, or If people really knew me, they would leave me, or I need to be _____ or I’m a failure, or any number of tapes we might have playing in our heads that can manifest themselves as mental health issues, or addictions, or just a whole lot of striving and fear. I think we’ve all got some misconceptions about life or about ourselves that, if someone would come in and speak hope and truth to us, and if we’d just believe them, we’d be set free to be and do so many amazing things, the things we were created for. I think we’d soar.
As I thought about this, and about my role as a mother, I wanted one thing. For God to make it clear to me what the message is that my son needs to hear. Whatever fear or lie might be planning to plague him, might even be written in his DNA to struggle with, I asked God to give me the message that will be the remedy to his struggle, whether or not I know what the struggle is, and let me speak it loud and clear to him daily. So that he could live free from the stuff that would hinder him, be released to use all his gifts and talents for the Kingdom, pursue dreams and callings courageously, love lavishly and receive love easily, so that he may live his entire life truly alive.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
I don’t hope for this out of a fear of my son developing a disorder or something. In fact, I think my hope could easily be fulfilled right smack in the midst of something like that. I know my son will struggle, and as much as I’d love to protect him from that, I think a bit of struggle is good for the soul, if we know where to turn. I just want to speak the truth that he needs to hear to help give him the strength to overcome it, even if it’s a battle he’ll have to fight every day.
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22b
I hope for this because I believe it’s the way it’s meant to be. People fully alive with the truth in their hearts. Each person fulfilling the dreams and designs God wrote on his or her heart when He knit them together in their mother’s womb. Things they were created for, things they alone can do. Kingdom things. Beautiful things.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
When I was pregnant with my son, I prayed for an easy baby. It was a prayer prayed out of a sense of my own weakness, of feeling like I couldn’t handle a high-needs child, one who cried incessantly or was always bouncing off the walls (as truly precious as those children are, especially in his sight.) I was going through a time where I was becoming keenly aware of my shortcomings. There were things I had tried to run from, tried to blame on my circumstances, but when I got new circumstances, the problems were still there, and so was God, patiently encouraging me to face them, to face myself. I knew parenthood was going to give me fresh opportunity to deal with them, and I was admittedly intimidated. And I was going to be moving to another state at 8 months pregnant, to top it off. God was gracious, and he gave me that easy baby. He is pretty much the best gift I’ve ever gotten.
But not because he’s easy. Although I admit I’m beyond thankful for that. One of the things I’m learning on this parenting journey is what a gift it is that it’s all so darn hard. Because it drives me to Jesus, keeps me dependent on the one I so desperately need, and who so desperately longs for me to seek him. And it grows me. Changes me in ways I’d always wanted to change but never quite dared to believe I could. Sure, many days the struggle is quite unwelcome from my end, when I’d just rather it be easy. But it is oh, so good. That is why I have decided that I will not pray for an easy child next time around. I’m going to ask God to give me whatever child he sees fit, because I really do believe He knows what’s best for me. And if I ask for something else, I just might get it, get less than his very best intentions for me. I’m also going to ask him to give me whatever child that is needed for his Kingdom. I have no idea what that might mean. But a child is a gift not just to me but to the world. The world needs a lot of things, pretty badly. That’s why it needs those people who have been set free to soar. He creates us each for a unique purpose. What kind of child does He need to bring his light to this world in a particular way? That’s who I’d like him to give me. What a thought, that a child with such purpose would be entrusted to my care. That one of them already has. One who, despite my possibly-foolish prayers for an easy child, is surely exactly the one God intended to give the world.
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16
It gives new meaning to my days, to think I have such a high calling as to raise children like that. How in the world do I go about fulfilling such a lofty calling? I need God. I need his Holy Spirit to guide me, to teach me things like what to teach my children so that they’ll have hearts set free. I need his Word to guide me, because he’s already poured out so much of the truth our hearts need to hear, if we’d just read it, and believe it.
All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” Isaiah 54:13