This the second post that began HERE.
As I prepare to turn fifty, my four kids span from 16 to 24 years old. And I want to say upfront that I absolutely love and adore them. To borrow from someone’s Facebook post, they’re the reason I have gray hairs and the reason I have laugh lines.
I think every loving parent makes incredible sacrifices for their children. Some of those sacrifices are huge, momentous occasions. And most are those daily “putting their needs before ours” kind of decisions.
All of those sacrifices are made with the intention of giving our children a better chance than we ever had — to create wonderful memories, to provide for their needs, to bring them joy and happiness, and to shape them into men and women with good character.
In the Orthodox Church, there’s a daily prayer that has taught me a few lessons:
“O God, our heavenly Father, who loves mankind, and are most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon our children, your servants, for whom I humbly pray you, and commend them to your gracious protection. O God, be their guide and guardian in all their endeavors; lead them in the path of your truth, and draw them near to you, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in your love and fear, doing your will in all matters.”
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Lesson #1. God loves my kids more than I love them. I don’t think I need to say much more on that one.
Lesson #2. Because he loves them more than I do, I have a constant decision to make in regards to their care. I can either worry about them or actively commend them into God’s care. As a young parent, I used to be plagued with graphic visions of my firstborn’s death. I used to worry for him constantly and lived in a low-level state of panic. He’s now 24 years old. I had to learn that I can’t be with him nor protect him constantly. So I had to choose either to worry about him and my other kids or actively commend them into God’s loving care.
Lesson #3. Just because God loves them and cares for them, doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to them. Part of learning to commend them into God’s care was praying the aforementioned daily prayer only to learn hours later that something terrible had actually happened to one of my children. But the ultimate “goal” of the prayer is for children who have learned to lead godly and righteous lives. That sometimes requires painful lessons. Fortunately, lesson #1 encompasses lesson #3.
It’s can be heartbreaking being a parent of adult children. Sometimes I hear my kids share memories of their childhood. Some are good memories. But occasionally they will share an incident which I had intended to be a good experience. But because of a word or an action, what I planned to be a positive memory is actually a painful one that they have carried for years.
That’s a difficult thing to bear. It’s easy to become despondent and believe the inner voices that accuse me of being a bad parent. Believe me, there’s plenty of evidence to substantiate such claims.
As I attempt to parent adult children, I find that I don’t always have the words or advice they need. Their lives are taking a completely different trajectory than mine. I’m crushed by their experiences of stress and pain. My heart breaks when they share their doubts, fears and anxiety about relationships, education, career and life purpose. And I feel helpless and impotent, unable to give them what they need.
These feelings are easily compounded when look through old photographs of my children smiling and playing. It’s easy to wish that I could have frozen time when they were young, innocent and fairly happy. Life seemed simpler then. But I know it wasn’t.
Then my mind drifts back to the prayer. And I’m learning a fourth lesson:
Lesson #4. God answers prayer. God has been and still is their guide and guardian. He has and still is leading them in the path of his truth. He has and still is drawing them near to him. And they are learning to lead godly and righteous lives.
Debbie and I are ultra-blessed with four great adult kids. They love God, each other, us and other people. They are truly great friends with each other. And they are friends with Debbie and me. And they are good friends with those in their lives.
When Debbie and I brought each child home from the hospital after their births, a huge unknown future loomed before us. We didn’t know what awaited our kids. But we knew we wanted them to grow into men and women of character who loved God, loved each other, loved us and loved people.
And all I can say is, “God, thank you so much for graciously answering our prayers.”