Contentment: When your children take a different path

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I am the Mother of four very wonderful children who are all grown and have left the nest. I adore them.  I would lay down my life for any of them. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mom for the most part. I have no regrets in the choices I have made. My children are all very unique and different and have amazing things that I love about them.  When we had our youngest I felt our family was finally complete. Each of my children is without a doubt a precious blessing and gift from God.

As a Christian parent I hoped (and continue to hope) that as adults my children would be involved in some kind of ministry, not necessarily full time, but serving the Lord in whatever He calls them to do – through their job, in their church or some lay ministry. My primary goal has always been that they are happy and as a typical mother I have the traditional dreams for my children – I hope and pray they find the perfect life partner, get married and have a couple of kids (in that order) and have a career they enjoy. I also wanted them to explore the world, see the Leaning Tower of Pizza, go crocodile hunting in Australia and see the aurora borealis from Greenland.  Maybe those are more my dreams but the point is, I want them to be happy.

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divide his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

What I didn’t foresee was my children taking another path – not the Christian path to
eternal life – during their temporary life upon this earth.  The “pop culture” lifestyle (road) totally took me by surprise. I “assumed”, and parents should never assume, that an upbringing in a spirit-filled church and good home with loving parents, would make them strong enough in their Christian faith to withstand all outside pressures to serve other “gods” if you will.

What many parents fail to recognize is that once our children leave home – or even before that – our children have a God-given free-will. As a parent you can’t bargain with God, beg God, or really do anything but pray your children stay on the right path, the path that leads to eternal life.  The thing is, your children have the freedom of choice to make their own decisions. God did not create a world full of puppets. We hope our children make right choices but if not, as a parent, you cannot make the choice for them, nor are you their Savior.

As children, while under your roof, you teach, protect and guide them to the best of your ability, but you are not their conscience. You cannot make the ultimate choice for them to serve God. They have a mind and spirit all their own. That’s how God wants it to be. He wants us all to freely come to Him.

I have seen many parents, and maybe I was one of them, who thought their children were serving God and standing up for what they knew was right. These children went to Sunday school, youth group, did all sorts of wonderful things, and then my kids would come home and I would hear what those kids were really doing when the parents weren’t looking. I am not saying these were “bad kids”. Not at all, but I know their parents would have been shocked (as I was a few times with my own). Kids will be kids, but what I am saying is that as a parent you cannot force your faith on your child. You can only teach them, share your faith, and hope with all the power God has given you, that they will choose to serve the Living God.

I recall not so long ago a friend telling me in all sincerity that if she gave up her dream house that her children would never stop serving God as adults. What a bargain that would be, but that’s not how it works. If we could all bargain with God in that way we would all have perfect children who would never stray from the Lord. There would be no such thing as the Prodigal child. What this woman failed to realize is that God has given her children free-will. I do pray her children stay the path, but the reality is God does not bargain nor can he be bought. In fact, we are the ones who are bought with a price. Amen.

I wish I would have understood all this while my children were growing up. I know I made many wrong choices out of fear – I think many parents who were raised in unsaved households do – we don’t want our children making the same mistakes we did so it is easier to wear prideful blinders – but that’s for another post :)

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants,  ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

When you study the Word of God, even some of the most faithful fell off the path once in awhile. Just think of King David, Solomon, Abraham (remember the mess he got himself into with his wife?), Moses and so on. One thing about these men of faith is that they never stopped believing but what if your children do? What if they say, “hey mom, I better tell you this, now don’t freak out, but I don’t believe in God anymore. I’m an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist…”

This has happened to me with more than one child.

My first reaction was heartbreak. Wow. My heart just broke for my child. My second reaction was panic. It would have been easier if they had fallen into a pool as I could at least jump in and save them. My third reaction was anger. My fourth was denial, “He’s not serious”… My fifth reaction was to get on my knees. I knew bargaining with God would not work but I did give it a try at one point. When you’re desperate you will try anything. But then the Lord spoke to me…

When my eldest son was about four he did fall into a pool while we were on vacation. For months he talked about seeing an angel. I vividly remember the story the lifeguard who found him told me. She was not a christian that I know of. She was sitting in the pools little cafe and heard a voice say, “Get up and go look in the pool.” She looked around and no one was there. Then a second time, she said the voice was even louder. Her words to me later were, “I was freaked out because it was a really loud voice”. So she went out and the pool looked empty. Then she looked down and there was my son under 12 feet of water.  She reached in a pulled him out. We had been frantically looking for him and praying. She brought him up to our room and was furious and yelled at me for not keeping an eye on my child. Later she told me she had a young cousin or niece that had drowned in the lake nearby a few months before.

I wanted to remind my son of all this while my heart was breaking for him, remind him of the angel he saw while under water and the “voice of the Holy Spirit” that saved his life, but somehow at the time I knew he wouldn’t ‘hear’ me. He told me many times as a child “Mom, I drowned but the angel saved me,” and he wasn’t talking about the lifeguard who pulled him out. He said there was “an angel in the water with me”. I believed him. I still believe him but somehow, for some reason, he choose a different path. And my heart breaks for him, but I have also learned something else.

 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,  but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. t was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32 ESV

And what I have been learning, what the Lord spoke to me, is that I cannot and am not supposed to carry this burden. I
must lay my children, this very heavy burden that I was never asked to carry, at my Father’s feet, at His throne. He is their Father and my job is to pray, be their loving earthly mother who is there for them – no matter what. Believe me, it is not easy. A mother’s instinct is to save her drowning child, to rescue them from harm, from bad decisions and so forth, but I am Not their Savior. Jesus is. I dedicated my children to God when they were babies, they gave their lives to Jesus as young teens and as young adults and now I daily lay them at His feet. :)

Knowing God is in charge, knowing God’s promises gives me a sense of contentment. I’m not saying that I always feel at peace but their is contentment in knowing that someday I will see my children return to the Savior and if it doesn’t happen while I am on this earth, I know in my heart that we will meet in Heaven.  I have His promise.

Have a wonderful day :)