an advent prayer for the weary parent’s heart

Morgan and I always seem to have these deep parenting talks in the dark of bedtime, when the day is over and dishes are done and we can rest at last. The conversation always begins the same way:

“I’m not sure the kids are doing so great right now…”

The sun has gone to bed, but my heart can’t rest after the long day of raising big kids. This weariness is different than the exhaustion of tending to squishy babies, tantrum-filled toddlers, and squeaky elementary goofballs. Back then I wished one of my kids could just Do Something to Be Helpful, instead of Needing Me for Everything. Every day back then was a repeat of the one before it: change the diapers, fill the sippy cup, wipe the bottom, make the macaroni, clean the mess, set up the train table, do the dishes, push the stroller. On and on life went, an eternal drumbeat of laborious servitude.

But this preteen and teenage weariness wants to make me afraid. It feels like losing; losing control, losing babies, losing sight of where they actually are heading. Everything up until now basically could be predicted: they would learn to sit up, walk, use a spoon, throw a ball, say all the words, read all the words, tie their shoes, etc., etc. Nothing seems predictable any longer.

I stare into the faces of my children now and I am shocked at how little I know. I don’t know who they will choose to be. I don’t know what the challenges ahead will mean for them. I don’t know if those new friends are people my children will follow off the proverbial cliff, or if my kids will lead the doomed parade themselves. I don’t know if they’ll be willing to work hard enough to become who they say they want to become. I don’t know if I’ve spent enough time praying, enough money investing, or enough time tending their character. Most days, I don’t know much of anything- which my kids seem to sense and use to their advantage.

The most terrifying part of all of this is that all the unknowns I struggled to sort out in my own coming of age, my children now begin to face. (Lord have mercy!) It’s my job to let them find their own way through, despite the drive within me to machete away all the scary underbrush and vines in their paths. I am here, ready to catch them when they fall, cheer them when they valiantly rise, and love whoever they are on the other side. But I have to sit off to the side, present and accessible, but very quiet, observing them like some kind of wise Jedi master.

Except most of the time, I feel more like a frantic basketball coach, about to throw a chair across the room.

But here we are in the advent season, and it seems God has come again to quiet my heart and teach me what it means to wait and love and trust that He is Immanuel, God with Us, the Prince of Peace, and our Everlasting Father.

Today I feel a new kinship with God as a parent. I am in awe of the way He laid His Son here in our lives. What was God the Father thinking all those years ago? Sending Jesus to a world full of sinners suddenly strikes me as The Scariest Idea Ever. The world was full of bad characters with even worse morals who loved jumping off cliffs. What if Jesus got in with the wrong crowd in Jerusalem and God’s plan for redemption was thwarted by the thrill of cliff diving into oblivion? 

For goodness sake, it would have been so much safer to just stay home in heaven.

But maybe safer isn’t God’s ultimate goal for us. Maybe happy and risk-free lives won’t satisfy our heart’s longing to live the gospel. Maybe a predictable path is over-rated and an easy life is a sham.

I look up to dark ceilings on these weary nights, my gaze settles on the dark horizon of the future, and I know so many new things. I want to be a brave parent, who lets Her children run after God’s heart, no matter how winding their path may seem from my view. I want to throw confetti instead of chairs, and carry hope in my heart instead of judgments

And, oh man, I want to see how high and far these kids of mine are going to fly. But to do that, I really will have to let go. Advent means that I don’t have to be afraid of what could happen any longer, because we all have a God who has promised to be with us, and love us to the very end.

“Lord, I put these children in the manger of your will. I lay them down, I set them loose. But my eye will always be on them. Give me Your vision for their hearts. My voice will be close. Grant me Your words for their needy hearts. Let me be the kind of parent who is close but not controlling, wise but not annoying with my knowledge. I trust You to hold them when I can’t, to see them when I am blinded by my humanity, and I know You will carry them when they lose their way. My love for them is wider and deeper than the ocean, and yet your love for them dwarfs my own by infinity. Let my heart rest in that truth when it feels afraid. I trust You. I am waiting for You in so many ways today. I put all my hope and faith in You. Thank you for being God With Us.”