This is a new season, engaging in parenting big kids-almost teens. I am taking a risk here and I know it. Recently, a new dad asked my best parenting advice and before piping up, I realized that what I believe to be true now is quite different than what I may have shared back when I was in the thick of the newborn-toddler phase for the first time. The big things still hold true, but there is wisdom in the experience of it all.
While risky, I do know and am aware that life is a process. Hopefully, you don't mind being in the middle of it all with me, thinking through this with sober confidence.
There is a phrase that I say to my bigger boys almost every single day. It isn't just for them. It always meets me too as a most clear example of ~point at someone with one finger, there are three pointing back at me~ admonitions. I say it when something has happened that condemns, when fear of being found out looms, the evidence is against us, and one might run and hide or try to cover something up in some way.
Parenting these more complex thinkers takes a different skill. So often what we begin addressing moves several times as emotions and the threat of wrongdoing rises. In the middle of the usually circular, consequence evading, confrontational conversation I sometimes have the wherewithal to say something like, "Let's be brave and head toward the truth as closely as we dare and see what finds us there."
The farther from the truth we go, the more difficult the conversation becomes. There is more room for something false. I know what kids are thinking--- they believe the truth gets them in trouble. And often it does. They fear being rejected. They fear being embarrassed. Though deeper within is a core fear that the truth will make them un-lovable. I know this is true, as it is the same way I feel when confronted with my own failures.
So much of life is defensive. So much of it is convoluted. We get mixed up in what I should have done and what I actually did. It is the latter part that scares us.
I am not speaking of parenting strategies here--- I am talking about an environment for parenting where, while a parent and child have different roles, they are equal in sharing a need for safety, love, and something outside rules, discipline, and behaviors. I am talking about the environment where strategies operate.
When truth about me or about them is at hand, regardless of how bad it may be, the hope is that something (or SomeOne) else waits for us there.
There are clear consequences of living life evading the truth--- and relationally, they are a prison. In short, they damage my relationship with my children. They damage their relationship with me. We hope for reconciliation. But what governs the environment? Where is the hope?
If there is a time when this is relentlessly tested, I am sure these more hands-off parenting years feel like it so far. *Spoiler Waring* The truth about them~the truth about me is the place where the Gospel moves in and completely undermines the worst that could be. When all that that is done and left undone threatens to undo us, grace reaches in and pulls us out. Even if natural consequences are difficult to swallow, mercy meets us.
John 8 says, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
I started this blog months ago. A couple of week ago, it dawned on me how to finish it (and it has taken longer to actually sit down and type!). Micah and I are attending a class with our church family. The title of the introductory talk was, "Who is Jesus?" You may listen in here. The answer is found in scripture and answered by Jesus Himself. Many of the points made were directly from the gospels.
It prompted my own further study. In John 8 alone, Jesus has this to say about Himself:
He is the light of the world (vs. 11), from above, not of this world (vs. 23), sent by the Father (vs. 26-27), spoke to the world what He heard from the Father (vs. 26), He does what is pleasing to the Father (vs. 29), He speaks of what He had seen with His Father (vs. 38), He came from and was sent by God (vs. 42), He tells the truth (vs. 45), He honors His Father (vs. 49), He does not seek His own glory (vs. 50), the Father glorifies Him (vs. 54), He knows the Father and keeps His word (vs. 55), and before Abraham was, "I am" (vs. 58).
This is only one chapter! The main idea here, as well as in His ministry on the whole, is Jesus was sent by God and is God. For those looking for the Messiah, this was pertinent information. The call given then and now is to believe. For us today, believing He is the Christ ---who He said He was and is--- is the truth that sets us free.
In John 14:6, Jesus says He is the way, truth, and life.
We move close to the truth of who we are in the hope of the Person He is. He, who is the Truth, comes close to us first, as the Helper bears witness about Him (John 15:26).
What does that mean for me? And for my kids? If Jesus is who He says He is, we are who He says we are. I will spend my lifetime learning all of what that means! One place to start, especially when the truth about us makes us feel unlovable, is John 17, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
There is no hard truth about us that will move the Father to crush us. There is no truth that will undo who He is and what He has done. There is no sin we will encounter left un-exchanged for the righteousness of Jesus. Because He has already crushed His Son for our sake, the supreme weight of the consequence has been paid. The environment for faith and repentance is love--- the love of God demonstrated by the Son, made known by the power of the Holy Spirit. Day by day, conversation by conversation, parent/child alike, I pray this makes its way deeper into all our hearts and sustains us in hope.
"Let's be brave and head toward the truth as closely was we dare and see that the Truth is there."
Lord I believe, help my unbelief.