Monday, December 19, 2011

The Mothering Chronicles 6: The Choosing Time

I remember still, the first time he consciously, willingly disobeyed.  That over seven hundred times the sun had laddered her way to the sky, and the same number of moons had taken the midnight shift for her before he made a choice to take the consequence instead of our advice is really far longer than many parents experience. 

"Nathan, if you throw that toy you will have a consequence.  You need to listen and choose.  Do you understand?"  It was Daddy that said those words, and Daddy has always been very clear.
And he did understand.  He nodded, turned, and threw the toy. 

He knew. 
He chose. 
He broke my heart.
They get to do that, you know?  Get to choose.
They do.

And it can knock the feet from beneath a surefooted person, knock the wind from a fighter, and knock a weaker person out.  Period.

Here's the thing with mothering.  We don't get to choose for them forever, and the sooner we realize this, the easier it will be when they begin to make real decision for themselves.  I've seen some moms, and I'm not gonna lie--I envy them,that wield influence over their children like carrots to rabbits and sweet feed to quarter horses.  Their children just live, eat, breathe what their momma lives, eats, breathes.  I marvel at them, wonder how they managed it.  And secretly, I wonder if it will last. 

Because though I'm convinced my own mother could hang the moon with her love of God and faithfulness in life, I just don't think like her.  She raised me, nursed me, bathed me, brought me tea and toast when I was sick, prayed--still prays--for me, bought me school clothes, took me to visit colleges, and I have to say, she has a purple and silver Christmas tree.  Purple and silver.  Never. Will. I. Have. A. Purple. Tree.  Never.

 We are both fearfully, wonderfully crafted individuals.  Individuals. 
God did the hand-making of mankind.
No two alike.
One of a kinds.

Like infinite, humanity consists of the flesh and bone original creations of God.  And if that is the case, then I think it is safe to say, at some point, even those mommas who raise little mini-mommas will someday be forced to accept that their little cookie cuts are gonna iron out all those folds that fit them to the pattern of mom or dad and, like wind catching a kite, the breath of their Creator will blow them full of His plan, His design.

And if they get to choose, they also get to break our hearts.  They do.

Because they will not always choose what we believe to be the best.  They won't always heed our counsel, our warnings, our guidance.  Sometimes they'll be right, sometimes they won't. 
He's almost twelve now--that little guy that threw the toy ten years ago.  I can count on one hand the number of times he has willfully disobeyed since that day.  He's a line tower.  He's a rule follower.  He's a tell-me-what-you-want-and-I-will-do-everything-in-my-power--to-obey kind of guy. So far.  But there are no guarantees. No flawless formulas for forever promises.

Just tonight he told me,  "Mom, sometimes I get a little annoyed."
"Why's that?" 
"Because there are so many Christians, and they know they should help people, know that there are people who don't have enough, but they don't.  Why do we always have to be the ones to do it?  It's hard giving things up so other people can have." 

I knew he wasn't really annoyed--the only thing he gets annoyed with is my sister's cocker spaniel that refuses to follow the rules of dogdom.  What he was really talking about was the tug-of-war between selfless and selfish choices. I knew he had Christmas in mind--our family choosing not to go over the top tipping the scales in retail's favor when there are orphans, and parched people without water.  I've struggled too.  His heart is gripped, like Paul's with the good that he should, and the fact that that good is not exactly what his heart always wants.  And I hear him.  I understand.

The choice.  The choosing of direction in life.  It's his now.  Because now, despite what his outward actions may indicate, it is his heart that is deciding what direction it will take.  He may fall in line on the outside, but what about his spirit?  Where is it walking?

Robert Frost whispered over my shoulder.
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. "

And claiming credit for the thought because really, there is nothing new under the sun, Mathew chimed in with, "Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Mathew 7:13)

There is the reality that our children may choose wrong over right, and I don't want to think about that because it feels like a thousand mice chewing at my heart.  Mothering is a guiding of the heart, but there comes a point when the heart will choose its path. 

When reading the Christmas story from Mark's gospel, John the Baptist's words got stuck in my mouth.  I'm still chewing them.  "Prepare ye the way for the Lord." (Mark 1:3)

Could that be the great mandate of mothers, to prepare the way?

Could it really be just that? Mothering?
Preparing the way for the Jesus choice? 

We have family coming for Christmas.  Our home will, the day before their arrival, be a hive of activity.  The final mopping of floors, the sloshing of suds in toilet bowls, the fresh bedding, the special groceries.  It seems so simple to prepare the way for guests.  They don't stay forever, though.  They visit and leave.

With mothering, we're preparing the heart-home for a permanent resident. 

Jeff and I designed our home--before the first thrusting and heaving of 6X6 wall ever occurred, we knew every single centimeter, every corner, every closet.  But we didn't design our children's hearts.  Their hearts are like buying a home sight unseen.  I remember once when my dad sold real estate, a lady who, I think came from California, bought a house without having ever been through it.  She showed up, with her kids, her husband, her grand piano, and her home made toffee that stuck to dad's dentures and nearly choked him to death, without the slightest idea what it was really like here.  It's that way when our own burst free from womb-water into hands that hunger to hold forever.  We don't know their hearts.  We weren't the designers.

To prepare them, we must know them.

To know them, we must be with them, spend time, get low on the floor, get scuffed, get muddied, get dirty, get bored--Candy Land is only exciting the first five hundred times you play.  Then later, to continue to know them, we must watch football when we'd rather be quilting, have a tea-party when we'd rather be watching football, and stay up until four in the morning because they get talkative at midnight.

It's in the mundane, the hard, that we discover the closets and corners of their hearts.

But it is dangerous territory--the heart knowing.  Because it leads to heart-loving, and there is a fine line between heart-love and heart-control, and our Father knows the line, shows the line. He loves perfectly and with perfect love comes the freedom of choice.  He gives us that freedom.

And, when they are ready, we must give it to our children.  The freedom to choose.

Sometimes it will be like standing before a magnificent orchestra--they are the players, and we are the audience--every note on key.  But other times, they are the waterfall, and we are crushed beneath the rush of their choosing.  We'll lose our breath, and it will hurt.  Hurt to let them choose wrong.  Hurt to see them live the consequences.  Hurt to stand back when our muscle memory insists on running to rescue because that is what mothers do.  Rescue.

For a season.

Preparing the way begins with rescues, but eventually, it involves letting them tumble, letting them wrestle with the tough thinking, the mom-sometimes-I'm-annoyed-kind-of-thinking.  The kind of thinking that is heart-path choosing. 

Mothering is preparing the way for the greatest choice they will ever make.  Will they allow Jesus as their permanent resident? 

Essentially, Jesus did that with the disciples.  He prepared the way for them to accept Him as their Messiah. 
He spent time.  He told them stories in a language they understood.  He ate with them, slept near them, prayed around them.  He trusted God before their eyes.  He wrestled with God's will in His life to the point of bleeding, broken capillaries, and ultimately said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass, nevertheless, not my will but thine." (Matthew 26:42) 

In preparing the way, He surrendered His will.
The prepared heart has born witness to a parent's surrendered heart.  And that sentence is like The Great Wall of China before me--there's no getting around it.  To prepare my boys' hearts, I must be surrendered myself. 

Surrendered to His plans for them.  His purposes for them.  His ways for them.  His care of them.  His love for them.

Because whether or not I can see or understand them, His are all better than mine.  Are they not?
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 18:30)

Choices.  They will have them.  But so do I.  And the thing I'm discovering in mothering is this:  If my goal is to prepare the way for God's perfect way, I must first live out the belief that His way is, indeed, perfect.  They will know He is trustworthy by the proof of my life.

After he--that little boy who barely needs to wear deodorant and yet wrestles with choosing a yielded life or a self-centered life--went to sleep, I lingered long by his side.  I cried for the past, and I cried for the future. 
"God, I want him to want you always.  Want your ways.  I want him to agree, to see that Your way is joy, life, that it will make all the difference."

I am a shield to all who take refuge in Me.

"It is so hard, Lord, to trust You with this child.  It is so hard to let him make his own decisions, form his own opinions.  Help me, Father, to let You woo Him to Yourself.  Help me to trust the mind You molded in him, help me to hold him with hands opened."

I won't have the privilege of choosing forever for these that God has forged through the love of mother and father.  None of us get that privilege.  So, in our mothering, we must prepare the way of the heart-home for a resident who will care more completely, wield greater wisdom, and love to fulfill fully all their soul-longings.

It's a gut wrenching task.

But along the way, there is a fulfilling of our great soul-longings too.  And mothering becomes receiving.
Receiving the loving of Father.

And in receiving, we're freed to free them.
To free them to receive him.
We'll be unraveled, but He is the Great Weaver of life.

Pray with me:
God, when it comes to mothering, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  And grant me trust in Your unwavering commitment, unfailing love for my children.  Help me to prepare the way.  Help me to receive from you, Peace.  Amen.


4bco said...

This is beautiful Sarah. It may seem sad in some cases to realize that our children will not make the same choices we would, but to those of us who did not have Christian examples at home, it is a relief to know that we can break a negative cycle. That we can free from generational curses and live a new way....God's way. Trying each day to become an example to our own children and make better choices than those before us did.

Didge said...

sarah, sarah, sarah... how do you so beautifully portray your heart? You amaze me my friend. You make me want to be a mom. That is an amazingly hard thing to do.

I actually wondered the other day if your kids ever got in trouble. With how gently and lovingly you speak to them and live with them, I couldn't imagine you ever getting upset with them or having a reason to do so. I knew it couldn't be true, but, I was amazed at the thought.

I remember you calling Cort "Sweet Prince of the Universe" when asking him about hot chocolate. The sweetness your voice contains when you speak to your boys has touch my soul. I even find myself speaking with care to my dogs now.

You are beautiful.

Anne Arnold Pierce said...

It takes a fire to forge steel. At some point we all go through the fire and at some pointS we have to watch our children pass through and pray with all our MIGHT. It is total surrender and it is a tug of war.
The gentle lessons we learn, the sweet passages of time are the minor blessings that sustain us when the greater blessing the HARD WORK of trust and love of God and the following of Jesus throw us head long under the waterfall of surviving and clinging to FAITH and the eventual blessing of resting in FAITH and Surrendering our heart's desire to knowledge that what ever happens next God will be there.
Love Ant

Kate said...

Amen and Amen. I so needed to hear these words tonite...thank you sweet friend!! Love to you! ~ Kari