We drove to the top of the falls and filed out of the van. Impending dread started creeping in. “Oh no, we are going to stand at the top of the falls with our little ones”, I thought. There were 6 mere boards between my children and sudden, sure death. Walking up to my husband–who was not nearly as concerned, I mentally knew they were safe. Their father was watching them–perhaps not as closely as I would have liked (do you know what I mean, moms?). Still, I started to snap, barking out orders for them to do pretty much nothing short of breathing and looking at the falls. My husband told me repeatedly I needed to relax.
I could do no such thing. My heart was gripped with fear. No matter what I told myself, I wanted to protect and control each of my little ducks until I could tuck them safely back into the van. It was not an entirely irrational fear. Children are unpredictable and dart this way and that without warning. There IS great danger on the other side of those wooden boards.
But there is great beauty on this side of the boards. And for me to keep and control them safely away from the views so that my own heart is not fearful is to deny them the opportunities to know and experience God–His creation and His beauty, in this case.
I went to the van with the baby and the weight on my chest quickly dissipated. My other children were still there, near the falls, with only wooden barriers, a held hand, and verbal instruction fencing them in. They were with their father. As I left, I realized I had to trust them to his care. I trusted he would watch and protect them as they walked down the 450+ stairs along the falls. I drove the van down to meet them and I was no longer afraid. Why? Was it because I couldn’t see them and the particular dangers they faced? Was it because I transferred my trust to their father? Did one cause affect the other? I don’t know.
Other Kinds of Cliffs
I know that I have been to mountains by myself without that same retching response which grips me when my children are near heights. On my own, I can take in the sights and enjoy the views. But with them, I cannot take my eyes off of them–to a fault.
Whatever the case, these little lessons are instructive to me also when applied to growing children who face other kinds of cliffs and dangers: the real-life pitfalls young people can face as they grow into adults.
As with my little ones near the falls, I am prone to want to control and manage all aspects of my growing children’s lives. I feel so much better when they are tucked safely into harnesses. Yet as they grow, I know I need to resist those fears.
I am by no means suggesting we should abdicate our parental duties and stop training before that season is complete. Nor should we remove restraints which could cause them to walk headlong into sin. Yet as the years grow long, our years of direct training do come to a close. We still need to discuss, rebuke, question, and correct growing children. With the fences of God’s word, we keep steering and calling them to follow the narrow road of Christ. But as kids get older, we also should be increasingly letting go of control and “letting” God increasingly become their God.
Speaking for myself, I consider: how will they learn to know God for themselves if I am always removing the danger, curbing the risks, or being a translator for God to my children? Shouldn’t I rather be looking for means for them to KNOW him themselves?
I could keep them on the safest, blandest trails–miles away from the danger–in which case, I could also gain a false sense of control. But it is not my job to keep their lives small in order for me to feel safe and in control. The Heavenly Father can be trusted. He is able to keep and protect that which is His. He is mighty to save!
In saying that, I don’t mean to imply that bad things don’t ever happen. They do. Yet God does give grace to mothers for every situation–even in the hard. Therein lies the element of faith. By obedience to his word and prayer He guides our own steps.
He has been God to me! I trust my Father.
I need to trust God to be my childrens’ Father too.