Can I actually believe I know my son’s path when I didn’t create him? My efforts to control are backfiring. . .
Have you ever wondered how you are going to get your teenagers through all the obstacles and temptations of life? It is a daunting task trying to fashion them into the happy, good, successful people they are meant to be. Frankly, I’m exhausted by the constant effort required to shelter them from all the temptations of the world; bad friends, bad music, bad websites, bad teachers, bad schools! It’s unending!
After all, our children start off as blank computers that we must protect and form for their own good. We need to give them the proper perspective of right and wrong and teach them how to think about the world around them. The problem is that as they grow they are exposed to many negative influences and they don’t seem to realize the harm they might suffer if corrupted. Therefore, for their own good, it is absolutely critical that I remain steadfast in my endeavor to police and control any outside negative influences. God gave me authority over them as a beacon of light to guide them along the “right path”. I know them best and I know what they need to be successful in this life and happy in the next. So, if they ask to hang out with someone who might be suspect, I have to make up things they need to do so they don’t have the time to go. Of course, I can never tell them that’s what I’m doing because then they might hide seeing that person from me and I’ll lose my control. When I think about it, it’s a strange paradox because though I relish the idea of free will for myself, I despise it for my children. Why on earth would God give free will to teenagers?
My worst fears are realized when my teenage son comes home from school and tells me he has been reading a book by an atheist philosopher and is thoroughly intrigued by it. Apparently, his English teacher, who has left the faith, gave it to him and they are discussing it after school!
The terror that I feel is extraordinary. How dare this public school teacher try and lure my son away from his faith. I feel my blood pressure begin to rise. My son then mentions he has been feeling down lately, at which point I say, “Of course you have. That’s what you get for reading atheistic books and listening to someone who is trying to pull you away from your family and the truth. I should report him to the school board!” At this point, my son screams, “You don’t even know him! He’s a good man and isn’t trying to do that at all. Stay out of my life. Since when are you in charge of what I think and believe?” I shout back, “Since I became your mother! God is crying, no wonder you are miserable!” My son yells back, “How do you know what God feels? I’m not depressed about what I’m reading, I’m depressed that you think you can control my life.” With that I sink into utter despair. The pressure I feel is immense. God has given me the tremendous responsibility of guiding this child properly and I am failing. How can someone he hardly knows have more influence than I, his own mother? To add insult to injury he is actually blaming me! I only want the best for him. Where did that young, faith filled boy go? How can I save him?
Clearly, whatever I am doing, isn’t working. Maybe our conflict, in part, is about the fact that he isn’t really a little child anymore and though I’m scared, it’s not hard to understand why he wants to be treated more in keeping with his age. Could there be something more driving me to control that I don’t want to see or acknowledge?
Looking deeper, I realize that though I want what is best for my children, I also want them to “live” in a way that makes me feel good and look good (make as little mistakes as possible). I want them to fulfill my plan for their lives. So naturally, the possibility of him leaving our faith represents a big fat “failure” on my part as a mother. This fear of my failure moves me to control. I can’t let this happen so I must exert pressure. He must choose the “right path” no matter what he wants. The problem is my attempt to control sends the message that I don’t believe he wants to choose good for himself. Further, control is impossible, unhealthy and actually self-centered rather than God centered as it goes against God’s plan of free will.
What if my limited view of the “right path” isn’t the path that will lead him to an authentic relationship with God or an understanding of his place in the world? Can I actually believe I know my son’s path when I didn’t create him? My effort to control is backfiring and I’m beginning to feel embarrassed by it.
I decide to live according to what I believe is the truth; that God creates, saves and speaks to all of us from within. Though I have made many mistakes I know that I have done my best to teach him right from wrong. My love for God has been a gift that I have tried to share. I preach trust and belief and now it is time to live by it.
Grace arrives and I let go. I want to get out of God’s way. My voice needs to be replaced by God’s voice within my son’s heart.
As I begin to expect the good, I am able to see a young man with a tremendously pure heart who never seems to judge others. He just sees the good in people. Interestingly, I also start to see his friends and people, in general, differently. I am moving from judging others (as if I was God) to seeing others with wonder, creations of God, yet flawed and wounded. In other words, I am leaving the “House of Shame” and entering the “House of Grace”. In the “House of Grace” I see even my son’s teacher as someone who is worthy of respect and admiration, someone I no longer need to fear.
One day while we are driving in the car my son says, “You must be disappointed in me and worried about the fact that I don’t believe Jesus is God anymore, especially after the way you raised me.” I easily reply “No. What I see is a young man with an unbelievably good heart.
You have taught me so much about goodness just by the way you live and treat others. God saves, I don’t. You are such a gift in my life!” Incredulously he replies, “Really, you mean that?” I said, “Absolutely!”
What I said was not scripted nor did I have an agenda in converting him. I was at peace with God being God; creator and savior. The shift in my perspective created an avenue for connection in our relationship, allowing me to see him, and the goodness in his heart. I am grateful for the gift of sharing in his life as he discovers himself and his place in the world.
Several months later, my son had a personal experience of God that touched him deeply. The little boy who had been born with so much curiosity, zeal and love for Jesus returned but not as before, not with my distorted, judgmental view but with a broader and more beautiful perspective beyond what I had ever known or imagined.