She shares inside jokes with her friends that I’m not privy to. She spends an hour after school decompressing in her room, listening to music or scrolling Instagram. I don’t dare ask when she last did her laundry. She’s a teenager. To the core.
And I’m crazy about her.
Some of you remember when I started this blog… when my teenager was four and my middle schooler was a baby. If there’s anything I’ve learned for certain it’s that our kids grow up. And we get to witness it, we get to influence the process. We get a front row seat to God’s amazing work.
Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking for a mother-daughter retreat, with women and girls spanning from kindergarten age to my age and beyond. My daughters helped lead worship, one playing keyboard and the other leading dance motions. They are now the role models, the ones the littles look up to. And those littles… oh how precious, how eager, how very without-a-shred-of-doubt CERTAIN are they that God is good and that He loves them.
I wonder. When do we start to question?
I’ve been writing now for nearly a dozen years, reminding us over and over again how God wants only the best for us, how He’s working out all the junk and the heartache for good purposes. And I’ve taught my girls this very same truth since before they could talk.
At what point does our teaching become tainted by doubt?
Because while my teenager is beautiful and faith-filled and assured of her salvation, she is not immune to struggles and insecurities and influence beyond our walls. Freshman year was a mixed bag, my friends. On the one hand my daughter met excellent teachers and new true friends, she discovered a passion for pep band and football games, she proved to us she can work hard and get good grades and honor God with her decisions.
Yet on the other hand, she also endured an entire year of harassment from a mean kid. Mama bear wants to gouge his eyes out but my girl? She shrugs it off. It’s his problem, Mom, she says. Not mine. She learned that some kids have integrity and some kids don’t, and all of us cross the line from time to time. She stressed over grades and deadlines and shifting friendships. She wondered if she was enough.
The four-year-old version of my now 15-year-old daughter would never have wondered that. But this world beats us down. It opens our eyes to sadness and comparison and criticism. And we can’t shield our kids from that, we shouldn’t. Because it’s also what leads them to God.
At some point we cannot hold our children’s hands down the path to Jesus. We need to let go and point the way, show them where the road goes but then give them permission to walk it independently while we cheer from behind. They might trip, follow some detours, get lost in the woods on either side. But even that is part of their story, part of their journey toward making their faith their own.
Our job is to give them the tools to survive the adventure. In our house that looks like a listening ear, judiciously delivered advice, a shoulder to cry on. It’s space and love and forgiveness. Prayer and lots more prayer. Maybe it also means giving our kids access to a counselor or a youth group or boundaries that protect them without stifling them. Choose your tools, mommas, and share them well. Then let the teenagers use them as they will, knowing the source of your love is God’s love, which always comes first.
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NLT)
Notice that verse doesn’t elaborate on what might happen between the point of “children” and “older.” There’s a lot of stumbling that can happen in the gap. But our marching orders are the same regardless. Direct them. Point out the right path. Show them Jesus. And God will do the rest.
School is done for us this Friday, and my freshman officially becomes a sophomore. My sixth grader graduates to seventh, and dare I say we’ll be homeschooling her for seventh and eighth grade. That’s a story for another day. But my point is this: Change is inevitable. Growth is part of life. And we GET to be a part of it. Praise Jesus.
Happy summer, my friends. I’ll be popping in here on the blog as I’m able, in between dips in the pool and runs to the ice cream shop. Let’s enjoy our kids while we have the chance. Invest in them. Love them. Give them grace. And oh, what a beautiful sight it is, to see them transform before our eyes, into the people God designed them to be. Amen?
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