I am not my child’s savior.
This thought occurred to me yesterday as I walked around our neighborhood with an unsettled feeling. I had been pondering the fact that our daughter was an hour away at a weekend tournament that was not progressing the way her team hoped. First game was a bust. Second game they knocked two in the goal in the first ten minutes, but let their lead slip away into a tie game. Those two games meant advancing was impossible, regardless of the outcome of the final game. Our daughter walked away from the second game in tears.
Nothing is more important to her in life right now than this sport. All her future hopes are wrapped up in this. And while we both know that it has a hold on her heart that is too strong, I have to remind myself that it is not my job to make sure her dream doesn’t die. It’s not my job to make it all better. All my unsettledness was because I could. not. fix it.
Oh, but that’s what I want to do. I wanted to take away the pain. I wanted her not to have the loss, the disappointment. It’s what so many of us want to do. We want there to be wins, and good grades, and close friends, and safety. We want to erase everything that could hurt them.
So I set myself up in the position of savior in her heart. It’s heady stuff to have a person who thinks that you can do anything. We slip into the superman complex with our kids in part because it makes us feel good about ourselves that we can be the rescuer, the savior, the protector. We think that if we just stay close enough, say the right words, step in at just the right moments, we can fend off disasters. We believe the lie that we can control their worlds.
It feels right. It feels like love, to protect our kids from pain. But then I look at God and His word and I am reminded that the path to maturity always involves suffering. It makes us like Him.
Ultimately, apart from putting way too much pressure on ourselves to be more to them than we can be, saving our kids takes away the opportunity for them to look to the real Savior, to learn to rely on Him and receive from Him what they need in times of struggle.
Being away from my daughter this weekend was so hard, but so good for her. She needs me to get out of the way so that she can learn to lean on the One who is always there, who knows the value of failure, loss, loneliness, and pain to mold a heart into His image, and whose wise hands can guide her in ways I never could. We do our children a disservice when we don’t encourage them to turn to him in places of fear, hurt, discouragement. Our lives are meant to be lived in dependence on Him. Pain is a pathway to that dependence.
I love what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, “It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right.”
All that energy we spend trying to keep our children’s lives running right is not what keeping things running right for them. In fact, it might just be what keeps them from Him. So let’s resign as the controllers, the rescuers, the saviors of our children. Let’s trust the true Savior and teach our children to look to Him in times of trial.
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