Parenting Is The Most Painful Love
Genesis 3:16 says woman’s pain will not only be in physical birth but heartache will be her companion while raising her children. I have found the Scriptures to be true. “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain, you shall bring forth children.”
Parenting is the most painful love.
Publicly I’ve shared that my middle son was like Dennis the Menace on caffeine, and I’m being nice. Once a woman chastised me for saying things about Hampton publically. I remember going home and telling Hampton I’d been rebuked, and he immediately asked, “Did you tell her I did this and that…” We laughed. Hampton thinks he should get royalties from my speaking engagements because he’s given me so much fodder for my messages. Hampton was hard to raise. Not just when he hit the teenage years - he was hard at age four. I remember when he was in elementary I read Dobson’s book on how to raise boys. I threw it against the wall and screamed, “Done that and it didn’t work. What now?” I stopped looking to the parenting experts and starting bending my knee. If anyone knew how to raise my son, it was Jesus. After all, he made him, and I reminded Jesus that he was responsible for his creation! I think it was in middle school that we took him to see a psychiatrist in Dallas. I was sure that what was happening in our home was due to mental illness. I was wrong. The psychiatrist informed me that Hampton has a genius IQ, is an extrovert, an athlete, and a leader. He proceeded to tell us that those characteristics don’t normally go together. They are similar to the likes of Winston Church. Then he said something that felt like a gut punch. “These kinds of kids either end up on skid row or they change the world.” I knew which road we were on, and it wasn’t good. In desperation, I pleaded to the doctor, “We send men to the moon. We do surgery on babies in the womb. Surely you have a drug for this.” Alas, he did not. I sobbed. Hampton is an 8 on the Enneagram. He was a large presence in our home. He was charming, funny, witty, explosive, demanding, abusive – all wrapped up in a bundle of tornado energy.Learning to listen to Jesus to parent my son was no easy feat. Sometimes I’d have to wait days or a week to hear. It got so I’d learn about some naughty thing Hampton did at school, and I’d say, “We are going to discipline you but I have to wait for Jesus to tell me what to do.” Poor kid. Talk about misery. He’d walk around for days waiting to find out the consequences knowing that they were coming straight from God! I remember saying to him later on, “If you grow up messed up, it’s on you because you were raised by Jesus!”But, as you probably know by now, the person Jesus did the most work on was not Hampton but me. Through his word and his Spirit, he showed me how to mother. He challenged me to let go of the idea that how Hampton turned out was a reflection on me. It wasn’t. Good parents can have crappy kids, and crappy parents can have good kids.I was free from my identity being wrapped up in my mothering. He reminded me that although I could discipline Hampton and have some control over his behaviour, the one area of Hampton I couldn’t touch was his heart. That was God’s and God’s alone. As much as I wished I could get inside and rewire Hampton’s heart and mind, I couldn’t. God can. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27) (Take note of how many times God said: "I WILL." He's trying to tell us, mothers, something!)It’s freeing to know your child’s spiritual life is not entirely dependent on you. Jesus also showed me that I was parenting out of fear rather than faith. (2 Timothy 1:6) I’ve come to learn that most Christian moms are parenting out of fear even though we proclaim to be people of faith. I had to make a conscious choice to parent out of faith and trust. I’ll be honest at first that meant I trusted Jesus that my son would turn out all right. But Jesus pushed me for more than that. He wanted to know if I’d trust even if it didn’t turn out okay. I remember one morning in prayer pleading with Jesus to give me some assurance that Hampton would not end up on skid row. He didn’t. He wouldn’t. In fact, he let me know he wasn’t as concerned with how Hampton turned out as he was with my faithfulness. His Spirit whispered, “Jackie if Hampton never turns around, will you remain faithful? Faithful to me? Faithful to loving Hampton as I love him?”1 Peter 1:7, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”Whew, that was a hard one. When Hampton was 14, we sent him to military school in Virginia. We flew up two weeks early so he could try out for the soccer team. The day we arrived he became sick with double pneumonia. That night before we dropped him off I sobbed. I remember praying to Jesus, “Should I stay until he’s feeling better?” The whisper back said, “Jackie, trust me to parent him.” God's call for Abraham to sacrifice Issac can show up in many different ways in life. (Genesis 22:1-19) The next morning we dropped him off. We wouldn’t be able to talk to him for six weeks. I was a chest-heaving sobbing mess all the way back to Texas. That year I had to learn to trust Jesus like I had never trusted him before. Trust - not that it would all turn out okay but that God himself was present with my son. (Hebrews 13:5) Hampton is now twenty-six years old, and he didn’t end up on skid row. I had no guarantees of that and neither do you. As I have said, I hesitate to write on parenting (or marriage), but I sense I’m supposed to put what I learned out there. Hopefully, something in my journey can help someone else's parenting in the pain.
Your identity is not your child's behavior.Jesus loves unconditionally. Us and them. Will you?Read the experts, seek advice from wise people but don't forget to go to Jesus first, after and until the end. In case you haven't noticed he's an amazing parent!Choose faith over fear.You're not in control of your child's spiritual life.God is more interested in your faithfulness than the outcome.God may ask you to "let him parent your child for a while."Parenting is the most painful love. Jesus experiences that every day as he parents you and me.
I'll close us with Paul's words of encouragement, "So, my dear sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." (1 Corinthians 15:58)