Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Letting Them Go

I've watched them.  You know, the mothers who pour their entire life and energy and self and identity into being a mother, mothering, motherhood.  I've watched them for decades now, taking notes, swearing that I won't end up like them.  That I won't lose myself in my children. That I am and always will be more than just a mother in identity.

Then the day comes when both my children are in school full time for the first time ever. A kindergardener and a second grader. And now I'm a stay-at-home mom with no kids at home. That reality has been gnawing away at my insides for months. It's taken me a while to realize one season in my life quietly ended while another one began. In silent moments all to myself, that reality makes me weep. Hard.

If there's more to me than just my kids, why do I spend so many days feeling so completely lost? They're just going to school, you say.  No, I can feel the change in my bones. My soul is raging against the changes that must in turn happen also in me.

This is just the beginning of the letting go--the slow painful separation of mother and child. I dare say it's more precarious than separating conjoined twins. I'm grateful my life is in the hands of an Eternal Surgeon skilled at His craft.

And there will be those that say, "If you feel that way about it, then home school them." But that's not my calling at this point in the journey. And if I know my kids, in so many ways in this season of life, home schooling them is not the solution to this problem. The issue is with me needing to let them go.

Let them go make new friends. Let them go begin living their own stories. Let them go write chapters where I'm not a character in the plot. Let them go to discover new things without me. Let them go to experience new hurts without me. Let them go because their life isn't about me.

And that's a hard truth.  My kids' lives aren't about me.

They play a part in my story, and I play a part in theirs, but ultimately they are simply a small man and a small woman in need of my care for a short time on loan from a Father who has a much grander plan in mind for them than I could ever dream.  It's my gift from Him to be a part of their story.

And so letting them go becomes essential because if I hold on, they become my idols.

And in the night my mind wanders frantically to the Scriptures for truth, for examples from whom to glean wisdom, cautions even.

And the Lord reminds me first of Jesus.  He was twelve years old, a seventh grader, when his parents lost him for three days.  They didn't even know He was missing until the evening of the first! For that to have even have happened, his parents obviously trusted him to be away for an entire day, out of sight, out of mind, no text messages, no cell phone to check in. (Luke 2:41-50)

Then the Lord brought Hannah to mind. Sweet, precious Hannah. Who was barren and begged the Lord for a child, and when the Lord answered her prayer, she kept her promise to the Lord by handing her six year old little boy over to the care of the priests in the temple to grow up in service to the Lord. Her six year old. He went to live and grow up in the house of the priests, not his mother.  At six. My son is six. (1 Samuel 1)

Then the Lord brought to mind Moses. He was still only a baby when his mother, for his own protection, placed him in a basket on the River Nile not knowing he would be rescued by an Egyptian princess.  By God's grace, his mother would be allowed to continue to nurse him, but once he was weaned, she would leave for him to grow up in the house of Pharaoh.  How she must have treasured every nursing. (Exodus 2:1-10)

Our children were born to be let go into the care of God.  The age and circumstances vary for every child and mother, but in the end, this is God's design. My children were born to be let go into His care.

And I cannot hold onto them in stubborn rebellion without letting go of the hand of my God who still sees me as His child, who cares for me as His child, who still has parenting plans for me in the works as His child and He the loving Father.

I have a choice to make.

I can wallow in the pitiful, aching heart pain that is watching my children grow up and leave, or I can choose joy by choosing to focus on God's presence in my life while praying His presence increases in theirs.

I can become unhappy in wishful thinking, wishing for days past when my children were small and clingy and needy and the only thing they ever really wanted all the time was me, or I can choose gratefulness by praising God for providing a school where they are safe to grow in His presence, where their story in Christ will have fertile ground to take root. I can choose to be grateful that my schedule is now more at the Lord's disposal than ever before.  Every day can be filled with unexpected blessings that aren't currently on my radar, but I trust they are on His.

I can become lost and lonely as a part of my identity begins to change and morph into something new, or I can choose to be content right where I am at any moment, in any circumstance because the truth is I am a child of God, and my heavenly Father never leaves me alone. That part of my identity is as sure and as steadfast and unchangeable as my God Himself.

So the real truth is found in this: My identity has nothing to do with being a mother. That is just a hat I wear, a part I play, for a very short season, and then only in guest appearances as my children see fit the older I get. Do I want to play the part well, so they keep inviting me back? Absolutely!  But ultimately, I still have a story to live of my own where I am the lead, not them.  My children are beginning to play the lead in their own stories now, and that's a good thing for them.  It's not suppose to be a sad thing for me.

And so maybe this blog marks this season of letting go. I'm not a fool. I know there are many more to come. The Lord is showing me that as I let go of one thing, it is imperative I grab onto Him until He reveals what He wants me to grab onto next. He is the only Source, the only Life Preserver, the only Person who keeps me from sinking. Yeah, all those choices I listed above?  There are too many days I make the wrong choice to focus on me instead of Jesus.

I am still a work in progress. Pretty sure I always will be, and that's ok. The longer I live on this earth, the more I can accept that life is never going to get easier or happier, but holding the hand of Jesus it does get sweeter. And for that I'm grateful.

I pray my children see that. I pray they watch their mom turn to Jesus every time something in life changes. Every time the Lord asks me to let go of something, I pray my children see me grab onto Him. If that's all I can ever model for them, then that is enough.

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