Over the course of my married life--my mothering life--I've been involved in myriad Bible Studies, prayer groups for women. And though the specific aim of each group varied, there were several universal themes (or 'core values', one would say in today's parlance). The first, obviously, was the desire to glorify God collectively, to pursue Him in Word, and words (spoken to Him and/or each other). Beneath that, however, we have always spent time praying for our kids.
I've sat in small, hidden rooms, listening to women pour out their hearts for their children, sobbing with the ache that comes when a child isn't following hard after Jesus, weeping when one turns her/his life around and takes a step toward the Kingdom, crying when one is so on fire that the world is lit up by their every touch. I've heard them pray for their children's spouses, in-laws, spouses to be, and not yet known significant others. Those heart-felt, hard-prayed words have deeply impacted how I've talked to God about my children's lives and futures.
When they were young, my prayers were pleas for physical protection and spiritual growth. "Please, do whatever it takes, short of death, to make them yours," I'd say. "I don't want to raise 'second-generation' disciples." See, our kids grew up with the gospel such a given in our home, it was like gravity, keeping them grounded without them even understanding or thinking about it. So I prayed for them to have pilgrimages of their own, to take the walk of faith in truth, not just to please us, but because they were convinced.
And...they have done this. These three kids are very different from each other. As such, their journeys have looked very different. Our oldest, calm and steady, has a faith to match, one centered on service, on community. Our youngest has responded to the call of Christ with a heart full of song, a desire to make ministry her career. The girls both love Jesus, His body, and worship.
And our son...well, our son is on a more convoluted journey. He, who lives so fully in his head, who reads, thinks and looks at the world critically (one might even say cynically), also questions. Fundamental questions about the nature of God, suffering, humanity. At times, during these last few years of his fluxuating uncertainties, I have been very concerned. Of course. I want him to take that step across the chasm of doubt to the side of Faith that I live on. Of course I want this. It's THE desire of my heart for all three of them that they will grow up in Christ. And yet, there's something so incredibly honest about J's journey, about the way in which he's not willing to conform to the pressures of such a heritage. He has been tearfully honest as he's talked with us at times, wanting so much to please us, wanting to believe as well...but not quite. And it's that honesty, the earnestness with which he approaches all of life, that gives me the greatest hope. God is a rewarder of those who seek Him, the Word tells us. And I believe it will be true for J as well.
It's not easy for a mom to admit this. We often try to hide from the reality that our kids aren't quite where we wish them to be. Yet, I am compelled to pray for who he really is, not who I'd like him to be. And I know--I KNOW--that he will never be simply a second generation disciple. When he chooses, it'll burn as brightly as everything else does in this man, not based on us, but based on Him. And it'll rock the world.
The other thing I learned long ago, is to pray for those who surround him...for the influences in his life outside my door--the person each chooses to date, the people with whom they spend their time. I began praying for my children's someday significant others when they weren't even old enough to tie their shoes, let alone date (and, because of our convictions--that each child should be able to tell us what God's goal in dating is, and how the person they are interested in met those goals-- our kids haven't dated...until the last couple of months, actually). I trust Him with my children's choices, both vertically and horizontally. But I like to tell Him now and then (HA!) what I think those choices should be. I can't help it, I'm a mother. But, their daily lives, their significant others, their careers and especially their eternity, is in His hands.