When E was four years old, she said goodbye to her first friend, a little girl she'd known since before she had memory. Chelsea and her family were moving to Germany for a year. To four-year-old E, a year was a lifetime, and when the moment came that they hugged goodbye, my usually calm and steady miniature Beve burst into tears. As we drove away, she swiveled around in her car-seat waving at Chelsea out the back of our van until we turned the corner, then she put her head down and sobbed. And she cried, I felt somewhat wretched in side, knowing we'd just passed another milestone. Until that moment all of her hurts I'd been able to fix, with a bandaid or baby aspirin or Dimetapp. And always a hug and a kiss to make it feel better. But there wasn't a bandaid for emotional pain. And the sadness she felt that day was only the first of a plethora of aches and hurts beyond my ability to fix. She'd have to simply feel sad, when sadness was the emotion most appropo for a situation.
Over the years I've thought back on that moment more than once. The disappointment of being cut from a basketball team or not getting a part in a school play, the pain of friends not being kind--or just plain mean--and even the pain of being misunderstood by adults (who I naively expected to have known better): all these things have made my children feel pain in ways that are beyond a mother's ability to fix or solve. For the most part, all I have been able to do is love them, be their chief encourager, and to pray that God will care for them where and when I cannot.
I'm thinking of this because right now each of my children is living on the edge of uncertainty. At an age when many of their contemporaries have settled into relationships and careers, our children are not sure what the future holds for them. E, with a good job, longs for a career in the field she studied and a life of her own. J had a year left to finish college a year ago...and a year later, his health has kept him in a holding pattern, with that one year still hanging over his head before he can even begin to think of 'what's next?'. And SK graduates in May, has cast her dreams out into the world and is waiting to hear whether there will be a response to those dreams. The uncertainty for each of them is as hard to watch as it was watching E cry in her car-seat at four. I can't do anything tangible about any of it.
E and I were talking about this tonight at dinner, talking about the way each of the three of them reacts to such uncertainty. E's response tends to be resignation. "It's not happening, so I'll just keep doing this job...even if it isn't really what I want." J's more of a stresser. He thinks--constantly--and stresses over what isn't happening, what he isn't doing, what it all says about him. And SK? She's ridiculously busy in this last semester of university, but she's definitely our worry-wart. She worries about everything, and I know that beneath the craziness of papers, projects, responsibilities and jobs, at the edges of her consciousness, there are the small darts of worry troubling her. "What if I don't get an internship or a job?" What then? What next?
In truth, they're all asking, what's next? Many people of their age have it all figured out, but there are also huge numbers of folks out there who don't have the faintest idea what the future holds. And they worry...we worry. I worry. I have been worried about my amazing, ordinary, brilliant, most extravagant gifts God ever gave me, children. And those worries have led me to pray in halting, pleading prayers, like ones from a person who doesn't really believe in the Words of the One to whom she prays.
This morning I was convicted of this, that I've been praying foxhole prayers, ICU pleas, as if I don't believe this word: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear...But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well." (Matt. 6: 25, 33)
And this: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4: 6-7)
And I don't take God at His word when He says this--this promise that used to be so important in my life that I recited it every which way for every other situation and then some, and even had it put in E's high school annual as a promise for her life: "For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
So I lay back on my bed, spread my arms wide and lifted them away from my children. From my worry about their future. From my desire to see them settled into lives that fulfill and satisfy them, ones they are passionate about. I lifted my hands away from anything that reeks of control, to allow Him to do what He intends with their life. His plan is to prosper them. Not as the world sees prosperity, but prospering them in His economy, His Kingdom-come economy. AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT WILL TAKE. That's it. I don't know what it will take for any of them. But I lift my hands and trust the only One who does know. To give them a future and a hope.
What about you? Are you trusting God for your future? For your children's future? Or, like me, do you need to lift your hands away from their (or your) life?