I’m sitting here in the lobby of a cozy lodge located here on beautiful Lake Michigan at a Bible conference called Maranatha. My children are safely tucked in their classrooms allowing me time to write, read, hear great messages, enjoy God’s creation, and rest for a moment from the responsibility of keeping my kids alive. This is a recreational Bible camp for both parents and children, but my husband and I somewhat jokingly have been calling it “The Paranoid-Parent-Bootcamp,” to teach control-freak parents, such as us – well mainly me – to let go of control.
Kyle and I are those parents that love and take care of our children
almost to a fault. We’ve been starting to recognize this lately through the behavior of our oldest son, Elijah, who is a mirror-image of our actions. Wow, do I really sound like that? I’ve wondered, as he freaks out over being “lost” when he couldn’t find which Pickleball court we were playing on. Small scares, things that shouldn’t really be frightening at all, bother him. Both my husband and I have had a wake-up call lately not only on how much we try to protect our kids but also on how much we try to control and avoid any circumstances that might present a threat. We’ve crossed the line from being the loving, nurturing parent, to being the fearful guardian in need of a Paranoid-Parent-Bootcamp.
My sister Kellie challenged me to give our kids more opportunities to try “scary” things but in a supervised environment where they can take some risks and learn from their mistakes. The aim is that when they are no longer under supervision, they will know how to explore the world while being vigilant all on their own. This week at Maranatha has presented the perfect opportunity for that. There will never be a perfectly safe environment here on this earth, but Marantha comes pretty close. So we thought what better time to practice giving our kids more freedom and opportunities to practice responsibility than here at Maranatha.
On day one of our vacation, we decided to give our kids the freedom to go off on their own around campus “scootering” as they call it, or hanging out with their friends they’ve met in class. (We put Elijah in charge of the room key and keeping a general eye on his siblings.) In addition to letting them go off and play on their own, we’ve taken them to the climbing wall and zip-line: all great activities for the paranoid parent to practice letting go and trying not to have a heart attack as your 7-year-old jumps off of a 5-story tower hoping that the teens working the ropes know what they are doing. We didn’t plan on this vacation being the quintessential place to practice letting go of control and fear but it has been just that.
Elijah especially has jumped on the opportunity to show himself responsible – maybe to a fault, like his parents. He watches his sister like a hawk and makes sure all kids are back before whatever curfew we give them. One day he cried to us complaining that he is always babysitting and it’s stressful to make sure his siblings are safe and account for.
“Welcome to our world, Elijah. Now you can see why mom and dad need a break every now and then.” I told him.
“Yes, now that I’m older I can see what you mean.”
His response warmed my heart.
“Honey, it is not really your responsibility to make sure your siblings stay alive. Even though we’ve put you in charge to know where they’re at and make sure you’re all back by curfew, ultimately it’s mom and dad who are in charge and responsible for their safety and well-being.”
“But what if something happens to them? What if they get lost or get hurt while we’re all down here playing? I’m the oldest and it would be all my fault” he whined.
“Elijah,” I replied, “It would not be your fault at all. They are still our kids. They’re our responsibility. It would still be mom and dad’s fault because we were the ones who let you all go run around and we’re the ones ultimately in charge. But, we can let you take a break from feeling like it’s all up to you and do something together as a family if you want.”
“Yes. Please.” He emphatically replied.
Learning to let go isn’t just something that Kyle and I conjured up like another character thing to work on. It also seems to be exactly what God wants to tell us on this trip. During both the morning and evening sessions, the message has been about trusting God, letting go of control, not letting fear get the best of us… Hmmm… how did He know! In addition, I bought a book that a friend recommended called “Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality,” to teach my kids about sexuality from a Biblical perspective. (Great book by the way! A must-read in the day we are living in). I did not buy this book to learn how to let go of fear and paranoia, otherwise, I would have bought one with a title that says something like “How to let go of Fear and Paranoia.” No, I bought this book to teach my kids about sex, gender, and identity from a Christain worldview. And although it obviously talks about all that, the very first few pages give a powerful prayer for the paranoid parent. I can’t seem to get away from it. My husband always says if you hear something once, you might forget it. If you hear it twice, your ears might perk up. But if you hear it three times, you better believe God is wanting to get your attention. But what about when it’s been 4 or 5 or umpteen times? (I’m not sure if umpteen is really a word, but it’s a phrase my dad used to say…”I’ve told you umpteen times to … fill in the blank.”)
Perhaps this is what the Spirit is trying to say to me “Carrie, I’ve told you umpteen times, ‘Do not fear! I am in control!'”
Elijah was given the responsibility to look after his brother and sister and to make sure they came back when told. However, it was still our responsibility as parents to make sure they were all ok. Likewise, when we have kids, we are given the stewardship to raise and care for them in a Godly way. However, God is still ultimately on the throne of their lives and has each of their days numbered before any of them came to be. They are not just under our care, they are under HIS! And what a relief that is!
As we are learning in our morning and evening sessions, as I’m learning through the book I am reading, as I’m experiencing opportunities to give my kids more freedom here at Maranatha, as my sister has encouraged me, as I’ve had conversations with my first-born, I’m finally starting to get it – I am not in control! God is. And yes, I do my best to take care of my family, but I do not need to constantly live in fear that they will die or get hurt, or abused, or be ripped away from me somehow, because even if they do – and I write this with tears in my eyes – even if they do, God is in control. They are ultimately HIS. God knows where they are at all times. God is a good daddy. God sees them. God heals. God rescues. And even in death, God gives life. So I can hand over my greatest fears to Him because He loves my kids even more than I do.
“Elijah, I’m so proud of you for how well you’ve shown yourself to be responsible. I’m proud of you for wanting to look out for your brother and sister. That shows you really love them. But you don’t need to worry or be so anxious because you know who loves them even more? Your mom and I” said daddy.
“And you know who loves them even more than we do?” He asked.
“That’s right, Elijah, God does.”