I wish life had guaranteed outcomes. I really do.
I wish that it worked like a vending machine; you put a certain number of coins in, you make your selection, and tada…whatever you want comes out of the little slot.
Or you go to the coffee shop and give them money and they give you a cup of joy with foamy creaminess.
Unfortunately, life does not have guaranteed outcomes. You can invest your entire life in something, only to have it collapse into a heap before your eyes. You can invest your life’s savings into a “guaranteed” investment opportunity, and watch your future disappear in moments. You can make “all the right choices” and still deal with negative consequences, through no fault of your own.
That can be especially true in parenting.
Parenting, it turns out, is much like a crap shoot. You can make your choices, but you really don’t know what the outcome will be for a very long time. And even if you do all the things that “experts” recommend, you can’t guarantee outcomes, especially as children get older. It isn’t like when they are young and you can control all the details of their environment. In the end, control shouldn’t be the goal anyway. Having worked with college students professionally and raising a few of my own, over-controlled home environments leave children weak and unprepared for the real world when they leave home, and be assured…they will leave.
But, it still seems like we should have some guarantees…some sort assured return on our investment, especially when we try so hard to be faithful. And when you don’t get the outcome you expected, prayed for, worked towards, and invested in, it is very disappointing. Such has been my reality lately. God and I have had many a serious conversation on this issue, usually involving tears, and a great deal of meditation on what the Bible says about parenting.
And what the Bible says about parents.
Which led me to Daniel.
In the opening verses of Daniel, we find out that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were all taken to Babylon after Judah fell.
What I find intriguing about Daniel and Co. is that in a generation so corrupt and disobedient that God sent them into captivity, these four young men were different…very different. They were so in love with the Law and the Law Giver that they resisted the peer pressure and indoctrination of the Babylonian Empire, remaining true to God and His ways through out their lives; Daniel for more than seventy years.
That didn’t happen by accident.
It happened because their parents did a fantastic job raising them
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
We can tell by the outcome that these parents did a good job, in the midst of a perverse generation where so many others failed.
Judging by the results, these parents did everything right. And I am very confident watching their boys be carted away by the lawless, heathen Babylonians was not the outcome they’d expected. And they probably never knew what the real outcome was. If they were anything like me, they struggled with what God allowed to happen.
On further reflection, though, I’m struck with the reality that God loves our children more than we do. Indeed, Jeremiah 29:11 is just as true for them as it is for me…God knows the plans He has for my children, and His plans are for good, not harm…for them or for me.
Romans 8:28 & 29 talk about God’s plans as well. He promises to use everything in our lives to make us more like Jesus.
That is absolutely the outcome I desire for my children…what more could I want for them than to be more like Jesus.
I am beginning to learn, however, that it won’t look like I want it to; it won’t be the neat, tidy package all wrapped up with a bow like I planned. My children will experience heartache and disappointment. My children will make poor choices and suffer consequences…consequences I would try to protect them from. But, in my desire to protect them from pain, I might also prevent them from truly knowing God, from being able to find comfort in Him. After all, when do we get to know God the most intimately?
We can’t get to know God as Healer until we need to be healed.
We can’t get to know God as our Strong Tower until we need some place to hide.
We can’t get to know God as Comforter until we need to be comforted.
It is in those moments, when we most need Him, that God helps us understand His love in a way ease and comfort never will.
Suffering can build intimacy and faith.
Suffering can develop trust and confidence.
This has been true in my life. And as painful as the process may be, it is what I pray will be true for my children…
intimacy with God…a deep abiding confidence in His character, regardless of circumstances.
As I walk a broken road with children whose hearts I can no longer protect, the One who has so faithfully carried me is proving that He can also carry them. It doesn’t get much better than that.