Releasing your child to God – Is it just me or can it be hard to be thankful for every thread of God’s knitting together in our kids?
Listen, I love, love, LOVE my “babies”. But there are things I didn’t expect and could never prepare for. Hard things.
I’m not talking about hard life events or questions we don’t know how to answer. Those things happen with or without being a parent. I’m talking about core traits that lend themselves to ongoing concern or the need for Code Red Mama Bear behavior. These issues are quite bluntly due to who our child is.
If we’re not careful, our best intentions of wise parenting can lead to unhealthy boundaries, comparing our kids to others and diminishing trust in God's plan and purpose.
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Releasing Your Child to God – Where to Start?
Letting go is not meant to say throw out discipline and turn a blind eye because kids are kids. It is to say, however, that sometimes our expectations can be unrealistic and when so, we have to let go. We'll still read and research and talk to other parents and be fully in the game, but we must prayerfully manage any part of the ego that depends on our kids. It's a tricky road they have to walk figuring out this life and their roles at different seasons. Throughout the process, we should be there supporting them the best we know how, but there is great freedom in trusting God for security rather than basing it on their finicky ways!
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
Ask me how I know
Every so often, something I believe I’ve mastered returns and begs to differ. It waits patiently in a dark booth of my mind, nodding quietly and seductively, letting me know it hasn’t gone anywhere. It is ready to dance and clearly wants to lead.
So it was with comparison. It wasn’t easy, but God had taught me to recognize his gifts in my own life and accept they would be different from the gifts in others’ lives. My gifts enabled me to face my trials, including my role as a health advocate to our preteen son with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, and OCD. I could trace the threads of my life and see where God had gathered and intertwined each one, preparing me like Esther for such a time as this.
But as you, a living, breathing mama, very well know, life lessons this side of heaven isn't always lovable. Troubles come. Messes lose their whimsy and the takeaway lessons grow old. As I was trusting God more and focusing on myself less, our son was struggling to make and keep friends. At times it seemed he’d rather not even have friends. He was lonely and I was afraid.
I shared our concerns about his reluctance to make friends with his therapist. She invited him to attend group therapy with students his age. We arrived early for that first session and as the other kids came in, I spot checked the group. Immediately I worried they were so different from my child, and even further behind socially, that there was nothing they’d contribute to benefit him. In an instant, I'd sized up the room of kids and made an instant valuation. Comparison doesn’t just lead to envy. Sometimes it leads to pride, and then quite possibly shame.
Stop Comparing Your Child to Others
I thought I'd overcome comparison. It was a non-issue. But there in my emotional exhaustion, the monster lifted its head and winked, “I’ve been waiting for you. Care to dance?” I knew I should run from the temptation to compare. Instead, I stuffed a rose in Comparison’s mouth and proceeded to lead the tango. Comparing my child in need to other children in need and presumptuously deciding whose needs were biggest in order to make myself feel better, was sinful and definitely put space between me and our perfect Father who had lovingly created everyone in that room.
Comparing our child to others and feeling disappointed in an area tells God his gifts don’t compensate for the areas that need improvement. Being prideful for things that are clearly out of our control, as in my example, takes away from God's glory. It also dims the glow of his image in others. Either way, when we're comparing our child to others, we're grappling for footing in the wrong places.
Instead, can we be thankful for their strengths without being prideful? Likewise, can we seek wisdom in guiding our kids and ask God to bring them closer to him through their struggles?
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How Comparison Stole My Joy
I had prayed for my son to find a friend, just one, who he could truly bond with and develop an honest friendship with; someone that would understand him and whom he could share God with.
Not too long after the start of the school year, he came home talking about playing with a friend he had met in those group therapy sessions over the summer. He told me how they had similar senses of humor and how they encouraged each other to try harder. Beautiful, right? It should have been but unfortunately, my child comparison antics got the best of me.
One morning when walking the kids into school, I witnessed their friendship. This friend was loud and drew a lot of unnecessary attention by waving wildly and yelling out my son’s name from down the hall. His unbridled display of friendship brewed fear of silly things and made me want to duck for cover. At home, I justified it to my husband, “He has so much to overcome and can already draw the wrong kind of attention to himself. Does he really need to compound it by being friends with him?”
It didn’t occur to me that this friend could be the very answer to my prayer so this worry went on for too long before I clued in. It actually took one of my mom friends texting me from a field trip saying how cool she thought it was that the boys had bonded. She went on to say they got each other and seemed to keep each other on track. Huh. No hint of awkwardness or diminished social status. Just a focus on brotherly love. Hearing it from someone else stung me with conviction.
Had I released my child and the meeting of this need to God I could have kept the worry at bay. Isn't establishing greater trust in God, with more of him and less of us, the point of most prayers anyway? I think it should be.
Cutting out the child comparison is a solid first step to releasing your child to God. It affirms God is in control. It gives him the praise for all good things and places dependence on him for all the solutions.
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How Does Releasing Your Child to God Grow You?
Sometimes doing the right thing just feels good and that's enough. Other times when the outcome is uncertain, doing the right thing is tough. Let's take a look at a few encouraging ways of actively trusting God with a child's outcome benefits parents.
1. Healthy Parent-Child Boundaries
Personal boundaries, similar to self-care, is a hot topic equally recognized as being very necessary, but also just out of reach for parents.
Kids push against every one of our personal boundaries. They're figuring out their independence and where they can exercise control. They're testing for cause and effect. And sometimes, they're just not old enough to understand the boundary even exists.
On the other hand, we as parents can cross the boundaries by helicoptering, pushing our own agendas, rushing to fix situations or alleviate their pain. This protection is instinctual but there is a fine line in providing protective love and standing in the way of healthy real-life learning that our children so desperately need.
Recognizing that God created each of us, including our child, with a purpose is a promise that we as parents can cling to. It's a built-in benefit to following and believing his word!
Releasing your child to God automatically establishes a healthy parent-child boundary and builds trust.
2. Personal and Spiritual Growth
Isn’t it funny how often God answers our prayers with a two-fer? Or maybe ‘Two For' if you're not in the South?
In this personal saga of me focusing on spiritual growth and learning to let go and stop comparing, you'll remember I had asked for my son to make one strong friendship. God has actually brought several friends into his life already this school year, but He also gifted me an issue to wrestle with. Such infinite grace our God has for us, always refining us, never allowing us to sell short our relationship with him.
Have you noticed this two-fer pattern? It starts with a prayer for God to fix a situation or problem or problem person. Then, God starts working in us before we can see any progress on our original request? Maybe it's because he cares for each of us and so deeply wants us to care for one another that he graciously answers with these Two-For-One responses.
In Ephesians 6, Paul lays out the Armor of God, which reminds us we aren’t fighting our battles with other people, but with spiritual forces. Those forces tempt us to be complacent, believing the fight is just a charming little dance, nothing we need to take seriously. Paul uses a lot of strong verbs to encourage us to actively take part in the battle and stand firm in what we know to be true about God. He says as a result of the peace we find in Jesus, our feet are fitted with readiness. Wearing our Daddy's shoes readies us to put others’ interests ahead of our own Philippians 2:3-4, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds Romans 12:2 and recognize every good and perfect gift comes from above James 1:17.
When we have God's peace that he loves our child and created them in his image to bring him glory, we can put their needs ahead of our own, renew our minds to shed any of our old baggage and recognize parenting our child, though not easy, is just one more of his good and perfect gifts.
3. God Confidence vs Self Confidence
Though I let the baggage of comparison get in the way at the start, I am truly thankful for the sweet friendship that has developed between my son and his friend. I am also thankful God saw something in me that needed work and refused to overlook it. Where I felt confident in my circumstances prior to this difficult time, God wanted me to feel confident in him.
With an awareness that God has bestowed on us the perfect mix of trial and triumph to shape who we are in Him, we realize we were never meant to handle the ups or downs that others face. Have confidence that he is willing and able to meet each and every need you and your family face.
4. Find Freedom in Letting Go and Trusting God
What good gifts has God given you? What about your child? What trials has God placed in your life? In the life of your child?
A big part of letting go and trusting God is stepping back. When you do this with your child's gifts and trials, is it possible to see how God could be using these things to ready you for sharing Jesus with others? Is it somewhere in the knitting of his faithfulness and your fears where your story leaps off the page?
“Knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)
When we move our anchor of hope from the shaky ground of our children’s decisions or how successfully they fit in and place it firmly in the rock-solid foundation of Jesus, we are not disappointed! We are freed to meet the needs of others, including our sweet babes.
Releasing our kids to God releases them to live fully in the plan he made for them long ago. Releasing our kids to God also washes away every silly fear and truly allows our hearts to dance!