"Marriage will show you your true selfishness," they said. So I braced myself, but the blow never came. Marriage quickly became a haven I had never dreamed possible.
"Parenting," then, because they said, "it's harder than you know." But babies flowed as naturally as marriage had, although nights were chopped up and now there were three of us, and then four, and we just kept adding.
But where I've really stood nose to nose with my ugly flesh is parenting children when they needed more than milk and snuggles. I'd gladly nurse for 20 years. But when little people stretch themselves to full height and try stretching their wings and challenge my words, I've had to dig deep. Deeper than my ability, understanding, or my own resources. Much deeper.
Teens are amazing, and exactly the best gift a mother could ask for. I've come toe-to-toe with my own anger, selfishness, and laziness like never before. I am digging into God's word so I can find answers to the questions they are asking. I'm soaking my heart in His priorities. I am discovering beauty throughout the Word. I'm uncovering that this very stretching in my heart is a powerful, beautiful opportunity to grow side-by-side with these blossoming, unfolding young adults.
The world sighs and complains, "Teens are so exhausting." Perhaps they are if we shut them out and push them away. But what if we pull them close when it gets hard? What if we invite them to watch as we come face-to-face with our own rebellion, and repent before God and them? What if we walk out in our lives what we say to them?
It's the easiest thing in the world to avoid pressure — to step back, to isolate, and to say our children trigger us or make us feel shame.
Satan will always make sure we have a "valid" excuse to blame, to point the finger, to explain why it's not our responsibility to deal with our mess. It is the kindness of God to bring us to repentance and to show us where we've sinned so we can turn and walk filled with His presence. Adam and Eve demonstrated the cowering isolation that comes from hiding sin instead of spreading it out before the Lord and walking in His light (1 John 1:5-10).
What if we discover that these teens are our best friends, the very people God sent us to help navigate the mundane in life by our side? We sweat and sigh, we laugh and cry with them. What if we provide them wise guidance and clear boundaries while also laughing hard over a stupid joke or absentminded mistake? What if we fall deeply in love with these teen years, instead of resenting the discomfort they can bring?
There are a million hard things in life that raising teens can train us to handle:
- Church splits.
- A difficult birth that leaves you feeling traumatized.
- Nursing your baby that ends up being really challenging.
- Death that rocks your world unexpectedly.
- A relationship crumbles that you took for granted.
What if we leaned into hard places instead of running away?
What if we stood with hands open, while asking God, "What can I learn? What do You have for me in this?"
What if we chose to have soft and courageous hearts instead of cynical ones when bitterness is the most tempting thing around?
"Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's bad," as Abbie Halberstadt wisely says. "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful," as the Nester says. "Children are a gift from the Lord," our Maker says.
What if we dare to agree with Him?
If we do, we get to tell a new story to this weary, frustrated world. Parenting teens is one of the best, hardest, most growing things I've ever done. I'm glad I have at least 15 more years of it.
I'm certain I'm just discovering how good it really is. What about you?