My name is Amanda, and I am a rule-follower.
I’ve pretty much always been this way. Unless you count the season of life when I’d steal my sister’s clothes out of her closet after she got on the bus headed for junior high, leaving just enough time for me to pilfer something cute before catching my own bus. Big sisters always have the coolest things. It was all in the name of good fashion. Sorry, sis.
I got over that stage pretty quickly in favor of following the rules. I’m not saying that I always make the right decisions — heaven knows I say the wrong things. Don’t say the right things. Think awful thoughts. Get impatient. Snap at my people. Give in to the temptation of the plate of cookies on the counter. And don’t always use my time wisely. I’ll spare us and stop there.
But when a rule or specific set of instructions is given? It’s my personality to stick to it. It makes me uneasy to stray.
If you’re not supposed to text and drive, I’m not gonna. If the paint can says to use in a well-ventilated room? You can be sure I’ll be ventilating. On the big issues that allow for philosophical differences? I go in the way of God’s leading. But on the minute rules of law and safety? I’m in.
Call me the common sense safety girl.
I say all of this because while I’m usually quite satisfied with my rule-following ways, sometimes they trickle over into my parenting in a not-so-beneficial manner. In the ways of having my kids properly buckled up and eating three square-ish meals? This works.
In the ways of having kids who are not themselves rule-followers? This ruffles the ever-loving feathers of a just-do-the-right-thing mom. Especially when you have a child (or more) who are not at all phased by doing what they want, when they want with no regard for the established boundaries.
If you’re getting what I’m saying, please raise your hand. Let me know somehow that you’re out there. That I’m not the only crazy mama who gets all uptight about her kids that just. won’t. obey. (You don’t have to be a rule-follower to get uptight about that, amen?)
No matter how long you work with these kiddos, no matter the discipline, or no matter how much you lecture. They’re just not going to give in.
Breathe deeply, my friend. You’re not alone.
Take heart. It’s not about us.
I’ve been at this mothering thing for over fourteen years, but never before have I been brought to my knees by children who just don’t seem to get it.
What I’m learning is that it’s true: they just don’t get it. Their hearts may have heard the gospel. They may have experienced grace. But they also may have not yet yielded their hearts to Christ. No matter how hard we try, we cannot make them get it. They have to choose it.
Or maybe they have given their life to Christ. Wouldn’t it be a gift to them if we gave them the room to grow without expecting immediate change or perfection?
Making sure my kids make the right choice is not my responsibility. It’s not your responsibility either. But it is our job to teach them, help them, show them there are real-life consequences for poor choices, pray for and with them, and then let them decide. We are not meant to carry the burden of our children’s choices.
There. That takes a weigh off, doesn’t it? Yeah. But not if you keep heaping the burden back on your shoulders like I’ve been in the habit of doing.
As I was working on this post off and on throughout the day, I was so frustrated by a child’s continually foolish choices. I decided then and there, that I was in no way fit for writing anything about this topic because of the way I was repeatedly taking on a burden that wasn’t meant for me. But then I stopped and realized that I’m exactly the right person to write this. I’m quite experienced in this game! And I want to be a voice that encourages us to lift our eyes out of our situations with our children, and fixes them on Jesus, our burden-bearer and the One who will make all things right in the end.
Frustration heaps the burden on us. Trust gives it back to Christ.
Even after we know and love Christ and what He so freely offers to us, we still don’t get it at times. How much more will this be a hang-up for our children who don’t yet know Him? Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians in chapter 2, urging believers to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Not that we must work to earn salvation, but rather we have the opportunity to continue to grow in knowledge and in relationship with Christ after salvation. It’s a continual thing. For you and I and for our kids. Our children are on their own journey toward accepting the saving grace of Jesus, and will then continue on a path of working out their own salvation.
It takes time. A lifetime, really.
I’m ready for a different routine. One that plays the grace card more than the frown-y face one. One that sees more faith and less angst.
What if we stopped carrying the burden of our children’s bad choices?
What if we stopped taking it all so personally?
What if we loved these kids unconditionally, not leaving them feeling like they must earn our love, or wondering when we’re finally going to give up on them?
What if they just saw Christ in us. Love on us. A quiet trust about us.
I’m positive these trials in my life as a parent are part of my story of growing in Him, and they’re part of yours too.