I’m entering a new phase of parenting. I don’t know what it’s called. But I recently saw a video on a Facebook group for women over 40 that I think may have named it for me. The subtitle of the video from a radio show called Jonsey & Amanda read, “Being the mother of a son is like someone breaking up with you really slowly.” That. That’s what this phase of parenting I’m in should be called: The Breakup Phase.
My sons are (almost) 17 and 15. The 17 year old has his own vehicle and license. The 15 year old is passionate about motor sports and can be found either working on his motocross bike or riding it somewhere in the nearby desert. Both of them have exceeded me in height. Both of them have made it clear they don’t want or need me to hold them, be their caregiver, or watch over them. The nurturer in me has been put on notice. And this is what I signed up for. Heck, this is what my tagline has been since they were two. For as far back as I can remember I’ve been reminding myself I’m raising men, not boys. I’m raising men, who will leave my house, and my side and take to the road with Jesus, I pray.
I was twenty-nine when Connor, my almost 17 year old, was born, and 31 when Ryland was born. I wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids, said my doctor. I didn’t ovulate. And my husband didn’t want to have kids at all. So when Connor and Ryland were born, despite the prognosis of my doctor and the wishes of my husband, I felt much like Hannah and prayed:
I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord. – 1 Samuel 1:26-27
I was so thankful for the kids God gave me, and I committed to him that I would not neglect to dedicate them to him. I’d spend my life pointing them to Jesus and when the time came, like Hannah, I would leave them to him.
Leaving your kids to the Lord sounds right, but actually doing it is painful.
Dedicating your kids to the Lord happens in prayer and practical acts of selflessness from the sleepless nights of infancy, through the struggle with the terrible twos and threes, through the years of homework help and self-image confusion and puberty-controlled emotions. And through all those phases of parenting there are actions we take as parents to very intentionally dedicate our kids to Jesus. We, as Paul Tripp said, shepherd our kids’ hearts through discipline and hugs, and self-sacrificing of our sleep, time and resources so they can sense the love of Christ in us, and follow him for themselves.
But then comes a time when putting your kids’ hand into the hand of Jesus means, letting go of their physical hands, of their choices, of their consequences. And this means just as intentionally as you pulled out that children’s Bible when they were three and sang Jesus Loves Me with them, you now intentionally practice at the mind and heart level the prayer and faith that actually hands them over to Jesus.
The thoughts of feeling unwanted and un-needed and the strong urge to grasp for some kind of hold on your kids that might satisfy that need you felt fill with joy when they used to crawl in your lap and put their tender hands on your face and tell you, “I wuv you momma,” cannot win at this stage of parenting. Just like the urge to ignore their need to hear about Jesus when they were three so you could watch Netflix could not dictate your actions then. And when I say you I mean me.
The whole point of raising those men I’m raising (I’m not done yet), is to point them to Jesus. To place their hand in his. To launch them out into the world leaning on him, not me. And it feels like a breakup. But it’s not. It’s a critical stage of leadership, where the leader becomes a leader maker. And it’s that same stage lived out in motherhood when the mother becomes a woman in the life of a man she bore and raised, lifting him up, coming alongside him in the church, as he shepherds the heart of someone else to Jesus.
David and Jonathan shared a deep friendship. But when the time came where they had to part and they knew all kinds of scary things would separate their friendship, the Bible says Jonathan “strengthened” David’s hand in God (1 Samuel 23:15-17). The depth of their friendship wasn’t evidenced by their unrelenting grasp on each other. Their true friendship was evidenced by their desire to see the others’ hand placed in God’s hand, strongly!
It hurts. I’m crying a lot. And I’m sure I’m not doing it all right. But I am praying to the same God who heard Hannah and cared for Samuel, and heard me and has drawn my two teen sons to himself.
Please Lord, I am the woman who prayed and asked you for these children. And you gave them to me. From childhood I have dedicated them to you. They are dedicated to you still. Help me to strengthen their hand in yours.