Do we as parents realize that we don’t have all the expertise we need to parent our children, but we do have a whole lot of expectations of our children? I was completely unaware when my sons were born that I subconsciously set up an agenda for each of them. This agenda included expectations of how they should behave, what kind of grades they would make, how they would act when they hit the teen years, and what their future would be—spiritual giants doing great things for God.
At first blush, I thought Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” meant that I had to decide the direction for my children. Later on, I came to realize this verse takes into consideration the uniqueness of each individual guided by proper Biblical instruction and Godly direction.
When our oldest son was a little tyke, he reminded me of a sweet, wise little man. He was always happy and content. He loved everyone and made friends from all generations of people. From the time he was just a baby, music surrounded him and fed his love of music and movement. One of my favorite memories is that of seeing him in his red Superman cape and his cowboy boots dancing his own choreographed version of an Ella Fitzgerald tune as it spun on his record player.
Very early, he developed a love for performance and as a preschooler participated in youth musicals his Minister of Music dad directed. He performed in plays and sang in auditioned groups and choirs throughout his school and church life. Now tell me why we, his parents, were so surprised when he changed his major in college from Church Music to Musical Theater! See, there’s that agenda thing again.
While we thought he was preparing for the ministry, he had other ideas and dreams. Dreams that often led him down the broad paths of the world. He, in his struggle to become his own man, distanced himself from us and we, in our perplexed and concerned state, probably did little to convince him that, even as he followed his interests and made his mistakes, we loved him unconditionally.
Many times, I prayed and cried to the Lord to bring my son back home and back to his faith. During those years, I was encouraged by the trust my husband displayed in God’s faithfulness. The faith of a strong prayer warrior and encourager, Lena Rogers Leach, brought me nearer to the place God wanted me to be. I knew her through Margaret Jensen’s book, Lena. Her words to Margaret, who struggled with a wayward son, helped to seal my resolve to put my son completely into the hands of the Father.
“Be anxious for nothing, Sister Jensen, and don’t be fretting about the day God answers. He done answered, but it take time to get the answer through … the begging and pleading be done in heaven. God get so tired of all that begging when He tells us over and over, ‘It is finished!’ Why we beg more than we believe?”
I found the verse in 2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV) to be so true. “(God) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” I have had many opportunities to share what the Lord taught me during the time of my son’s sojourn in the far country with other mothers and fathers who are experiencing the heartache of wayward children. Though the times were definitely times of suffering, they were also times of great spiritual growth. God taught me several important principles during the years of my son’s journey.
1. Respect your child’s God-given traits and be aware of your own agenda for his or her life.
2. Allow your child to leave the nest and fly into the world.
3. Pray even when words don’t seem to come; recognize the Holy Spirit’s intercession and translation of the very groans of your heart.
4. Love your child as God the Father loves you—unconditionally.
5. Allow God to work in His time.
6. Realize that God has your child’s ultimate salvation in mind and that in praying for his or her return you are praying in God’s will. He promises to answer those prayers!
7. Read the Word and faith-building books.
8. Keep a prayer journal so you can note God’s answers to your prayers.
God in His faithfulness brought our son back fully restored into our lives and to his spiritual roots. It took time. Time for him to grow, suffer, learn, and mature; time for us to grow, suffer, learn and mature! When we began to be more like the Father, we found that we no longer looked at his journey in the same way.
We had faith that the Father who loves us, loved him more than we, so we simply loved him—no matter what. We left the porch light on, the welcome mat out, and the door to home wide open. And we began to lift our eyes to the road looking for his return.