Yesterday morning I got a text from my daughter, Karissa, that began with “Hey I’m fine but…”. I don’t know if any other phrase could strike as much fear in a mom’s heart as that. The dreaded “but”. Karissa is 21 years old and lives 50 kilometres away from home and has been for 3 years now but instantly she was my baby girl. My first-born.
Even though I have given birth to 5 kids since I had Karissa, I can still remember her very early-morning debut. I remember the nurse telling me that she needed to go to the special care nursery so I couldn’t hold her. I remember the worry of wondering what was happening as they whisked her away after a very brief hug from me. Somehow these moments are etched into my memory even though I sometimes forget where I’ve left my keys (okay, often) and my brain freezes as I go through each kid’s name before I get the right one. I’m her mom and it is my job. It is my job to remember.
It also seems that it is my job to worry about her. It turns out that she had had a small medical incident that resulted in a trip first to Urgent Care and then to the emergency room for a procedure. A phone call to a doctor I know revealed that it was not serious. Karissa had already told me that but I am her mother. I needed to check the facts. What was alarming, though, was that all this excitement had transpired the day before. The day before! I should have been there.
If there is one thing this adventure in parenting has taught me, it is that my kids never outgrow being my kids. You never lose that sense of responsibility that you get handed the first time you hold your newborn. At least not for me. And from that first moment when you have them, you have to start letting them go.
It started easy. There is the first time I left her with someone. Her dad. Someone who loved her as his own. She was, after all. Then I progressed to my parents. People I could trust. The circle started expanding until I reached the huge ones (at the time) like her first day of kindergarten. It didn’t matter how many kids got added into the mix, the process was the same. Sometimes easier. Sometimes harder. But the same end result.
Karissa is very smart, not too street-wise (sorry, Karissa) but very independent. I figured it out when I realized what she used to do when she would miss the city bus to go to school. Instead of coming home and being reminded that she should have gotten up earlier, been more organized, et cetera, she figured out where and when the next bus was coming that would get her to her destination. She may not be street-wise but she knows how to solve a problem! She would get to school and I would be none the wiser.
Part of the challenge of letting go of my kids is dealing with my own insecurities. I am their mom. I know them best. It is my job to protect them. All these things are true but there is an even greater truth. I have been entrusted my kids. I can’t control everything that happens to them. But God can. He made them. He knows them. He loves them even more than I do. I can be completely human and make mistakes with them but He never will. His love for them will never fail. As hard as I try, mine might.
It is about my posture. I believe that God asks me if I can trust Him with my kids. It is a hard question. But my answer is yes. It has to be.
After Arlynne had served on a couple of missions trips she knew that she wanted to do more so in the spring of 2011 she was searching for a way to serve for the whole summer. That lead her to the same mission organization that I had served with 25 years before. She checked with me and then applied. She would be gone for 8 weeks but she would be in Ontario. It couldn’t be that far. I started making a plan to surprize her with a visit on her birthday, her 16th, at the end of July. She was accepted and we dropped her off for training. Before we left, one of the mission’s personnel asked us if it would be okay for her to go up north. Not just up north. Really, really far up north. A long day’s drive away. Too far away to surprise her. My heart leapt in my chest. Pete was standing beside me and he quickly agreed. If that was God’s plan for her then she should go.
And she went.
When grief consumes me, I want to tell God that my kids are mine and He can’t have them. I want to pulled them closer to me. Not to let them go. Unfortunately, that posture can easily turn into a strangle hold (figuratively, not literally) and I damage, not only my relationships with them, but also my relationship with my Father God. It isn’t the way that I am supposed to be.
Changing, letting go, is painful. It requires fortitude. It requires leaving the trust of my kids at Jesus’s feet and walking away without picking them up again. Believe me, picking them up is way easier. I am a do-er. I would much rather do than not do. The one thing that I can activiely do is pray for them. No one knows them better than me. No other human being can pray for them with as much insight as I have. And I also have the Holy Spirit guiding me, interceding, when I just don’t know. I am not especially good at it yet. I go through cycles. But I know that God is much more reliable than I am. He has them. They are good.
I had to leave my desire to rush to Karissa today. I had to show her that I trusted her. I do. But I trust God that much more. She is safe in God’s hands. And there is no place safer than that.
Psalm 27:5 (NIV)
For in the day of trouble
He will keep me safe in his dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.