You raise children for 18 or so years. From diapers to diplomas, teething to tattoos, you do your best to prepare them to live independently in the adult world. One day the exciting and dramatic moment arrives — it might be sending them off to college, or their college graduation, or their “too-soon” wedding. It is time to release them — and you discover you cannot let go.
Now they are 23 or 28 or 32. College graduates, married, children of their own. What should be a time of grown adults enjoying a growing relationship with each other is instead full of “walking on eggshells,” “waiting for the other shoe to drop” tension and turmoil. Why is this? Perhaps it is because even five, ten or twenty years after they left home, you are not able to let them go. You continue to see them as children and you are incredibly busy still trying to parent them — and they hate it.
While most parents in this situation truly are concerned that their children have the best life possible, the overbearing and relationship-killing interactions they have are often rooted in guilt and fear. Guilt that says they are responsible for the poor decisions their adult children make (and are, therefore, responsible to fix them); and fear that convinces them that they have to do something to guide and correct those children because no one else will.
Recently a father and I were talking and praying through this very dynamic between him and his son. His son would be visiting soon and he was filled with dread regarding that visit. As we prayed, the Lord reveled the following three things to him:
- You are trying to do My job
- Leave room for me to be God in your son’s life
- You cannot create or manipulate change in your son’s life
It was amazing to watch the change in this man’s demeanor as he pondered what the Lord had given him. Dread of the visit turned to anticipation.
I shared my sense that the Lord had just changed his role. While he would always be a parent, his job of parenting was over. He was now a consultant to his son. The parenting words “you must” or “you should” are no longer in his vocabulary; now, adult to adult, the phrases will be “Have you considered….” and “Help me understand….” And he had to be prepared for his son, having been helped to see the bigger picture, to still choose the wrong path. However, as a consultant he could get a good night’s rest knowing that he had provided information, like consultants do, and then leave his son in God’s hands.
Isn’t it crazy the way in which we sometimes believe that we have created or contributed to situations that are now too big for God? Silly people.