My laden flowers? A few quiet hours alone with my man on Friday night. That was my plan.
How My Friday Night Plans Fell Through
6:15 pm– I plopped the groceries on the counter, set the oven and kicked off my shoes. I’d gone straight from work to fetch the boys and a friend, then to settle them in at the waterpark. Now came the sigh.
And the ringtone.
Mom, you have to come get us! Sam’s really sick. He’s just sitting here with his down and I don’t feel so good either.
Weary Mama rolled her eyes. Why don’t you get some fresh air and take it easy and we’ll come get you in 2 hours.Good-bye.
6:23 pm– Undeterred, I rubbed the salmon, poked the potatoes and set them baking. I was tearing greens when the phone rang again.
Hi Mom. He’s really sick. You need to come get us now. Please.
This wasn’t my plan. I hadn’t even sat down. You can last an hour. Besides, $50 is a lot a money for one hour of fun.
Hanging up sounds heartless, I know. But that son can be Chicken Little, and the caring adults were all around.
6:35 pm– Jim got home and the salmon was done and my phone dinged again. My sister, also at the waterpark,
Can I bring the boys home? Sam looks pretty sick.
Jim called back. I filled our plates, lit a candle and sat down.
And Why I’m Glad
I wasn’t glad. I was grumpy and mad and starved for a quiet dinner alone with Jim, who was calm on the phone as I sat stabbed at my salmon.
They’re on their way. Your sister’s bringing them home.
We were eating our last bites as in they walked in smiling. All better. Their friend Andy wanted to stay and play games. So we cleared the plates and set out Codenames. And in between obscure teen-ager clues, they introduced us to their music and soon Andy had Sam at the piano plunking out tunes.
I wasn’t so blind to miss those. Those answers to prayers I pray almost every day. That the boys would enjoy using the gifts they’ve been given, make and be good friends, and that we’d have more fun as a family.
It all boils down to trust issues, again. I need a consistent trust. I trust God to wake me each morning and bring me safely to heaven, but I can’t trust him with my dinner plans?
This is not to say we shouldn’t make plans. Only that we should hold them loosely. James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). So sit loose. As we make our plans for tonight remember that God may have different and better plans than ours.
My plans have come crashing down before. And I’m starting to understand that when, in infinite wisdom and matchless love, God ruins my plans, he’s really wanting me to trust him. Because,
God knows infinitely more than we do, and can do infinitely more than we can — should we be surprised in the least when he has planned differently than we have? Plan on it. He has, and he will…Disruptions become welcome reminders that God is real, that he is almighty, and that his plans always prove wiser than ours.
The disruption of my Friday night was God’s kind reminder that he is wiser than me. If I’d have had my quiet night, I’d have missed His better plan.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.
You’re nodding, now, and saying, “Just you wait. Keep leaning, sister. Keep right on leaning on the everlasting arms.”
I know it. I’ve been mom to a teen for not quite all of one day, but already I know you are right. I need God’s help. Letting said son have the last word takes epic resurrection power.
And while physical dependence equals immaturity or weakness, dependence on God marks the strongest of saints.
To a Different Drummer
Today Sam turned 13. The “teen-scene” is new to all of us. But Sam has never been our puppet on a string. From day one- when I first held that stoic 6-month old in the the airport terminal- Sam has always been his own man.
Way back to that furry red, Elmo-basket hat, Sam has marched to his own (thanks, Dad) bagpipes-and-drums beat.
To this prone to bossing mama, God gave a strong son, who wouldn’t be overborne. And while I might have wished for a kid who would play the sports and read the books and make the friends that I might pick for him, that’s not Sam.
Because Sam’s my beloved son- our A#1. And training him is a big means that God is using to shape me. To train me to cry out and pray when things don’t go my way.
And, for the record, nothing that pushes us to pray is a bad thing.
Humbled And Exposed
So I refuse to write-off or ride out these teen-age years. No, I want to exploit these years.
I want to be shaped by every ounce of Christ-conforming experience that these teenage years afford.
It won’t be easy. It’s not easy. When A#1 calls me out- my motives, my computer use, my eating habits, my tone of voice- it’s humbling. Having our selfish ways exposed is hard.
In Age of Opportunity– which I’d highly recommend for parents of teens- Paul David Tripp, nails this truth.
The tumult of the teen years is not the only about the attitudes and actions of teens, but the thoughts, desires, attitudes and actions of parents as well. The teen years are hard for us because they tend to bring out the worst in us.
Those years are hard for us because they expose the wrong thoughts and desires of our own hearts….These years are hard for us because they rip back the curtain and expose us. This is why trials are so difficult, yet so useful in God’s hands.
We don’t radically change in a moment of trial. No, trials expose what we have always been. Trials bare things to which we would have otherwise been blind.
And seeing those things, so we can change these things, is a good thing.
Rats in the Cellar
And we rejoice in our suffering. In our exposures and in our parenting disappointments and broken dreams and let-downs.
C.S. Lewis called those things rats in the cellar. So, too, the teen years expose us. But really, so did the infant years and the toddler years. All the years are capable.
Now he catches me micromanaging his alarm clock, and arguing about video game time, and being stubborn about hoodies and tennis shoes. These are my rats in the cellar now. Some of my rats.
Like when Sam crept out from a nap early and caught me red-handed eating a forbidden food for a 3- year old. My rats in the cellar were brownies in the pantry.
And my snacking habits were forever changed, because I’d been exposed.
That We Might Not Rely On Ourselves
So while conflict and clash in this little clan can sometimes feel like a royal battle, they’re not. Sometimes I am hard-pressed, but I am not crushed, I’m praying more, leaning more and relying more on my God to bring his perfect will to pass than I did before.
And all of that is good.
Because we like to think we can pull things off- even things like raising kids- on our own. I think Apostle Paul felt like he could handle anything. He was intelligent and articulate and influential.
[R]epeatedly God had to break that, to put him in circumstances he could not handle, that he might learn not to rely on himself, but on God, who raises the dead. That is the major reason, I think, for suffering, which is the pressure that is designed to destroy our determined stubbornness. Paul has learned to trust God to take him through whatever life throws at him, no matter what it is.
No matter if there’s a teen-ager in the house.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Last week was a rough one, wasn’t it? I’m glad it’s over too. (My, but didn’t Aunt Danielle’s cookies last night and that rhubarb crisp today taste good?)
It was tough- four whole days without dessert and five full days without a screen. I know it was hard for you. Being disciplined is hard for me too. If I told you once, I told you twenty times: Being disciplined means you’re loved.
And more times-maybe than were helpful and good- I got on a roll and you got the whole spiel. You know- that hunk of Hebrews 12 you heard me quote so often that by the end of the week you were reciting it too:
The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there who is not disciplined? If you are left without discipline, you are illegitimate children and not sons… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
I know it’s hard to trust us. It’s hard to believe that discipline is a sign of our love. I get that too.
Because no discipline seems pleasant (For the moment). No ice cream and no screen time did not feel like love. (And A#1 Son, it was divine poetic justice, wasn’t it, when you had to pass on the National Chocolate Chip Day treats at the orthodontist’s office because you’d dumped those scramble eggs and the reason I made those scrambled eggs was because of your new braces? You -child with brand new braces, you and me- we smiled.) Even though no after school iPad time and writing I’m sorry notes did not feel good.
But God’s promise is true. If you’re trained by the tough stuff, it will yield good, sweet fruit.
You know it’s almost strawberry season in Grandpa and Grandma’s garden. You guys know how those pale pinkish-whitish berries taste? When you were little guys you couldn’t wait and you’d pluck one or two before you knew. (Bleck!)
But in a couple weeks- come the first of June- and those once sour berries are heaven’s sweetness come down. Yes. This discipline will yield a sweet peaceful, righteous fruit. It will.
That’s why Dad and I discipline you. That’s why I tell you that over and over (Can I say it too much?): Trust us. We love you. We’re training you. It’ll be good.
We pronounce it in the big stuff, how discipline means love. In the willful defiance that dumped those scrambled eggs upside down on the table like a toddler one-sixth of his age might do and in the video games stolen late in the night and in the blurting-out, not-so-silly “joke box” talk by which you tormented your poor substitute teacher last week.
But we remind you of that truth in the small stuff, too. Like when you have to place your mud-caked shoes on the mat and keep your napkin spread on your lap and look grown-ups in the eye when greeted.
Down to the tiny things (Believe me, these can make a wife very happy someday) like putting the lid down and the cap on the Crest and your dirty socks (Not your dirty sockballs) in the basket.
Now I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I tell you this stuff- about how discipline means love- I’m talking to myself probably more than I’m talking to you. Because this last week, these last months, the better part of the year have been hard for all of us. We’ve had some painful, loving discipline. I’ve been sifted. We’ve been in the fire. But we’ve endured.
Some of my friends say what a strong mom you guys got. But I want you to know that being trained by discipline- yours and mine- takes every bit of strength I’ve got and then some.
To run this race and fight this fight, to love you guys right and endure my hardship (And, just sayin’- part of it is the discipline of you two) as the loving discipline of my heavenly Father takes more reserve and drive than with-all my muscle- even I alone possess.
But we’re all in this together- you two, and Dad and me and God. So it’ll be okay.
That’s why I saw more than the scrambled mess I scraped off the table when you left for school Monday. It’s why I didn’t cry about thebetter off in an orphanage comment you made as you headed out the door (And #2, I did see that teeny smirk as you said it). Or the two Friday afternoon phone calls- one from each of your teachers. (As if you’d planned it.)
Thank God, I saw more and I didn’t lose heart. Because God gave me faith-eyes. Eyes to see that in love God was disciplining me. That is the the only way I could shake off that utterly scrambled week.
So make no mistake. I am not writing this to cause guilt or elicit sympathy. I’m writing this to remind you what you both already know. Dad and I love you so much. That’s why we discipline you.
I know in your heart of hearts you already know that. You know that only sons without moms and dads who care would dump their eggs and shove their plates and taunt their teachers and get away scot-free. You know Dad and I care. We love you-4VR, U know! (Are you almost done, Mom?)
Yes. I’ll end with that bit we just read from The Horse And His Boy. You know the part when Aravis and her talking mare Hwin and Shasta and his talking horse Bree are pressing hard to escape evil Prince Rabadash and save the Narnians?
“Quick! Quick!” shouted Aravis. “We might as well not have come at all if we don’t reach Anvard in time. Gallop, Bree, gallop. Remember you’re a war horse.”
It was all Shasta could do to prevent himself from shouting out similar instructions; but he thought, “The poor chap’s doing all he can already,” and held his tongue. And certainly both Horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could; which is not quite the same thing.
At that moment everyone’s feelings were completely altered by a sound from behind. It was not the sound they had been expecting to hear- the noise of hoofs and jingling armor, mixed, perhaps, with Calormene battle-cries. Yet Shasta knew it at once…Bree knew it too… And Bree now discovered that he had not really been going as fast- not quite as fast-as he could.
“It’s not fair,” though Shasta. “I did think we’d be safe from lions here!”
He looked over his shoulder. Everything was only too clear. A huge tawny creature, its body low to the ground, like a cat streaking across the lawn to a tree when a strange dog has got into the garden, was behind them. And it was nearer every second and half second…the lion rose on its hind legs, larger than you would have believed a lion could be, and jabbed at Aravis with its right paw. Shasta could see all the terrible claws extended. Aravis screamed and reeled in the saddle. The lion was tearing her shoulders.
Discipline pushes us on, guys. It gets us doing more than we thought we could do to get away from the dangers to our souls. It gets us home safe in the end. But it is not pleasant at the moment. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it hurts.
It took Aravis until the second to last chapter to realize that truth. It wasn’t until Aslan introduced himself face to face that she finally understood.
“Draw near Aravis my daughter. See! My paws are velveted. You will not be torn this time.
“This time, sir?” said Aravis.
“It was I who wounded you,” said Aslan. “I am the only lion you met in all your journeyings. Do you know why I tore you?”
Aslan told Aravis, then. I want you guys to know now that tears and scares and roars are needful for us. But identical for no two. (Remember what Jesus said to Peter, ‘What’s that to you. You follow me!’)
When Aravis asks Aslan the fate of the slave girl she hurt, Aslan tells her the truth we – all four of us, desperately- need to hear.
“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
God loves me. He wants me to look and act and think more like his A#1 Son. And so he gave me you two to to train me into Christlike lady I need to be. Scrambled eggs and teacher telephone calls and orphan talk and all. That’s part of my story.
And God loves you guys more than you know. He wants you to grow into godly men with strong faith, big love and stout, soft hearts and he knew you’d need a mom and dad like the ones you’ve got. That’s part of your stories.
We’re all being disciplined. But I know you know all that, after last week, guys. This week’s a new week. We shake off our bad stuff and run on.
Dad and I love you two and discipline you and God loves Dad and me and disciplines us and that’s all how it’s supposed to be. Sour now (Like strawberries in May). Sweet later (Like in June).