I woke up with a word in the front of my mind this morning. Braces. My daughter is getting them today on her teeth, but I wish I could put them on her soul.
There is a feeling that often grabs be when I am looking into the face of my oldest daughter. It is a strange emotion, crossed between intense love and fear, that likes to make its home within my rib cage next to my heart. My daughter is almost 13 years old and is boldly strolling into 7th grade. When I tell this fact to the more seasoned friends in my life, they close their eyes, slowly nod their heads and say “Oh yes,” like I have started some weird initiation into a club I have not asked to join.
I am not in denial about my daughter physically growing up and facing the highs and lows of adolescence. In my rational mind, I know that this is part of what happens, just like potty training, the first day of kindergarten, learning to ride a bike, etc. She will be betrayed by a friend. She will do something embarrassing in front of several people publicly. She will accidentally hurt someone she loves deeply and it will probably be me. She will do something so insanely stupid that as a 43-year-old, she will still look back and say “What was I thinking?” With all of these markers of growing up, I just don’t want her to have too many scars on the inside of her soul and the outside of her body. Is that too much to ask?
But that emotion that lives in my rib cage does not take notice of those prepictable things, those things you know will happen because that is “growing up.” What causes this strange emotion of love wrapped in fear to wake up, stretch its legs and take a stroll through my soul, is me. When I think about my role in my daughter’s spiritual life, I panic. Saying prayers by her toddler bed. Singing the songs of “This Little Light of Mine” and “Jesus Loves Me.” Learning the stories of Noah’s ark, Jonah and the whale, Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. They all seem so small and silly now. She is her own person. Why is this so hard to swallow? With this process of “cleaving and leaving” I am attaching every sin I have struggled with, every scar I have, both inside and out. Every doubt, every fear, every silence I chose in my life. Every step I took away from God with such ease. I don’t want these for her. I want to save her from THIS kind of pain.
I am holding on so fiercely to her soul, white knuckling what false sense of control I think I have, that my fingers are bleeding. I want braces that can control and protect her in this world and as she grows up. I want to look face to face with our youth director and scream the words “Do you know how much trust I am having to put in you and this church and it terrifies me! Don’t mess this up!”
But these words are not for him.
These words are for God.
I can look back at my life and see God’s faithfulness. His presence was there even when I wouldn’t acknowledge it. I truly believe with my soul that through no act of my own doing, He sent His son, Jesus, to save me from THIS kind of pain. So why does this belief stop short with my daughter? Why do I not trust God with my child? Because I love her more than I love myself. And there lies the problem.
God sees me and knows me. Yes, I know.
God loves me still. Yes, I know.
He has forgiven me for my sins and brokenness. Yes, I know.
Truth be told, what scares me the most is being truly seen and known by my child. I have made peace with God over my past sins. So is it that I care what other people would think of me if they knew this part of me? No. What terrifies me is this: what if to raise and disciple this amazing child of mine, God calls me to not just say “Don’t do this because I say so,” but rather say “Don’t do this because I know first hand the brokenness, the heartache, the shame, the destruction it will cause.” I am scared that to help my child avoid future pain, THIS pain, that he will call me to share my own.
Yes, God sees me, knows me, and loves me still.
But would my daughter?