Wednesday, June 18, 2014

the lesson in loving the brave son

Some children are more complicated to raise. It’s just true. There isn't less love or less grace or more rules or more grace or any difference in the environment around here. The only variables are the sensitivity and temperaments of the children we cherish and tend, and our own strengths and limitations as parents.

The tough cases can make a mama lose hope and feel just a smidge like a failure, though.

When one of my boys was a baby, there was only one person he liked: me, his mama. He screamed when anyone else picked him up, looked at him, or breathed near him. This predilection for needing me lasted years and years and years.

This sounds so sweet, doesn't it? It was, sort of. Except for the 3.789 times I wanted more than five minutes to myself. All those times it felt like martyrdom in the most lovely of scenarios.

There was often no real way to know how he would react in a new setting or with new people. The results were often disastrous and maddening when his internal storm became an external display of rage and emotion.

We hosted a party in our home with about fifty college students when he was three. “I don’t like a lot of people,” he calmly informed me approximately an hour into the festivities. 

That kid was more self-aware than a lot of adults.

By age four, Mr. Fantastic and I got brave/stupid and decided to test the waters of the boy’s courage. I peeled him off of me twice a week for six months of preschool. He loved it once I was gone, but the drama was exhausting and I felt like a wretch every Monday and Wednesday between 9:00am and noon in the Fall of 2009.

When it came to a life without me right there, he wasn’t having it. The banner over his life read like this: Give me Mama or give me death!

For years he refused to be a part of any childcare system (including the gym and church), he rarely ventured more than six inches from me, and he cried at the front door when I left him with candy in his hand, a movie in the DVD player, and his favorite babysitter. Bravery couldn't be bought.

We tried hard not to let this fear he had define him. We told him we understood it, then we talked about how God would make him brave when he needed to be. We told him it was okay to feel scared, that we must be scared first in order to be brave. There is no courage involved in doing what comes easily to us. We refused to label him as shy, because God gives us a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind. Shy didn't fit into that definition of who our son was called to be. We called him “The Brave Boy” and we just. kept. trying.

It was inconvenient. It was hard to go the gym to workout. It was difficult to keep him quiet in church every Sunday. It was awkward when we met new people. I often felt judged by perfect strangers. It would have been easy to resent his weakness or for my husband to blame me for being too soft on him or to simply give up and tell him he would be like that forever.

But Mr. Fantastic and I knew that the same revolutionary God that set us free from sin and fear could do the same for our son. Late at night while he slept we talked about courage and prayed over his life.

We walk by faith, and not by sight, now, don’t we?

To all the mamas and the papas out there who wonder if their child will ever grow beyond a difficult weakness; to everyone who has believed that they are best defined by the ways in which they fail; to all the children who hope to grow up to be brave and beautiful; I say this: With God all things are possible, and there is always hope in Him.

My son still doesn't really like big crowds. He hesitantly enters rooms full of strangers. He likes to be at home with his family and his books and his toys best of all.

But he is so brave these days. I weep at the thought of how Jesus has made him brave. He sings on stage at VBS, gives presentations in front of his class, and can go to new places full of new people without me LIKE A BOSS.

This miraculous journey has not only been about my son. We are all learning something here, which is truly God’s whole purpose in making us a family.

I am braver because I have watched in faith and wonder as my son stepped out of fear and into the light. I love God more because God has loved my son so faithfully. I am more patient with myself and others when weaknesses arise. Our whole family shines brighter because one boy has chosen to be secure in God when he feels insecure in life.

The children who are complicated to raise are gifts wrapped in tearful prayers and hope-filled hearts. Blessed are the parents who love them and the families who embrace them, believing in faith that He who began the great work of redeeming their souls will be faithful to complete it.

We're all becoming so very brave these days. Isn't it simply glorious?

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