I learned something new about myself this week, something I don’t like.
When I’m faced with a difficult situation, something I’m responsible for that is beyond my capacity, instead of asking for help, I push people away. I become my own counselor, mentor, best friend and confidante. When it comes to expressing emotion, I don’t. I keep emotions internalized for safekeeping.
I avoid vulnerability by becoming the architect and builder of my own internal house.
And you can probably guess what happens. That house eventually collapses.
I wrote that first paragraph in my journal a couple of years ago, but recently, as I read those words again, they were equally sobering. It’s easy to believe the lies of your own truth. And in parenting, more than any other area of my life, I see how self-reliance cheats me.
Last week, by 5:00pm London was completely covered in darkness. Harrison and I pulled on layers – wool socks, thermals, scarves, coats and gloves – and walked briskly to the train station, clouds of breath filling the air between us as we talked.
We slapped our Oyster cards on the kiosk and walked through the gates, meeting up with H, already standing on the quiet platform. Three of us huddled together and through a thick malaise of yellow lamp light, my eyes were transfixed down an empty stretch of railway, searching for an approaching train and the warmth inside I know will come with it.
But as the train slides into the station, it’s apparent that people are wedged inside like sardines in a tin can. Instead of pushing into a crowd of people, we wait for room to breathe on the next train.
We are on our way to Harrison’s school for his first parent/teacher consultation. You might remember that he was out of school for nine months while we waited through layers of bureaucracy to get to London. I was pushing people away back then, holding my breath, anxiety ridden and living in the swell of my worst case scenarios.
What if I ruin my son’s life? It was the question I was trying to answer internally while suppressing emotions I didn’t trust to come out. I allowed the weight of responsibility to overwhelm me and faith was compromised by uncertainty.
I made God small in the midst of my huge unknowns.
But ever since we landed in England, I’ve seen my son come alive.
I’ve been surprised and happy to learn that my fears about his transition into new culture were lies I was believing. As we walked around the gym, among parents and students meeting with teachers, I realized back then, in the midst of all the unknowns, my hope wasn’t stretched to maximum capacity. Perspective was compromised by self-reliance.
As a parent, you know how a teacher feels about your child when you watch them make eye contact with him. You know when a teacher is being cordial for the benefit of keeping the peace or genuinely interested in your child’s well-being.
After our final consultation, we walked back out into the cold night air, winds gusting around tall buildings, and I thought this must be what it feels like to be the winner of a lottery. The glowing words uttered by each and every teacher about my son’s character and intelligence had nothing to do with me at all.
The grace of God’s face shining on us feels that way, doesn’t it?
He chooses to look us in the eyes and bless us when we don’t deserve it. And the brightness is humbling and overwhelmingly good.
In the midst of waiting for God to answer prayers, we are tempted to believe that hope is like a thread connecting us to heaven, and severed when we doubt.
When it comes to parenting, we carry our children’s burdens but heaviness is not of the Kingdom. He is the architect and builder of our lives.
Self-reliance is a barrier that keeps us from seeing His light shining upon us. And on our children too.
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1, MSG)
My One Word this year is Shine and I’m keeping track of the ways His face is shining on us and sharing some of the stories here with you. Will you join me?
How have you seen His face shining upon you this week? Tell me about it in the comments.
I love what you say about hope here, Shelly. And self-reliance. I struggle with both.
It’s a great joy to observe your experiences in this season, the faithfulness of God in your life helps me trust Him to be as faithful in mine. Thank you for sharing the journey. Xo
You are such a great companion on this journey of life. Thanks for always being such an encourager!!
Great post! Sometimes I think raising a child (and a son!) is like working a giant jigsaw puzzle. God constantly assures (and gently reminds) me that it’s a puzzle that I, myself, have created and that He has Luke in the palm of his hands! Put the puzzle down, Monica!
I love that Monica! Yes, I have to let go of trying to fit my piece of their puzzle in a place cut out uniquely for them. Parenting is the best school on letting go isn’t it?
Reading your words this morning, you have put into words what I was attempting to explain to my husband last night. You used a thread in the analogy. It’s been an emotional roller coaster with this house and moving again.
Light came in the form of a few hours of sunshine yesterday even though there was still tears. Do I trust God enough? Am I even trusting…tears come when I am alone because I don’t want my son to see my fear or lack of trust. I speak brave words it feels.
But yesterday, the sun shined through separating dark clouds. Taking advantage of this the boys took off on a bike ride while I grabbed the spade and yanked out two herb plants to bring with me placing them in pots just outside the window for me to see, having them wait with me.
I accepted the suns shining as a break from the gloomy doubts that circle inside my head attempting to take root in my heart.
I needed to plant something else. The sunshine afforded me that.
Praying for you today Celeste. I know that ache of the unknowns and they can snuff out joy. Hang in their my friend, God is good. All the time.
I appreciate that and thank you.
Thank you for penning this story, the epilogue of 31 Days (and counting) to London. It’s so humbling to see God’s faithfulness and know His faithfulness doesn’t wear out. Of course, I have lived, maybe I am living, this story, letting hope be a string when God intends for it to be an anchor. xo
I love that you’ve been through every inch of this story, that you could actually see the thread between those 31 Days and this story. What a treasure your friendship is to me.
Shelly, this is an unexpectedly timely post for me with regard to my daughter….something I very much wanted for her will never happen. The dream has died . . . but she doesn’t even know about it. And it’s made me ill and sad. And the irony is that if I tell her, I don’t think she will care. It was not even *her* dream for herself! It’s I who fabricated this dream in my own imagination, and it’s I who am disappointed. I’ve relied on myself to conceive a dream (which, now that it has died, was obviously not even God’s plan for her). I have not released this area of her life to God. I need to ask Him to build her life. You are demonstrating the God alone is the architect of our children’s lives. I need to release her and my dreams for her to Him, and let Him build with whatever materials He desires and whatever type of structure He chooses. thank you for a profound reminder.
Oh Lynn, your comment is sobering and haunting (in a good way). Your heart is always saying, “Speak Lord, I’m listening.” What we hear is often convicting isn’t it? But the good news is that He redeems. Always. Praying for you this morning. xx
Shelly, I’m unutterably sad about this (as I said I feel ill over it). And your prayers are so much of a comfort. How I appreciate you.
Praise God for this extra-special blessing (Harrison’s stellar reports from his teachers) shining in your week and probably in your memory for years to come. Our shining moment this week was the news that our daughter-in-law will receive a decent contract for next year in a position that she’s excited about. (The first offer was highly disappointing, barely more take-home pay than she’s making now, after a superior performance as chief resident in family practice and psychiatry.) She and our son have worked so very hard these last nine years for her to achieve this goal. We’re praising God, too!
BEAUTIFULLY said, Shelly. Thank you. Thrilled for your son – and for you and H.