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.