HTH: Unhitching From the Crazy Train


Unhitching From The Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control is not a parenting book per se, and yet it contains some of the most helpful Biblical counsel that any parent could hope to have. Counselor Julie Sparkman and author Jennifer Phillips collaborated on this recently released book to bring the hope of the gospel to every mom and dad.

The authors start with Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Every parent knows the particular weariness of simply being a parent; every parent knows the burdens of fears and concerns and hopes and dreams for a child.

I must confess that for every one plan I have for myself, I have four for everyone else in my life. I have an answer to the problem before people even know they have a problem. Just ask my family. I thought I was being a visionary wife and mom, cheering and coaching my people to be the best versions of themselves, but come to find out, it’s dangerous to have a plan for someone else’s life. (p. 51)

Sparkman and Phillips teach us that God made us to have healthy hopes for our kids, what they call a “picture” of the life we long for our family to have. Of course we want them to have a deep abiding faith, a solid GPA, and healthy friendships. However, if we make those hopes our idols, we will hitch ourselves to the “crazy train” of trying to control the uncontrollable.

Take, for instance, this popular statement about happy – no, let’s just call it what it is – codependent mothers: “Every mother is only as happy as her least happy child.” That would be precious, except it is a perfect example of what it looks like to the hitched to the crazy train. You might say, “My picture includes a happy child – is that so wrong?” No. That is not wrong. Of course that’s what you want. But if you drop into despair and behave in ways you don’t want to behave whenever your child is unhappy, then your desire is no longer just a desire; it is something you demand from others and even from God. When you write a scathing email to another parent because her kid was mean to your kid at school, when you bad mouth the coach because your child didn’t make the team, when you can’t sleep at night because your child is having trouble making friends, your desire for your child’s happiness is not just a desire anymore. Even though you ultimately have no control over the happiness of your child, your emotional, spiritual, and physical stability have become attached to it, and that, my friend, is crazy.

So here’s my question: How’s that working for you? (p. 37)

What follows is enormously practical advice about how to apply the truths of the gospel to our thinking, which of course changes our behavior. The authors demonstrate how the gap between our reality and our desires tends to expose our truest theology. Unbelief, or the “orphan” mentality, will lead a parent either to resolve to change, and then try to control everything and everyone to enforce that change, or to play the victim, who becomes passive, cynical, and hardened with disappointment.

Belief, on the other hand, leads a parent to a very different mindset. Most of the book teaches the reader how to live as a beloved, well-provided-for child of the King. Readers learn how to come to Jesus (repent), take His yoke (surrender to the truth that our loving God is in control), learn from Him (commune in prayer), and finally to rest, to be “free from effort that does not satisfy as we continue to focus on His larger picture beyond our own.” (p. 63)

Finally, Unhitching From the Crazy Train lifts our eyes to the finished work of Jesus, calling us not only to hope in but also to live in all that He died to give us. Each moment of your life – in the picture, out of the picture, broken or beautiful – holds the opportunity to live out your deepest desire to glorify God in a way that only you, His unique creation, can. (p. 155)


Rooted is particularly excited to invite you to hear counselor Julie Sparkman at our annual conference, October 4-6, in Nashville. Julie will lead two workshops for parents and counselors. She brings her trademark humor and almost thirty years of professional experience, plus thirty years of being called “mom” by three children.

For Rooted 2018 conference registration, click here. See you there!

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