To Him Who is Able

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My nine-year-old decided to run a 5K. It was going to be her first race, and as an avid runner myself, I was thrilled with her ambition and almost immediately started dreaming of the sweet bonding time we’d have running together.

While standing at the start line on the day of the race, my daughter said to me with confidence and a bit of annoyance,“Mom, you can just stay here. I’m going to run with my friends.”

That didn’t hurt at all.

In frustration, I took a step back and told her she couldn’t run the race unless I was there with her. That’s when she responded with the universally known“Ugh” accompanied by the eye roll, of course.

Parenting is tough. I’m in the middle of it with two teenagers and a nine-year old going on sixteen, and every day I’m reminded of how difficult this calling is. And every day I’m met by God’s faithful and tender mercies. While studying Ephesians 3 recently, I was convicted by three important reminders when it comes to parenting.

I’m not able without Jesus.  

As parents, if we ever get to the point of thinking we have succeeded, then raising our kids becomes about our own abilities rather than a total reliance on Jesus. I am not able.

But He is able.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”  Ephesians 3:20

He is able to do abundantly… infinitely… more than we can even imagine. But sometimes I forget to ask, or I plead with timid expectation. But He is able. He is able when exhaustion hits.  He is able when kids stray. He is able when, well, teenagers. He is able always and forever. While there are many days filled with joy and bliss as parents, there are also days of merely trudging along. But these days are the most beautiful because the trudging days are a precious reminder that we are not able.

But He is.

I’m not in control. 

It’s easy to doubt this reality. It’s nice to believe that I can create an environment that keeps my kids free from emotional and physical pain, but I simply can’t. A visit to the ER, a bully at school, or a discouraging note home are all reminders that as hard as we try, we aren’t the ones ultimately in control.

But the God who is able to do more than we ASK and who is able to do more than we THINK, is in perfect control.

Instead of trying to control what’s “out there,” perhaps we should be pouring our energies into our own spiritual vitality and into the hearts of those God has placed in our care. If only I would put as much time and passion into the spiritual life of my children, praying fervently to the God who is able to draw them closer to Himself, as I do obsessing over what snacks they should or should not be eating.

But He did not give us the power to control. Instead, He gave us the power of His spirit to fill us, to convict us, to seek forgiveness (even from our children), and to make us better followers of Jesus. Seek not what you can’t control, but seek after the peace that comes in relenting to the God who created our children and loves them abundantly more than we do.

Comparing myself to others is futile.  

But I’m really good at it. And slowly my sideways glances have unintentionally moved the proverbial bar higher and higher. The standard I’ve set for myself as a mom has been set so high now that it’s virtually unattainable, so I feel nothing but frustration when I’m not as creative as other moms, when I work too much or not enough, or when I’m not great at make-believe and lash out at my kid who has packed her entire wardrobe into three suitcases because she’s apparently traveling across the world.

Setting my own standard is exhausting, which is exactly why we’re not supposed to live this way. Ephesians continues saying:

“…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.” 

Our actions as parents, our decision, our routines, should all be done to bring glory to God, the One to whom our children ultimately belong, not to make us feel more competent than other parents. Oh, the freedom and joy that is found in that standard. And by His grace, our kids will seek to bring God glory in their own lives. And on it goes…from one generation to the next…forever and ever.

I ran the first part of the race behind my daughter and noticed her back seizing up because of an injury she had a few days before. She was determined to reach her goal, but as I watched my daughter struggle, I realized it just wasn’t going to happen.

So, I made one of the dumbest decisions I’ve made thus far in my parenting journey. I put my nine-year old on my back and ran the duration of the race. Every muscle in my body ached, but I trudged on with fierce determination.

And then my daughter saw the finish line. She jumped off my back saying, “I got it from here, mom,” then sprinted as fast as she could. My daughter finished in the top five in her little group. And I couldn’t walk for a week.

I’ll never forget those moments. We had fun along the way with a few loud cheers from the crowds, but it was physically exhausting. Any pain I felt, however, was insignificant when I saw the joy on my daughter’s face as she sprinted through that finish line.

I’ll carry my kids as they grow with a strength that can only come from Jesus. I have no idea what challenges will be met along the way, I’ve already proven I’m not going to run it perfectly, and I’m sure I won’t run it just like the other moms, but I’ll work hard and do my best until the day they jump off and let me know: I’ve got it from here, mom.  

And the Lord will continue to lead them on.

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