Independent Spirit

Tonight I took Grace to her first carnival at our church. We walked around, I got her a balloon, we shared a lemonade – she held my hand and I was so proud of her. She is growing into such a sweet little girl and I loved walking around with her.

After about 30 minutes of quality time with mom – she was ready for some fun. I nervously watched her go into a bounce house with kids much bigger than her. I watched from the side as she’d get knocked down and as kids would bounce precariously close to her little head as she bounced around – unable to get up but laughing the whole time. She got out and I confess – I was happy to have her holding my hand again – safe and sound.

Then came the Obstacle course. She saw kids going in – racing through it – and she got in the line. She couldn’t even climb up into the course so I thought she’d look in – be intimidated, and be ready to hang out more with mom. But she looked in, and determinedly climbed up into it. I stood off to the side, sure she’d go halfway through and get stuck. She was literally half of the size of every other child I saw go into this thing – who knew if she could even manage once inside? I stood to the side and watched as she climbed through the thing most kids jumped over. As big kids would race by her and practically knock her over. But she just kept going – through rings and around every obstacle. At the end of the course (she’d made it 70%!) there is a huge climbing wall that goes to a slide. When I saw this part – I was totally freaked. To climb this wall, she’d have to climb up about 12 feet at a crazy angle, all the time the thing bounces around because other kids are climbing the other side. I watched her as she started to climb. About a third of the way up – she fell backwards to the bottom and I braced myself for her cry and tried to figure out how I could get in there to her quickly. But she didn’t cry. She got up and started to climb again. I watched, literally with my stomach hurting, as she climbed to the top. Kids were flying past her on both sides – my mama bear self was ready to kill any kid who knocked her down. In my head I was yelling “Don’t you see how tiny she is! Don’t go near her!” Finally she reached the top and I ran around to the end of the course in time to see her slide down the slide. She was giggling so hard! She loved it. I finally got to breathe! Yay – she was safe! I tried to grab her hand as she climbed off the course but she barely even saw me – she was running past me to get back in line to do it again! No kidding I had to stand there terrified and watch as she back-to-back went through this thing 5 or 6 times.

One of my constant prayers is that I would hold my sweet girls loosely – that I would trust the Lord with them. From the moment they were born I knew that my heart was so tangled up with their heart that holding them loosely would be difficult. Being a mom is so wacky! Last night was a perfect example – my heart and my head were so divided! I was proud of how brave she was, and how determined. I was thrilled that she was having so much fun. But also I was terrified that she’d get hurt. And I was terrified about what this step of independence meant – that someday she wouldn’t need me.

Because I’m me and I do this – I woke up this morning and was thinking about last night and what it taught me. I prayed again for strength to allow my girls to be independent, brave little women. It really is more of a prayer for me than for them, you know? Their instinct is to be independent – at least Grace’s is. She will get there on her own – I just have to survive watching her do it.

As I was thinking and processing this – I thought of Mary and Joseph when they realized Jesus wasn’t on the road with them on the way home from Jerusalem in Luke 2. Now don’t get me wrong – I realize I am not Mary and although I think she’s amazing, I realize that Grace is not Jesus. But you talk about the independence of a child terrifying a parent – it was 3 days before they found Jesus in the temple. When I was younger I’d read this and think “Duh – didn’t you guys know he was Jesus and know that He’d do things a normal child wouldn’t do?” But reading this as a mom – I can totally relate to Mary when she tells Jesus “Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Can you imagine the feeling in her stomach the entire time they searched for him? I’m sure that, like me, there was a part of her brain thinking that independence is good and right for a child, that they knew He had a task bigger than them. But there was also her heart crying “No! This is my baby!” Can you imagine the battle her head and her heart fought as He was on the cross? I have a hard time even going there mentally as a mom – but I have watched dear friends go through the death of a child and their strength and bravery overwhelms me.

The fact is that although we as parents have the illusion of control to comfort us, we are not in control. And that fact alone is terrifying. And if the story ended there, I think as a mom I couldn’t handle the stress of watching my little girls grow more independent every day. But I thank God that the story doesn’t end there. That we don’t live as those who have no hope. Because in the sacrifice of a mom two thousand years ago, in the letting go of a Child who had a purpose bigger than her, we were given hope. When she watched that baby that she had rocked grow into a man, and when she watched that man tortured and killed on a cross – she knew in her heart that it was for a reason and that despite what she was seeing, she knew God was good. That is the source of real comfort for us parents. God is good – all the time. And because He is good, He gave up His Son, who He loved, for us. In that one act of death on a cross, we were given hope. Because He let His Son go, we can hold our children loosely knowing that His love for them is so great that they are safe in His arms. That the price has been paid and they have life eternally with Him. So I will wake up tomorrow and brace myself for my daughter’s next step towards independence. And I will continue to pray through the battle of my heart and my head and choose to trust the One who loved me so much that He gave His life for me – that I and my sweet little girls might live eternally with Him.

If you are a parent and you don’t have this hope – first of all I don’t know how you do it. I’d love to talk to you about it. There is comfort on the other side of terror and purpose on the other side of pain. There is a song which says “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

I am so thankful for that great hope.

Grace On Slide from Jennifer Wells on Vimeo.

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