Jim Newheiser in the introduction of the book tells us that one of the reasons why he decided to write this book was because he couldn't find books to help him and his wife learn how to deal with the challenges they were encountering in the new season in their lives: "challenges that confronted both [them] as parents and [their] sons as adult children".
Newheiser asks, on page twelve, some questions that well-intentioned parents have asked when the time to let go of their adult children arrives; and this one, in my opinion, is the hardest one to answer, "What should parents do if their children make choices with which they disagree?" As we'll continue to read on, we'll find many of our questions answered.
I appreciate on page thirteen that the author makes it clear that this book is "based on the assumption that Scripture is sufficient, not only to tell us how to gain salvation, but also to help us establish wise, godly relationships with our own adult kids." Yes, the Scriptures are the key and the door; the map and the road that will help us be better parents, better spouses. Sometimes, however, we need the advice from a friend, a counselor, or a book to help us see with more clarity and to understand better the things that are not evident to us right in the midst of the circumstances we are going through. So let's continue considering this book with a grateful heart for books like this one, and friends like *you,* who recognize that it is only when we rely on God that we can bless our children no matter what age they are.
Chapter One: Is It That Time Already?
So true! All our stories are complex because we are complex people. The relationships among us "are often a tangled web, woven over decades. For this reason, none of [our] stories is black-and- white, and each requires wisdom from the Lord." This made me think that we will need, as we read on, to be able to distinguish principles from methods.* The principles apply to every case, the methods may vary. As we read on, let's pray that God will help us understand which are the principles and discern which methods are the best for us to approach in our relationship with each one of our children.
The fact that the brevity of the season of parenting our children is God's design, is a comfort to every momma who thinks she will never be ready to let them go. If it is God's design that children must leave their parents, and it is, it is then a very good thing: good for them and good for us.
God's design is perfect and perfect are all His ways. If we believe this, it will be easier for us to start preparing our hearts for the day our children leave. God's design is perfect and it will do us good to trust Him on this. I love the author's input on this matter, because really, we all have heard so much about the "empty nest," that without even giving much thought to it, we are dreadfully expecting its coming (like we were once having nightmares about the "terrible-two-years" or "the-impossible-teen-age-years"), and making room for it in our hearts. Yes, we don't necessarily like change, "particularly when the change means that our identity and relationships must be reshaped," but doesn't this make you think on how important it is for us, in the first place -and pass this to younger moms-, to strive daily to have our identity well grounded in Christ? Who we are in Christ should be the anchor of our lives in any kind of waters.
"We've come to realize that the term empty nest is misleading. When the kids leave, the nest is not empty because you are both still there. Furthermore, as your marriage relationship grows and becomes even stronger, your home can become a very special, warm place to which your adult children will want to return for special family events and holidays. And it can be a place where they can seek refuge in times of trouble. Empty nest? Hardly."Besides the challenge of the idea of the "empty-nest", do you agree with me, that maybe one of the hardest things to do in this new season of our lives is to understand the changing of our attitude toward our children? To remember that "we are not to fight to maintain control, but to strive to change our relationship from in-control parents to respected friends" is not easy. It takes practice and intentionality as well as time and many conversations.
Openness, mutual respect, and love (p.21-22) are key elements, the author says, that should be present in our relationship with each one of our children. One of the most important ways to show that we are pursuing these three is by being good listeners. I totally agree with that one answer a parent gave to the author, "The greatest challenge has been not giving my opinion about things. I often have the urge to offer advice in order to help my children keep from making mistakes or poor choices." What about you? Is this a hard thing for you too?
Do you remember how we used to repeat over and over -and over- again the same instruction to our little ones? I am sure we all, at a certain point, said the ugly phrase in an ugly tone, "How many times do I have to repeat to you not to do that!" Well, maybe now it is the time to repeat over and over -and over again, to ourselves how much we need to listen with love, patience, and attentively to each one of our children. Moms, let's be intentional: "No Interruptions Allowed Here" might be a good sign in the kitchen.
"If we can patiently learn to listen rather than always demanding to be heard, as James 1:19 teaches, our child will know that we respect his opinion and his right to differ with our views."
Where to look now that our children are becoming independent? Now as always, we must look to Jesus. Jesus was, and the author reminds us through different examples, the perfect son to Mary and Joseph. Jesus was an independent adult who never failed to honor his parents. But wait, let's linger a little bit more in the story plot. What about Mary? She never tried to pull him back, to restrain him, or to manipulate him. Oh, she was indeed full of grace! That God may fill our lives with such grace and wisdom!
"It is a sad reality that some parents sinfully abuse their position of authority."
This abuse not only happens when mom and dad are bigger than their child and misuse the rod. We don't have a rod anymore, but we have words, and they sting and hurt even more. All the cases we read about on page twenty-six are not that extreme, they do happen. Can we think of a case in which I have tried to use my authority to push my adult child into a certain decision? Am I falsely accusing him for not being submissive and for not honoring me when his only fault is that he has a different opinion than mine?
"[O]ur young adults are responsible before God to make their own choices. They are responsible to choose their vocation, marriage, partner, and place of residence."
Because we all are sinners, "every human relationship requires grace to survive." How true this is! And how true that "we are tempted to think that our own way is the only way. We're really convinced that we really do know best." We should know best, of course! But when we are in the midst of a conflict, hearing the clashing of opinions, it is pretty hard to take a deep breath and say, "I will think more about what you are saying. I will give it a thought, pray about it, and we can talk more about it later."(Note: Don't just say these words to appease the moment, actually go and give a thought to what she thinks, pray about it, and pursue a follow-up conversation)
And there is no better way to end this chapter, and to enter this new stage in which there are so many practical applications, than with "the power of forgiveness and grace we have been given in the gospel."
The three questions at the end of the chapter are meant to make us think, to draw us to the Word, to prayer... and most likely to converse with our own husbands and, in some cases, we will be drawn towards our own children to ask them forgiveness.
A note on question number three: This question talks about our marriages and asks us what kind of concrete actions we should take to make our marriages "sing again." Please, Friends, let's resist the temptation to think that we have nothing to do to make our marriage better (that all the problems in our marriage are our "husband's fault". We need to be intentional about putting in practice all that we are learning, all that we are called to do.)
Now it's your turn. What challenges did you find in these pages? Any particular quote that struck you hard, or one that gave you hope? Or, perhaps you have been walking through this road longer than the rest of us, if so, do you have a piece of advice, a word of encouragement for us? Share your thoughts here, in the comments.
Again, thanks for joining me in this book club.
Next Wednesday: Chapter Two: Before You Walk Out That Door...
*I learned about the importance of differentiating principles from methods from Pastor Douglas and Nancy Wilson's talks and books (you can read a good article about this here).
***Feel free to grab and share the image with the bible verse/ quote.