I wrote the original version of these words just over five years ago, in September 2010. Five years later, I could still be writing these words – it doesn’t feel like much has changed at all. And yet, our children have gotten older, it seems like the stakes are higher… everything has changed and just keeps on changing SO. VERY. MUCH! So I share these words again, today, in the hopes that they might encourage one who keeps looking for that light at the end of the transition tunnel only to uncover yet another bend with weakening flashlight batteries (or flickering candles, depending on where you minister). In our family, God’s grace and presence in this life chock-full of shiftings and switchings, has been rock-solid constant. Most days, our only response is rejoicing in all God has done and continues to do.
Our little Jonathan recently began school – a first language French school – for the first time. Yesterday, as he was sharing with us about his day, he told us about working on saying and writing the alphabet in French instead of English. Suddenly, he stopped and exclaimed: “AND Mama! Did you know they say zshee for ‘J’ and zshay for ‘G?’ THAT. IS. JUST. WRONG!!!”
We JUST don’t like change, do we?
We tend to resist anything that pushes, prods or pulls us from a place of the comfortable customary to the uncomfortable unknown. Jonathan expressed that rather eloquently, and while we laughed (for the look on his face as that realization dawned on him was priceless), my mind was drawn to the present struggles of our present state of transition.
Without a doubt, it is emotionally harder to move back and forth with older children and teens – for they are very capable of identifying, mourning, and resisting the change AND all that they’ve lost because of the changes we inflict upon them. They just refind some semblance of belonging, and we uproot them again to go to a place that isn’t what they remember leaving or expect to find upon arriving. So, they are back to figuring out where they belong, once more. People leave; others grow, looking and sounding different; still others change and have new priorities or a different direction. Nothing remains static, and so it is never the same.
I’ve pondered and prayed much. Just exactly how are we to shepherd our children through this time? God, it seems, keeps bringing me back to very well-known verses – so well-known that I might tend to skip right over them without considering their application to right now. They are, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful and comforting words in all of the Bible – words about what it looks like to be a good shepherd:
The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of mine enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the LORD
Psalm 23 (NLT)
When God blesses us with children, He gives us the privilege of becoming shepherds. Parenthood is on way we learn to imitate the heart of our God and Savior. So I read these words, words first stamped onto my heart over 40 years ago, gentle words reminding me how the Good Shepherd cares for me… and see a very practical path for shepherding my children.
As a doer, I focus on the verbs.
There ARE specific things I can do to help my children in this life of often unrelenting change:
- I let them rest by making sure our home is a place of security, fun, and respite from the stresses in their worlds.
- I lead as I demonstrate with word/action/attitude a gentle spirit that accepts and welcomes God’s sovereignty. I lead by remaining expectant, looking to see God’s hand.
- I help them renew: revamp harried schedules, disciple, repair wrong attitudes and beliefs, restore tired hearts, make good on my promises, and renovate by salvaging or commiserating on the inevitable bad days. Be available to text or Skype with the far away ones. Remember, siblings are sometimes the very best medicine for struggling siblings! Grandparents, cousins and far away besties are pretty good medicine, too.
- I guide, drawing them along with me as I run to Jesus in every celebration, challenge, sorrow – even (or especially?) the mundane moments.
- I stay close and comfort by listening and caring about the big and little things that matter – because they matter to them, they must also matter to me; sometimes a little snuggle, hug or emoticon does just the trick.
- I protect through consistent discipline, first of myself and then my children, when necessary.
- I prepare “feasts” – healthy, nutritious snacks and meals that I know will delight my family. I dedicate prep time to prayer – for them. I encourage kids to work alongside me and share about or pray through their day, together.
- I honor my children: a) respect feelings, attitudes, and perceptions (even perceptions needing to be corrected), b) admire accomplishments and the person God is growing them to be, c) protect their reputations, and d) remember that they, too, are equal heirs with me of the King.
- I pursue them, always, with goodness and unfailing love, regardless of whether we always agree – the source of this love is the one and only Good Shepherd.
Most importantly, I trust. I try to follow the example of my Shepherd; it is He who opens the eyes of my children so that they see their cup overflowing with blessings from heaven.
What Bible passages encourage you as you try and parent your TCKs through hard seasons?
How do you practically apply those encouraging words?
adapted and reposted from here