My oldest son was 14 months old the first time we dropped him off in our church’s nursery. From there, my husband and I grabbed some coffee in a paper cup and sat down in the sanctuary for the service. With no family around to babysit, this kid-free time almost felt like a date!
William was all smiles when we picked him up later, but I had a dozen questions for the ladies in the nursery. Did he eat a snack? Did he need a diaper change? What did he play with? I marveled that my son had lived a whole different morning than mine. After 14 months of sharing every experience with him, there was a part of the day that was all his own. Up until that point, it seemed like my baby was just an extension of me.
Just think, I told my husband, the older he gets, the more he’s going to become his own little person, with thoughts and feelings and experiences we’ll never know about! I said this with wonder and awe in my voice, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was some anxiety lurking behind my words.
The fact that my son will grow up to make his own decisions someday provokes some concerns: Will he make wise and loving choices? Will he follow Jesus? I grow tight-fisted about my preferred outcomes for him. I grow anxious about controlling everything now to ensure he’ll turn out like I think he should.
There is, of course, wisdom in parenting intentionally, in imparting values important to us, and in modeling healthy habits of faith. This is good and right. The problem arises when we think we can guarantee the end results.
I marvel that God, in His infinite and unconditional love for us, gives us the freedom to make our own choices. God lets us decide whether to love Him back or not, whether to follow Jesus, and whether to join Him in the work of kingdom-building. If God loves us as fiercely as we love our own kids, how it must break His heart when we choose the path of sin instead of love!
To love my son as well as God loves me, I, too, will need to let him make his own choices as he grows into a young man. I lean on the power of prayer—not as a tool to get my own way, but to be reassured that the God who loves me and wants what’s best for me is the same God that loves my son. I’m reminded of some of Jesus’ final words to his closest friends:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth.” (John 14:16, NIV)
This truth comforts me and gives me confidence:
God will always be with my son, just as God is always with me.
Sarah Butterfield, sarahkbutterfield.com