God said to Adam: “Don’t eat the apples off that tree.”
Adam said, “What tree?”
God replied, “That tree – in the middle of the garden. Don’t eat the apples.”
Adam called: “Hey Eve, we got apples!”
Children … sigh! My son recently found himself in a tough spot due to some poor choices he’d made. I was concerned and worried enough to go into prayer mode for him, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every morning, he consumed my thoughts. He was constantly on my mind. Help him, God, I prayed. Guide him to you. Show yourself to him. Let him know his life is not his own. He has a greater responsibility because he has been given so much. Call him to you. And on it went. I also enlisted the help of a few relatives and trusted friends to pray with me. I just wanted to be sure my son was OK. My friends and family comforted me and prayed with me and God came through for me and my son – as always. I am thankful. But just before I got the good news that God turned his situation around, I had a realization. My son was not the only young person who’d lost his way and therefore, become guilty of frustrating and disappointing his parents. The main difference between my son and others? THEY were not my problem.
“… they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Pastor Martin Niemöller
See, I thought it couldn’t happen to us. I thought we were immune to some of the difficulties other families faced. I felt secure in how I’d raised him, the calling on his life and in how much God had blessed us. When other parents told me of their trials, I would pray with them, but I felt personally detached from their situation. “Wow,” I thought. “Look at what THEY are going through!” Such Arrogance. Now I am ashamed of my attitude. “Peace and safety,” says the scripture, is what we claim just before “sudden destruction” overtakes us (1Thessalonians 5:3). Before it personally touched me, I didn’t even THINK to pray continually for the guidance and safety of all of our young people, everywhere. I know now that was foolishness, for their calamity at some time may touch me and mine in some form. And soon we will hand our world over to them – our young people, to do what they will – no, to do what we have trained (or failed to train) them to do. God used this situation to convict me: Loria, you’ve got to care. You’ve got to pray. This does affect you and your loved ones. You’ve got to be concerned.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you…” 1 Samuel 12:23
While our situation was not dire and we were not in desperate straits -THIS TIME – what if the opposite were true? Would it have taken something truly awful for me to be actively praying for a solution? Wow. When it happened to my son’s friends, I thought “Wow. Look at him – he did that to his poor mother.” And it’s true, when our kids do things that are not in keeping with what we have taught them, we look to ourselves. What did I do wrong? How could I have done this better? Is this a result of such and such catastrophe? Are they acting out? As mothers, we take this on ourselves. Even scripture says, “A child left to himself will bring shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15) Society doesn’t automatically look to the father, they look to the mother. And we look to ourselves for the blame, too.
My friend said to God (concerning her own son), “I didn’t raise him like that!” To which God replied, “Then why are you letting the devil condemn you about it?” Nobody wins the blame game – it just keeps you wrapped up in guilt, feeling badly and not being able to get past it. Haranguing and nagging the offender doesn’t help. When confronted, my own son said, “What do I do now?” That attitude helps us to move forward. Sometimes, analyzing how we got where we are helps to ensure we don’t make the same mistake again. But eventually, we
have to address the situation head on: How do I get myself out of the pickle I find myself in? And then we need to pull up our sleeves and work to do just that.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” African Proverb
When my children were small, I used to walk them to their bus stop daily. It was only a short distance away – just a couple of blocks – but it was on a busy street. For some reason, other parents felt completely safe with sending their children unattended, or so I assumed. I was quite on my high horse about it – “THOSE parents,” I thought. How could they send their children to play near a major street? Not my children, I said to myself, as I proceeded to escort them every day. Before long, I knew all the children and I was the adult presence at the bus stop. I watched out for them all.
I remember when some of those same children were doing poorly in school. I recall one girl who couldn’t read, yet she was being advanced from grade to grade. These same children wanted to form a “study club” and invited my children to participate. But I wouldn’t allow my children to become involved for fear their grades would slip, too. That was alright for THOSE children and THOSE mothers who were uninvolved and did not seem to care. It didn’t occur to me that maybe, those mothers could not do better. And maybe somewhere along the line, their children would affect my own.
It seems my neighborhood school shared my views. They were guilty of not caring about the progress of the children and foisting the responsibility solely off on the parents. They thought those families alone would be affected. They didn’t see a reason to care because it didn’t affect the student body as a whole. Except one day, it did. Our school was evaluated and found lacking – they were put on the watch list. I was sent a notice telling me that I could send my children to another school because our current school did not meet the standards. Wow. The following year – let me tell you – I received no such notice from the school regarding their academic standing. It was a humbling experience and they realized what affects one, may affect us all. Lesson learned. Message delivered.
That was a wake-up call for the school and for me, then. But now, today, it’s message returns to me. We must care when we hear stories of other children doing poorly. We must care when we hear of other parents who are struggling. We must NOT think it affects only THEM, for we could be THOSE parents – it’s only by the grace of God that we are not in their shoes. We must pray for them now, as we would our own children and not wait until it becomes our problem. It is our duty and responsibility. If we don’t care today, one day we will – because their lives may very well be intertwined with our own.
P.S. I’m thankful for the joke that reminded me, even God has problems with wayward children (LOL!) and for the friend who reminded me “God is ABLE” to keep them!