Saturday night we got a phone call no parent wants to receive. Our daughter had just left our house to return to her college apartment. When we said our goodbyes, my mothering instincts kicked in and I reminded her to be extra careful and watch out for drunk drivers. When her name popped up on caller ID a half-hour later, my heart sank, and I knew something was wrong. She was crying and said, “I’m all right, but I’ve been in a car accident.” Both relief and panic set in simultaneously, and we rushed out the door to go get her.
By the time we reached the scene of the accident, we learned what had happened. Another driver (probably drunk, but who fled the scene) had sped up behind her and hit her back right bumper, sending her Volvo convertible into a tailspin down I-10. When her car stopped spinning, she was facing oncoming traffic and a semi-truck was barreling her way. She jumped out of her car and was able to cross the other lanes of traffic and get safely to the shoulder. Thankfully, the semi was able to change lanes, and avoid a subsequent hit to her car. The whole thing was over in seconds, but four days later, I’m still trying to come to grips with it.
The Paradox of Holding On and Letting Go
You can imagine all the ‘what if’ scenarios that have played through my mind since Saturday night. Any number of factors could have changed the outcome of our story from a close call to a tragedy. The more I think about it, the more uneasy, and the more thankful I become.
Since the accident, my husband and I have joked that maybe she should just move home, and do homeschool-college. Why isn’t that more of a thing? She could stay here, and we could keep her safe. Even though we love having her home, we know letting go is part of the normal course of growing up.
From the moment our babies leave the safety and protection of the womb, we are literally and figuratively pushing them out. They can’t stay in the nest forever, and this brings us joy and sorrow. Isn’t this the paradox of parenting? The more we want to hold on to them, the more time reveals we have to keep letting them go, little by little.
We Like to Think We’re In Control
My phone has a feature where it pulls up a series of photos from this week in years past. It reminds me of chubby cheeks, messy diapers, and what seemed like a season where I had more control. Back then I wasn’t worried about drunk drivers, active shooters, or perps hiding behind the bushes. It’s easy for me to become nostalgic and forget that even when I controlled more of their environment, I was often at my wit’s end as to how to control them.
And therein lies the problem with our control issues. We like to think we have some measure of control over our children’s lives, but when the drunk driver hits them on the freeway, we’re reminded how little control we really have.
I’d like to believe that as their mother, with their best interests at heart, I know what’s best for my kids. What’s best for them is to always get safely from point A to point B. I’d be perfectly happy bypassing these too-close-for-comfort reminders that I am not in control.
Finding Rest in Our Dependence
We don’t like the uncertainty of placing our lives and survival in others’ hands. There are too many factors outside of our control. But when the disciples asked Jesus who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, his answer was the opposite of what they expected. They probably expected him to say the greats would be the ones who’d cast out demons in his name, or did other great feats for God. But Jesus put a child in their midst and said,
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 18:3-4
Children may try to assert their control, but they are completely dependent on their parents for survival. And that’s how we are to be as God’s children. We may be adults, but spiritually, we have to become like children. Greatness isn’t found in our perceived self-sufficiency but in our utter and complete dependence on the Father.
Is Safety Ultimate?
I admit that I’m not very good at this letting go business. I’m about to get even more practice at it in the fall when our son also heads off to college. Even writing those words hurts my heart. I should be happy that he’ll only be 45 minutes away, he feels a call on his life, and he’s pursuing it. All those things do make me happy and proud, but he won’t be here and I don’t know how I’ll bear it when that day comes.
How will they get stronger, if they don’t take risks, and venture out of the nest? How will I get stronger if I don’t exercise my faith and child-like dependence on God to protect those I love most?
God’s In Control
Maybe Dory in Finding Nemo said it best when she remarked on Marlin’s control issues over Nemo’s safety. “You can’t never let anything happen to him then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”
We laugh because we all know how true this is. As parents, we’re constantly balancing our God-given instincts to protect, with our own dependence on God to help us let them go. How does this practically work itself out? I don’t know.
One thing I do know, is the older I get, the more dependent I am on God’s grace to do just about everything.
So we keep praying for them, we keep trusting God to protect them as only he can, and we keep checking for drunk drivers on I-10. It’s a wild world out there. How good it is to be a child of the Father who’s in control of it all.
Depending on him,
P.S. I’ve made my Paths of the Righteous e-book free for download. It will encourage you in your path of life, to trust the Good Shepherd like many saints of old. Enjoy!