It is perhaps the revelation every parent comes to at some point. I can’t take the pain away. But you try, the baby falls over and you swoop in to pick her up. The toddler runs too fast for new feet and smashes a knee, your kisses make it all better. Is there anything a regular parent wouldn’t do to take the pain away from their child?
Our kids have their own ways of processing our in-betweenness right now. One of them remarked the other day, Maybe we will never find a car or a house or a job. He wasn’t even talking to us, just sort of throwing the thought into the air. And we see their unsettledness in the night waking, the tantrum throwing. Tonight he asked me if we could go back to Stockholm and buy a house there. Every day I see evidence of their hurting hearts, and everything in me wants to rush in, say the words that sound good, do the thing that will make the tears stop, and take his pain away.
But I’ve done almost nothing. I’ve sat there, reflected his words back to him and rubbed his back. Not because I think it’s the best thing for me to do, but because I have no idea how to fix this, and authenticity is something I aim for as I love my kids. And I know that there is no real answer in the in between we are in right now. We are waiting, waiting and waiting some more. I don’t know when we will find a house, I don’t know that everything in our shipment will be as it was when it left Stockholm, I don’t know if my sons will be happier here than they were in Stockholm. I have no idea, so I do the only thing I can. I nod my head, and I listen. I pray he knows there is a safe space in me for all of his emotions.
Maybe I’m looking into the future to a time of broken hearts and girls, to jobs lost or exams failed or friendships betrayed, and I can see the truth: I won’t be able to do anything about it. There is a deception about these little years, the feeling that I can do something, I hold the keys to their health, happiness and security. But I do not. I am not their healer and provider.
And there is yet another side to all of this. My boys have no idea if we will ever get a car or a house or find work because they have no memory of having to search for these things in the past. They got carried to car seats, they ran around a house they loved. The work involved in finding these things? They knew nothing of it. I know we will find a car and a house even though I have no idea how or when these things will materialise.
I’m doing some tantrum-throwing, too, not in public of course, but into my pillow, words poured out to God, Why? Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it have to take so long? When will my life get back to normal? When will my children stop waking us up at 6am?
I wrote several weeks ago about wrestling with God, and I am still living in that place right now. One morning a few weeks ago, the boys were stirring and getting up around 5:30am, way too early for us and way too early for them. We lay in bed and prayed, and I don’t mean just prayed, Husband and I begged God to make the boys go back to sleep. They didn’t, they woke up, the morning was unpleasant. We were unpleasant, and there has been a lot of this. Many, many prayers thrown at God, without the answers we hope returning to us. And there is profound pain in this process, it shows me the things I long for, why I long for them, and why it hurts when things don’t go as I want them to. But there have always been answers, even if it is not the answer we hope for, God has spoken clearly in the middle of our questions, there is a light leading us on this path. It is a path that shows us daily a bit more about who God is and he is showing us who we are as well.
This is what I am trying to say: I need to let my boys face the pain in their lives because this is teaching them something about life and about God, something that is necessary for a long-term life of health and wholeness. I could give them words and things and experiences that numb their pain, but that only trains them to turn away from pain and toward what they can consume to take the ache away. It is a set up in the direction of addiction and escape. They need to know that experiencing pain is a normal part of life, and that our God will be their companion in the middle of it. And while it is tempting to speak my promises to them – think something along the lines of We will find a house soon! It will be amazing! – turning their hearts toward God’s promises gives them tools for the future. Jesus is with us, he will never leave us, he has good plans for us, he will take care of us, those who trust in the Lord are safe. These things are true.
Every day that I live this out with them, I am giving myself another gift. The daily reminder that I am God’s child, and he doesn’t come to take away my pain. He comes to redeem it. Redemption is not escape or numbness. It is an exchange, it requires a total and complete acknowledgement of what happens, it is never ignoring the bad. I have lived this year after year for over a decade now, and I see it in story after story in the Bible. Deep pain, profound human failures, and a God who sees it all. He didn’t make it go away, he hung on a cross in the middle of our pain and experienced it. God knows the pain for the hurt that it causes, and in his time and in his way, he exchanges it for something beautiful, he turns it into something we cannot imagine. Only God can do this.
Beauty for ashes. The oil of gladness instead of mourning. A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. So that we may be oaks of righteousness, his planting, that we may stand forever in strength and beauty, smiling at the future because we know we are in safe hands.
Now it’s your turn: What pain in your life do you need to face today? What do you need to believe about who God is to help you do this?