Psalm 139:16 “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”
As a child I remember watching my parents closely. Just like most children, I would watch how they handled different situations. Although we were very involved in church, it was what I saw behind closed doors that ultimately imprinted my initial understanding of who Jesus really was. I went to a private Christian school for the first few years of my education. We memorized verses and sang Christian songs but in all honestly I am not sure that environment was healthy for me personally. The strict environment had my stomach in knots and my parents eventually took me to the doctor because I was sick from the pressure. Having a perfectionist complex early on in my life only added to the pressure of being godly and obedient at school. I was making the grades, behaving just as I was asked, but it was at the expense of my own health and well-being. My parents seemed to agree and moved me to public school in the fourth grade.
I want to be clear I am not anti private Christian School. But I am completely anti Jesus shaming a child. I personally don’t think a five-year old should be spiritually shamed because they misbehaved. Yes, a conversation is in order, but to tell a five year old how unhappy and sad they are making Jesus is ludicrous in my opinion and sets a child up to see their Heavenly Father as always angry and disappointed. Although, that was not my experience personally, I did watch it happen and it impacted my view of God as well. I just don’t believe you can place adult expectations on a child and then when they mess up, not only show your disappointment but also top it off with “God’s disappointment”. I do think Jesus is to be incorporated in behavioral talks but there is a huge difference between teaching your child a godly perspective and using God as your primary form of discipline breeding fear and shame into their little hearts.
I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home that allowed room for error. There was much grace bestowed to us, as well as punishment when needed. But in the end, my earlier ideas and beliefs were much more impacted by what I saw within my home and not by outside influences. I remember walking into my parents bedroom and seeing my mother praying and interceding for her children. I remember numerous times where she would pray for something that seemed impossible and suddenly a miracle would happen and I would be amazed. She still continues to pray with great anticipation that Jesus is going to do great things. What a privilege to see such faith as a young child because it imprinted God moments into my heart as well. And many times I look back at those moments, because they are a part of my spiritual history and I am reminded of His faithfulness.
Creating spiritual history and points of references in a child’s life is crucial. As we have walked this journey of illness as a family, some of my greatest heartaches have come from knowing my children have to see this painful journey. Motherly guilt settles in and if I have questioned anything along the way, it is why my children have to experience it. I’m an adult, but to watch my daughter cry or see fear in her eyes when I am in a flare up is something no mother ever wants to see. Having her run downstairs and check my bed to make sure I am still in it and not at the hospital is heartbreaking. We do our best to protect them from these situations, but I am helpless when it comes to protecting them because I have no control.
As we have adjusted to our new normal, I have watched our children do the same. Ellie is hilarious and wants to push the wheelchair when we are able to go somewhere. A couple of months ago she said really loudly in a store, “You know, at first I was REALLY embarrassed because my mom had to use a wheelchair. But not any more! I am totally fine with it!” Of course, she rams me into all kinds of things as she pushes but we just laugh and enjoy those moments. She hopped in the pool with me when I was trying to exercise and stayed right by my side saying, “I am here to motivate you!” But we also have had much deeper conversations about Jesus and His healing power. And that little girl is believing for healing in my body as much as anyone I know. She has made me promise to go to church camp with her next summer if I am better and she truly believes I will be there. The above picture is what she brought me back from the beach today. A stone that says, “Health”. She continues to encourage me and challenge me when I see her pure faith. How cool would it be if she can see the healing hand of Jesus Christ this early in her life? It excites my soul to even think about it!
Hunter on the other hand says less, but asks much harder questions. When I tell him that Jesus has us and I know He is faithful, he has responded, “Well, ____ had faith that she would get better and she never did. How do you know?” My response has always been, “I don’t know Hunter. But here’s what I do know…No matter what the future holds for us, Jesus will walk with us every step of the way. If I get better it will be a miracle because this is incurable, but if I don’t Jesus will guide us and give us grace no matter the outcome. He has our family in the palm of His hand.”
To say the mother guilt is gone would be a lie. There are days I think of all the things I feel like I am missing out with them. But, I quickly try to switch that mindset to all the things I am still able do with my kids. They need my time and I can give them that. They need my love and guidance, and I can do that as well. But I also have an incredible opportunity to walk through illness with real faith and trust in Jesus Christ. This is not only a piece of my spiritual journey, it is a piece of theirs as well. One day they will be able to look back at the faithfulness of Christ during a difficult season, and glean from that as they face their own trials, setbacks, and victories. They can remember the spiritual history they have already experienced and trust that He will faithfully walk them through any challenge they may face.
There’s a reason Jesus said to come to Him as a child. My daughter has shown me what that really means. She simply believes Jesus will heal my body. Why wouldn’t He? In her mind, it’s not a question of if I will walk in healing, but when. I will hold onto the stone she brought me for encouragement, but I will cling to the One who holds our very life in the palm of His hand. Let’s be those godly examples for our children, praying for them, praying with them, so they can one day pass on their spiritual legacy to their own children. He will do what He has promised. He is faithful! Don’t give up! The best is yet to come!