As a child, I lived unafraid. I grew up in Montana with a few thousand acres to roam. In elementary school, I spent many hours hiking in the foothills and building forts. I also regularly went out rattlesnake hunting with a slingshot (not recommended). As I entered middle school, I developed a passion for snowboarding and dirt bikes. I spent my free-time jumping off cliffs and riding up the side of mountains. I never once thought about getting hurt.
Then I had children of my own. Everything changed. Not only did I think more about my safety, I began worrying about their safety. I became over-protective. I would never allow my children to do the things I did as a kid. I wanted to make sure they were safe.
As I read my Bible things changed. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus is sending his disciples out on a short-term missions trip. He’s helping prepare them for things they will encounter on this mission. I’ve read this passage of scripture multiple times, but never noticed one part. He says, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3, ESV). Jesus admits he is sending his disciples out into a dangerous situation. They will be like lambs in the midst of wolves. And guess what? Jesus is still sending them.
Jesus is not overly focused on protecting the disciples from danger because God is not overprotective. This realization settled deep inside my soul. My loving Father in Heaven is not overprotective. He’s willing to send me into difficult situations. He’s not worried about me getting scratches and bruises. He’ll even send me—a poor little lamb—into a pack of wolves. Why? It’s not because he doesn’t love me. I know He loves me deeper than I can imagine.
So, why does he allow me to struggle? I can’t answer that question fully in this short post, but I can give one reason: We will never learn or grow unless we fall and mess up. As I’ve been learning this truth, I’ve also been teaching it to my children.
I have a perfectionist streak in me, which means my kids have that same streak. They assume they will do everything perfectly the first time. Guess what? It never happens.
When they started playing hockey, they spent hours falling on the ice before they gained a beginner's skills in skating. They needed some bruises to learn how to skate. If I would have protected them from the bruises, they would have never learned. The bruises were part of the process.
The same thing is true with us as parents. We will never learn how to parent if we’re always afraid of messing up. Messing up is part of the process. God has sent us like lambs into a pack of wolves (doesn’t parenting feel like that sometimes?). As we raise our children, there will be times when we allow them to do things we shouldn’t have allowed them to do. There will be other times when we will say “No,” when we should have said “Yes.” There will be times when we speak when we should have listened, and times when we listen when we should have spoken. We are going to mess up. We are going to make mistakes. Yet, God allows us to make these mistakes—to get the bumps and bruises—because they are part of the process. We will never learn how to parent if we never mess up.
We also need this reminder with our children. They will never learn how to grow up if we’re always afraid of them getting hurt. God’s not overprotective of us, and we shouldn’t be overprotective of them. We have to allow our kids to make some mistakes and get some bumps and bruises. It’s all part of growing up.
Thankfully, the God who watches over us is also watching over our children. This brings me great comfort and allows me to loosen my grip a bit. As I learn how to lighten up and let my kids get some bumps and bruises, I know I’m not turning them over to “blind fate.” I’m placing them into the hands of my faithful Heavenly Father. He may allow them to get some bumps and bruises, but he will use every one of those bruises to shape my children into the image of his Son—Christ Jesus.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster