Kids will 'test the nest'...
“How did you raise us to be like we are?”
Heidi was driving with Aly after a Saturday Night service at our church last weekend and floated this question to her mother. She was obviously thinking about her desires and her satisfactions and comparing notes with her peers. This has been going on way more in the last year (really with all our girls). As they get older, they start to test their wings, but here’s the thing, they also start to test their ‘nest’. Here’s what I mean.
As they launch out into the big world and bounce their life off people and rub shoulders with their backgrounds and values and decisions and desires, they begin to wonder about their own. What makes us do that? Why do we pray at dinner? Why do we laugh together at night? Why don’t you let us do that? Why are we so physically affectionate…where did that come from? Why do you ask us those questions? Why don’t I feel like I hate being home? Why are we in ministry? Why do you apologize to us when you’re wrong? Why do you share your weaknesses with us? Why don’t we spend money on that, why do we give so much money to the church?
Why are we the way we are?
Testing the nest will happen for every child. They will either find their home to be a safe place to be themselves, or they will find somewhere else to be a safe place to be themselves. They will discover integrity or duplicity. They will uncover secrets or treasures. They will feel they are valued or tolerated. They will see their parents for who they truly are, flawed humans, who are either cover-ups or grown-ups, either apologizing or rationalizing. They will respect the consistency of convictions or disrespect the moving target of moral absolutes. They will come to see that ‘no’ is just as loving as ‘yes’, sometimes more so. They will see whether mom and dad are really together in this thing. They will see who is checked out and who is dialed in. They will notice slipping or solid standards as time passes. They will come to trust when something is said, or mistrust words that aren’t backed up with action. They will see whether God is a lucky rabbit’s foot or the center of every single action and reaction. They will see whether church is a social club or an indispensable community. They will ‘test the nest’.
So when Heidi asked Aly what she meant when asking, “How did you raise us to be like we are?” she responded by saying, “How did you do it? Why do we love going to church and why do we want to follow and please God? Why do we love being with you and being home with our family?” I think there was something about seeing me preach that night for the first time in 14 weeks after a restful sabbatical that stirred up something inside her. She was feeling so emotionally excited about her life and she knew that was abnormal. She loved her life and as she scrolls through her Instragram account she can see so many of her friends posting about how much they hate their life, or their homes, or their parents, or their friends, or their boyfriends. She was simply wondering, “Why do I not feel that way? What did you guys do to make it so I don’t feel what seems to be the prevailing mood of so many?”
In humble honesty, I don’t know all the answers to that question. We haven’t been perfect, that’s for sure. We make mistakes and failed in front of them. But I think that’s just it, we fail in front of them and aren’t afraid to admit it and say sorry. We know we’re flawed and our kids aren’t awed by us. We are with them in this confusing, scary thing called life. We are trying to stay present in every season of their lives wherever their hormones and estrogen levels take them. We celebrate their wins and (don’t hate me) celebrate their losses. That’s right, we think it’s really good for them to lose and to learn to lose well without it dismantling them. We cry with them when they’re hurt and we laugh with them when things are really funny. We talk about God seamlessly in conversation as if He is right there with us. We get mad when things don’t go well and are glad when things go swimmingly. We are human…and yet we want to be like Jesus especially when we’re struggling to be. That is our goal, as lofty as it may be. He is our example and our hero. We fail forward, falling toward Him--needing his mercy. We live grateful for grace that fill in the gaps we can’t help but leave in our parenting. And maybe, just maybe, that’s what Aly is beginning to see. Who knows?
All I know is that I love that our girls are beginning to “test the nest” as they “test their wings”. I can only hope that we will continue to live in such a way that it breeds freedom in their spirit and love in their heart. I want them to love people and love God with all their beings…and it is my hope that we will show them how crazy, messy, and rewarding that kind of life really is.
At this point in my life I’m trying to go “a step a second”, not “a mile a minute”. If I can honor God with each step, the miles will accumulate. Staying in step with the Spirit moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month, and then, year by year…until finally I see my Father face to face and he says, “Well done. You were good and faithful. Enter into my joy.” Oh, how I long for that day!