Whether you’re a homeschooling mom or not, if you’re a parent, you will be faced with the difficult task of letting go of your children and allowing them to make their own decisions, whether good or bad. Of course, every parent wants their child to make wise choices that will lead them to healthy relationships and happy, productive lives. But therein lies the challenge. What if your child is choosing something that you feel is not morally right or beneficial? What if they are in an unhealthy relationship? Do you interfere, or let them work things out?
I was speaking with a friend recently who was heartbroken over some of the trials that her adult son was going through. I empathized with her pain and her desire as a mother to fix things. But I also counselled her to let him go. He is an adult now, and is responsible before God for his own choices. The Lord has given us the gift of free will, and we must also extend that to our adult children. Of course, there are consequences to our choices as well as the choices of others, but in trying to protect our sons and daughters from those consequences, we often do them a disservice. We deprive them of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and grow in maturity. (There are times, however, when someone’s life is in danger; I’m not saying we shouldn’t interfere at those times).
As mothers, when our children are hurting, we are hurting. In addition to the hurt that we feel over their situation, we may be experiencing shame, guilt, anger, anxiety, depression, or even rejection and blame from our children. They are adults, but our hearts are still broken over their brokenness. They might be lashing out at us and blaming us for some of the difficulties they are going through. How are we to respond?
One of the most painful but valuable lessons the Lord has taught me is that as long as I am holding onto my dream and expectations for that child, I will be stuck in a negative emotional cycle and relationship with that son or daughter. If I can’t let go of my desires for that child and the urge to try to control the situation so that my dream comes true, I will be miserable. I will have tied my self-esteem and happiness to that child’s choice to conform to my desires or not. I will be happy when my child…..(fill in the blank). But what if that never happens? Will I live my life in misery? No, there is a way out: and that is to surrender our children to the Lord and trust that he loves them more than we do; that he is working out his perfect plan in their lives; and that they are accountable to God for their choices, not I. We have raised our children, and now they are adults. We can pray for them, love them, and give them counsel when they are open to it, but we must let them make their own choices now.
We also need to stop taking on shame, guilt, anxiety, and rejection. If there are offenses we have committed, an apology is in order. But we shouldn’t take on the shame of our children’s wrong choices, nor continue to receive blame for offenses that we’ve apologized for. Some adult children are masters at blaming parents for all their ills in life and denying their own responsibility in how their life has turned out. As we pray regularly for our children, trusting the Lord to work in their lives, our anxieties will be alleviated. If they are rejecting us, we can turn to the Lord for comfort. He knew what it was like to be falsely accused and rejected by the very ones he loved the most.
When I got baptized, one of the choruses that we sang contained the words “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning back.” The Lord has brought that song to my mind many times in difficult trials. He has asked me, “Even if no one goes with you (children, husband, friends, whomever), will you still choose to follow me? Will you let go of what you want to see happen in other people’s lives, and follow me even if your desires don’t get realized?” When I said yes, I had so much more peace in my heart! I believe that the Lord takes us all through a similar process, where we are learning to let go of the things that we hope will give us happiness, peace, security, and fulfillment, and instead are finding ourselves in a position of rest in God’s unfailing love and purpose for us. It can be a rough ride to get there, but it’s a sweet spot to be in!
[Mar 10:28-30 NIV] 28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–along with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life.