Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Difference Between Love and Control

Love hurts. Truly it does. Love isn’t always pretty, especially when you’re raising children. They can get angry and say the meanest, most hurtful things sometimes. Maybe you’re one of the lucky moms who is fortunate to never hear anything sour hurtled at you through the air. Then again, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’ve found yourself crying on your bed when your child angrily looks at you and says, “You’re mean!” This comment is from the same child who adored you at the age of 3 and wanted to be your best friend and companion forever. Oh how years change things!

It’s hard as our children grow up to loosen the reigns. It’s hard to find that perfect balance between love and control. Because love hurts. And love is tough at times. It’s so hard to love your child by doing the exact opposite thing than what they want – than what YOU want to do! But you do it, because you love them and you see the bigger picture, the one where what they need at the moment doesn’t always coincide with what they want.

Love is hard. It’s hard to stand back and love your child instead of controlling them when you know they are making poor choices in their life. But you do it because you know they need to learn some lessons, even if they hurt.

It’s hard to not put guilt onto your children especially when they become young adults. But to simply let them follow God’s leading (or not) even if that leading or lack of it doesn’t include you. That’s true love. To let a child go when your heart feels like it will break because you miss them so much.
Control never wins. Even if it wins in the short-term by buying a child’s attention or time; in the long run you don’t have their heart. Some moms (and dads) find such value in parenting and in raising their children that they continue it on into adulthood. I was talking to a woman once and she mentored young mothers. She said that was the number one complaint she had – that these young women still felt “mothered” by their moms even though they were now parents themselves.

Sometimes we need to step out of the way. Sometimes instead we need to get on our knees and ask God, “What next?” We need to look inside and see if we’re at fault of not being a good “letter-goer.” I don’t think it’s easy for anyone but love isn’t always easy.

We will never let go of our children. Nor should anyone have the right to ask us to. But when you choose to let God be in charge of their future instead of yourself, you’re letting go of the “say so” and control in their life. You don’t let go of the love, the bond, the right to advise (if asked). You just let go of the “say so.”

That’s the goal of a parent anyways, isn’t it? To raise our children so successfully that they no longer need reminders from us? They no longer need prompts, hints, or gentle teasing about something. They can handle their own finances, make their own mistakes (and learn from them) and know when to ask for advice. They don’t need a “shadow” from mom or dad telling them what they “should” be doing. And as parents, we need to accept the differences of our children. We need to understand that they may choose to celebrate holidays differently, express thank-you’s in a different way than we do, and pursue their faith at a different pace or way than we would choose for them.

Love accepts that. Love knows how to step back and wait for God to do the hinting, the prompting, and the gentle prodding in their lives. Love prays, looks, and listens for the right timing to let God speak.

We’ve had our chance to say what we wanted to say, teach what we wanted to teach. Now it’s time to say goodbye to the brief period of control that God let us have. Control will only chase away those we love instead of drawing them near to us. Don’t let it lie to you or tell you any differently. Just be patient and be faithful. Believe in God and believe in your children.

And love.

For love never fails.

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