In His Arms

I remember the first time I heard Plumb’s song “In My Arms.” I was riding in my car on the way to class, 6 months pregnant, and as I listened to the lyrics, my eyes filled with tears. The song, written about the singer’s kids, speaks of her desire to protect them from the pain, lies, unfulfilled dreams, and disappointments of life. The words of the chorus are: “knowing clouds will rage in, storms will race in, but you will be safe in my arms; rains will pour down, waves will crash around, but you will be safe in my arms.” That song became my “anthem” as I prepared to welcome my son into this wonderful but fallen world.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to this song on my iPod when it dawned on me that the lyrics of this song are sweet but misleading. I cannot protect Carter from all things, no matter how tightly I embrace him. I can’t shield him from disease, natural disasters, freak accidents, and even cruel comments from peers. When the storms race in, I may not have any control over the situation, and I have no say in whether he remains in my arms or is taken to rest in his Maker’s arms. It dawned on me that maybe my job as Carter’s mother is not to guard him from the woes and trials of life but rather to equip him to face them head on with faith in a God who loves him infinitely more than I ever can.

I imagine it’s every mother’s desire to shelter her children, but are we doing them a disservice?

Do you remember elementary school gym class when the phys ed teacher would appoint two captains and tell them to choose their teammates? Do you remember watching uncomfortably as the group of students dwindled to the last remaining boy or girl? Perhaps you were that boy or girl. I certainly was never the first one (or the second or the third) selected. I remember feeling so self-conscious, my palms sweating, thinking that my reputation and the success of my entire life rested in the hands of those two captains.

Luckily, this practice seems to have subsided in gym classes. But has our society moved too far to the other extreme? Now, every player is the MVP. At a local high school, all students with a particular GPA or higher are considered Valedictorian. Tryouts for cheerleading squads and athletic teams result in everyone making it. Today’s parents are working hard to make everything fair and equal. In the process, they are denying their kids’ the opportunity to shine in an area and gain confidence in their talents. They are also prohibiting them from learning how to rebound from disappointment and develop perseverance.

In the July 2007 issue of Parenting magazine, I read an article entitled “Overprotecting your child?” by Dr. Perri Klass. She wrote, “We owe our children love and protection. We also owe them a certain amount of wisdom as they grow. It’s not our job to protect them so completely that they grow up without knowing disappointment, pain, fear, or frustration… above all, it’s our job to help them learn the lessons-even the slightly painful ones- that will give them the skills, defenses, self-knowledge, and sense of humor to cope with a world that contains risk and is not under parental control.”

Relinquishing control and allowing Carter the freedom to learn from painful lessons will probably be my biggest challenge. I am not talking about leaving him to the wolves; I just know I cannot protect him the way I want to, or in a manner that’s always in his best interest. Instead of promising him the world and setting him up for failure, I will need to teach him that dreams may not come true, some friends will not be forever, hard work may go unrewarded, justice will not always win out, unrequited love hurts, illness or disease may strike, and some lives will be taken prematurely. But in the midst of these painful experiences, the goodness of God is steadfast and sure.

Despite the inevitable pains of this life, we have hope because of Christ’s sacrifice of atonement. His blood takes away our sin and cleanses us. And we can look forward to that day when He returns. One of my favorite verses comes from Revelation 7:13-14: “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; the have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

That is the most glorious image of hope I can imagine.

With this eternal perspective in place, I hope I can release Carter into God’s arms each day. This realization has changed my prayers, and this beautiful song by Danny Oertli has become my new “anthem.” He sang this song at our church (Mountain Brook Community Church) a couple of years ago when I was pregnant with our first baby (who is now in heaven), and the lyrics stuck with me. I encourage you to download it from iTunes and allow it to change your prayers as a parent.

God, grant me the strength to pray this!

“Thought You Should Know”

It started on the day you were born
I wanted you to have everything
Now it seems my conscience is torn
Between what I desire and what I believe

What kind of man would I be
If I didn’t pray for you what my father prayed for me

So I pray with all my heart that you will be broken, and a brokenness by god
And I pray that you will fall, and falling down you’ll stand up to rise above it all
I pray that God will break you as you grow
I thought you should know

As you walk down your winding road
Faith and hope will go a long way
You’ll learn all you need to know
That life is hard yet love remains

I wish you nothing but the best
So I am asking God to put you to the test

So I pray with all my heart that you will be broken, and a brokenness by god
And I pray that you will fall, and falling down you’ll stand up to rise above it all
I pray that God will break you as you grow
I thought you should know

I pray that God would break you as you grow
And I am with you every step along that road
I thought you should know

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Carrie said...

Beautiful post. If I weren't reading it at school I would have cried. I love that song but you have great point about the lyrics. And I feel the same way about overprotecting children from the reality of the world. As a high school teacher I am now teaching a generation of kids who all got trpohys and medals. They expect this still. But it just isn't the way the world works. Thank you for such a beautiful post!

Natalie said...

just wanted you to know, that in almost a year of blog stalking, that is one of the most poignant and beautiful posts i have ever read. it just really hit a cord with me and i am tempted to copy the whole thing and let everyone who reads my blog read what you wrote!

The Stephens said...

Kelly~I needed that today. Thank you for sharing your heart!