Our oldest got her driver’s license recently and is navigating the roads on her own. It’s fairly gut-wrenching when you spend your whole life trying to keep your precious babies safe, and, one day, with a casual wave, they drive off to school leaving you standing in the driveway, wondering how eleven years of carpool just ended. I chalk up that dramatic moment to Kenny Chesney’s song “There Goes My Life.”
In addition to a new sense of urgency in my prayer life, I would say my saving grace in the teenage driving arena is the Life360 app. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a socially acceptable way to stalk your kid. It tells you where they are, how fast they’re driving, their phone use, crash notifications, and really anything else you need to know about your teenager while they’re behind the wheel of a car.
On the other end of the parenting spectrum, despite my best efforts to keep him in a diaper indefinitely, it seems my youngest has decided to take the potty-training situation into his own hands. Yesterday, he told me he wanted to use the potty, and I literally heard myself tell him to stick with the diaper.
I am vs. I am not
Whether it’s clinging to Life360 and praying my daughter drives around town safely, or running back and forth to the potty, trying to avoid disaster, there are times in the parenting journey where you become keenly aware of your lack of control and how quickly the milestones sneak up on you and change everything.
Somewhere between potty training and Life360, you realize how you love these people with everything you’ve got, yet you still wonder if you’re getting it right. How you work so hard to protect them, only to realize one day they will walk (or drive) away and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
And, although you celebrate in the successes and next steps in their lives, you’re often left wondering if you’re doing enough. Wishing you had a just a little more time to finish up some things before they move on to the next stage.
This morning, I was reading the four “I am” statements Jesus made in the gospel of John:
- I am the bread of life (John 6:35). Jesus is our sustainer.
- I am the light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus overcomes darkness.
- I am the door (John 10:9). Jesus is our pathway to eternity.
- I am the good shepherd (John 10:11). Jesus is our protector.
In the business of parenting, it’s easy to get caught up in the headspace of “I am not.”
I am not protecting them enough. I am not teaching them enough. I am not preparing them for life enough. I am not good enough to get the job done, and time is fleeting.
But Jesus stops us in our tracks and says it plain and simple: “I am.”
I am whatever you are lacking and wherever you feel insufficient—and so much more.
Look at the four “I am” statements above, and you quickly realize Jesus covers it all—every place where we might be lacking, he’s telling us that he’s got it.
We can give our kids food, but only Jesus can give them the life-sustaining bread of life. We can teach them of earthly wisdom and warn of the realities of darkness, but only Jesus is the light of the world. We can try to set them up for success in this life, but Jesus is the only door to gospel-sized freedom and eternal life. We can try to keep them safe, but ultimate protection comes only from the good shepherd.
Net it out? Jesus is for us and our parenting. He travels the road before us. He walks along with us. He fills in the gaps, both the big and small.
God is always with you.
But even then, the road is not always easy.
As I write this, I can’t help but think of an amazing mom, my dear friend who loves the Lord, but is in the trenches of finding the right mental health treatment for her struggling teen. Yet even in some of the darkest parenting days, she’s clinging to the truth that Jesus is still the sustainer. She’s reminding herself he’s for them and will not allow them to walk the road alone.
So, whether you’re ironing a graduation gown this week or packing the hospital bag for your first baby, be assured that God is faithful to walk the road before and with you.
And in all the places between potty training and Life360, when you start believing “I am not,” stop and remember that Jesus is right there in the middle of it all whispering . . . but “I am.”