My husband and I have been parents for 12 years now. We were not experts when we started our parenting journey and we’re certainly not experts now. That being said, we have learned a few things along the way. So much of the current parenting culture centers around being your child’s friend and, whether knowingly or unknowingly, being afraid of how your child will react when you as the parent set a boundary or a “no” in place. Sounds silly but it’s true.
I am an annoyingly avid researcher. When parenting became my full time season of life I plunged into countless books from all kinds of experts; medical, spiritual and developmental. I wanted to be the best parent I could be for my kids…..dare I say, in my foolishness, the perfect parent.
Twelve years of parenting, now three children, has proved to me time over that I am far from the perfect parent. I can’t protect them from every illness, hurt or danger in this world. We are currently navigating middle school, elementary and preschool years simultaneously. Each phase comes with it’s own set of challenges as well as opportunities for growth and learning. Each phase also comes with a healthy amount of boundaries and “no’s”.
My husband and I try really hard to be aware of the easy “default no” we can fall into and tell our kids yes as often as possible, however, a hard “no” is also often necessary. We set those boundaries and reply with a “no” in instances where we can see what they are asking for is not good for them. Now, we have really great kids but our kids react to “no” like any other kid and that sometimes includes wailing and gnashing of teeth. Over time we have learned that a calm and firm response sounding something like, “You don’t have to like it, but this is our answer and you do have to respect that. We love you”, works best to communicate our love but also our authority as their parents. We do not engage in arguments or offer explanation while feelings are still elevated. Our kids have learned that we are happy to answer questions about our decision if they are delivered respectfully and with the understanding that we are firm in our decision. It’s not about answers and it’s not about understanding. As parents sometimes we give our children an answer to a question they do not like and that is necessary in life. Because I know that my decision is best for them, I can take it when they react poorly.
The same is true of us who are God’s children. I have learned that God’s response to a request is either yes, no or not right now. He is our Heavenly Father and the perfect parent, but as His children we still react like children in our hearts when He responds with a “no” or “not right now”. In His wisdom, He knows what we are asking for is not in our best interest at that particular time, nevertheless we cross our arms, pout, complain, whine, occasionally wail and gnash our teeth and even stop talking to Him.
The good news is, He can take it. He is so much greater and wiser than any earthly parent and He sees our every moment from beginning to end. He knows what is best for us and what is best to accomplish His will through us.
It is so easy to look at “no” negatively as if He were holding us back or even punishing us but I have come to understand what a protection His “no” has meant for my life. I look back and I am so thankful for the times He has told me “no”or “not right now”. So why do I still cross my arms and stomp my feet when I get another “no” from Him? My only answer to that is I am sinful and still growing in maturity in my faith. He has proven beyond faithful to this point and I have no reason to believe that will change in my future. His Word tells me,
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
He does not say, He will figure out His plans for me when He gets around to it, nor does He say He’s out to get me for every little mess up. He doesn’t have to guess or take time to think about it. He already knows and He has a plan.
The past two years for us have been a series of asks and “no’s” from God. Each time it’s gotten harder and harder because each process of adoption becomes more arduous. We get through the initial protocol followed by the mounds of paperwork, doctor visits, meetings, background checks and so on. We finally get a place where the light at the end of the tunnel is visible and then “WHAM!”, a hard “no” comes in the form of a closed door. It’s really difficult in those times to thank God for that. My flesh is weary and my frustrations come out. But thank God, He can take it. He knows what the end of this journey looks like for us and He has a plan. There is hope and a future ahead that is perfect for us in His will.
It is not about me getting answers or even understanding why. My heart rests peacefully when I resolve to sit in a space where I can say to Him, “I may not like it, but I will respect your answer and trust that you have my best interest at heart.”