Spring’s Message of Hope

Springtime reminds me that there is always hope for anyone.  At the end of winter much of nature (trees, flowers, bushes) looks dead, even in Florida.  Leaves turn brown, dry up and fall off.  The plants and trees become dormant.  This happens to my Crepe Myrtle trees every year.  There are no leaves are on them anymore.  There’s nothing green anywhere.  They appear completely lifeless. But I know there is still life in them and they will come back like new in the spring.  If I prune them back, then they come back even more beautiful than the year before.  So, I always have hope for them!

In my back yard I also have a lot of flowering bushes that were damaged severely this year by the sub-freezing temperatures.  I was so sad.  I had really enjoyed an abundance of blue flowers on them most of the year. I could look out the window and see them from the kitchen sink whenever I was working there (quite often!).  But they had become nothing but lifeless sticks.  I was sure there was no hope for them.  I thought I should just give up on them, dig them up and plant something else in their place this spring.

Then I had this vague thought that just maybe I shouldn’t give up on them too quickly.  Just maybe I could prune them back, like my crepe myrtle trees  . . .  and wait.  . .  not believe how things looked, but wait and see what would happen this spring.  What could it hurt?  And if they came back, I would save myself a lot of work and money!

Well . . . .guess what happened?  About a month ago small signs of life began to be appear.  Little green sprouts were here and there all over them!  I was so shocked and thrilled at the thought that they just might make it!  And yes, as the days passed and I continued to wait, more and more green sprouts showed up until all the bushes were fully covered with all new leaves!  They were transforming into brand new bushes right before my very eyes!  It was so unexpected!

And then it hit me . . . that it is the same in our children’s lives.  God has given us the visual example in the season of spring to remind us of the promise of new life and the hope of re-birth.  What looks dead to your eyes isn’t dead to God’s eyes . . . it just looks like it is.  It’s all in your perspective.  God has knowledge we don’t have.  He has power we don’t have.
Father, do your pruning work in my child’s life.  Teach my heart the message of spring.  Remind me that you are working even when I can’t see any signs of it.  Help me hold on to hope and never give up.  Thank you for the promise of spring – – the promise of New Life and the very real Hope of a re-birth.  And, by the way, thank you for reviving my plants.  I can’t wait to see blue flowers from my kitchen sink again!
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions . . .”  (Eph. 2:4-5)
“. . . But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  (Rom. 8:24)
“Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God . . .” (Ps. 42:5a)

Parents Tend to Feel Guilty

When your child is having a problem with alcohol, drugs, self-harm, an eating disorder, sexual promiscuity, same sex identity issue, in trouble with the law, thoughts of suicide, depression, OCD,  etc. a common emotion is feeling guilty. You wonder if it is somehow your fault. There seems to be no rest from the plaguing questions: “How could this happen to MY child?” “Is this my fault?” “What did I do wrong? “What did I not do that I should have done?” “Could I have prevented this?”

There is just no end to the revolving door of “What ifs” and “If onlys!” It seems to be our way of answering the “Why?” question and it is pure self-torture. Parents tend to examine their parenting record, looking for that moment, that mistake that flipped the switch on their relationship. Why? Because guilt — one of our biggest enemies — embarrasses those heartbroken parents into silence. They believe that anyone who found out about their wayward child would immediately assume that, had they done a better job of parenting, their child would never have turned against them or against God. I sure felt that way.

If there is good reason for you to feel guilty, then be honest with yourself, talk to someone about it – a trusted friend/pastor/counselor, then give it to God. He freely offers us forgiveness. The Bible has some things to say about that: “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” (Psalm 25:11 ESV); “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 ESV) and, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV)

If you have dealt with your guilt, but still feel guilty, it is false guilt! Let go of the past and move forward. Sometimes, though, we may need to ask our child for forgiveness for things we have said or done, or not done. It doesn’t excuse their choices and gives them no right to put all the blame on us, but this humility and honesty can often have a huge impact on your relationship with them. But you have to do it with no expectations of how they will respond!

In a parent support group I was in recently, a mom said, “We need to let our children own what is their part and then we need to own what is ours. Beyond that, we need to refuse the rest! None of us is a perfect parent, but we did the best we could!”

I was reminded that only God was the perfect parent. He made no mistakes, yet even his first two children (Adam and Eve) rebelled! Who am I to think I deserve any better than that? What a helpful thought this was for me!

I am not where I once was in my struggle with guilt. Sometimes I still torment myself wondering if there was something I could have done differently, or not done that might have changed things. I need to be much kinder to myself, how about you?