My guest blogger today is Val Bush, our teammate at Hope for Hurting Parents. Be sure to read more about her and see her pretty smile at the end of the blog.
Change? Are you kidding me? You want me to change? After all I’ve been going through? Have you seen my child, Lord? He’s the one who needs to change! Not me. I’m a law-abiding citizen. People describe me as trustworthy and dependable. And I’m a strong Christian! (Mic drop)
A tree in our neighborhood has seen better days. One of its branches (still full of leaves) broke under the weight of a heavy October snow. Now, months later, the rest of the tree’s leaves are gone, with the exception of those on the broken branch. That branch retained all its leaves, although they, too, are brown and dead. They remain attached, as if exempted from nature’s seasonal cycle.
This spring, the tree will produce signs of new, healthy life. Dead leaves, however, will remain on the broken limb in stark contrast to the green buds surrounding it. Certainly an eyesore, the decaying limb will also threaten the rest of the tree by potentially harboring pests and disease.
Throughout the fall and now winter, this unappealing tree branch reflects the equally unappealing topic of change. This has been the focus of both my daily devotions and recent messages at church. (Isn’t this often God’s way of teaching us something? He brings it up everywhere we turn!)
When it comes to change, I typically focus on the obvious, “dead leaf” areas of those around me.
I understand that for my loved ones to grow and flourish, certain “broken branches” need to be eliminated from their lives. In my role as a parent, this awareness is only heightened.
Pastor and author Peter Scazzero observes, “We often forget our humanity, our limits, and our inability to change others.”
Parents of prodigals especially suffer from this myopic focus. It’s easy for us to fixate on areas of change we feel need to be addressed in our children. The more issues we observe in their lives, the longer our laundry list of needed change becomes. If you’re anything like me, obsession with our kids takes over our thoughts, prayers, and strategies by day and our fears by night. “They really need to remove that dead branch of theirs.”
With our mental efforts focused on seeing change occur in them, we have little time or capacity to recognize God’s voice in our own lives. As God’s children, however, it is our responsibility and privilege to submit to His transforming work in our own lives first and foremost.
Scazzero quotes the words of a Hasidic rabbi on his deathbed:
When I was young, I set out to change the world. When I grew a little older, I perceived that this was too ambitious, so I set out to change my state. This too, I realized as I grew older, was too ambitious, so I set out to change my town. When I realized I could not even do this, I tried to change my family. Now as an old man, I know that I should have started by changing myself. If I had started with myself, maybe then I would have succeeded in changing my family, the town, or even the state—and who knows, maybe even the world!
God designed us to adjust parts of our lives that are not His best for us. When we do, like the tree, we’ll see lovely seasons of growth. New growth only occurs as we allow Him to search our hearts and reveal areas that need His blessed transformation. Otherwise, our old habits, sins, and autonomous methods of coping with life’s difficulties (apart from God) will persist like dead leaves on a broken branch.
I like Psalm 131:
“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
Like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
Both now and forevermore.”
As God’s children and parents of prodigals, we must tend to our own hearts and let Him tackle the business of tree trimming in our children’s. This happens when we are quiet before Him; when we content ourselves with his continued work in us during this painful season.
It took a long, long time before I understood this on my parenting journey. Expressing daily prayers similar to the following made a tremendous difference in my life:
Lord Jesus, give me eyes to see and ears to hear the ways You want me to change. Through Your Holy Spirit, give me the courage to allow You to make these changes in my heart. Grant me hope that as my old ways are brought to death, new life will burst forth in me. May I be deeply, radically, and powerfully transformed for Your name’s sake. Amen.
Val and her husband, Bob, live just outside of Boulder, Colorado. She is the mother of four children, 17 to 26, and loves the fact that all of them currently live nearby! After serving for 21 years with Cru’s Campus Ministry, Val is now on staff with Hope for Hurting Parents as a parent mentor. She offers online and personal support to our support group facilitators all over the U.S. Her favorite pastimes include reading, cooking with the family and (occasionally) vacationing Disney World.