This post is hard for me to write because the process of adopting, parenting a teenager you didn’t raise, and parenting like Jesus is not easy. This has been a hard journey for Matt and I, but the Lord has revealed so much to me through all of it, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
Through raising our oldest, God has shown me so many things about myself, about Him, about our sin nature and about his grace and mercy. In the beginning Matt and I had no idea what we were doing or how we were going to #1 – raise a teenager (which we hear is hard in and of itself), #2 – raise someone we hadn’t raised for 15 years and #3 – raise someone who grew up in a very unhealthy environment.
I believe there are two types of parenting, reactive and proactive. Very early on we found ourselves parenting reactively; always feeling two steps behind what was going on. I quickly realized this wasn’t going to work for us because our reactions, our punishments, etc. were either ineffective or backfiring. We weren’t parenting her from a “God perspective”, we were parenting her the way we knew best, the way we were raised – you do something bad, there’s a consequence.
At a total loss for what to do I just started praying. I prayed God would give me a heart for her, that He would show me what was really going on – in the Spiritual realm – and how He would handle the situation.
When I first started to do this it was hard. Hard because God didn’t often say what I wanted Him to say (imagine that), hard because of the conversations I had to have with her and hard because it became clear that not only was she rejecting us, but she was rejecting God’s grace and mercy.
As time went on the strategies He gave me became more clear and easier to implement, and I was able to remove myself from the guilt I felt as a parent, who just wanted the best for my child.
But God made it very clear that we have to allow her to make her own choices.
Just like God gives us free will, we have to give her free will and not try to control her.
When she disobeys, or makes a bad decision, Matt and I spend time, on our own, praying and seeking God’s wisdom, and God always give us a strategy. Then we talk, and after that we present her with the choices – and then the hard part – we have to let her choose. The hardest part has been watching her make – what we feel like are – the wrong choices over and over again. This is where I found myself wrestling with the Lord just a couple of weeks ago.
I was in the shower – because let’s be honest, it’s the only place the kids, dog and husband aren’t wanting your attention so it’s easier to hear the Lord’s voice – and I was being really honest with Him. I expressed to Him how frustrating it is that over and over again we present her with His choices, she makes the poor (wrong) choice, so in the end it feels like she’s just always getting away with it. If I had tried to pull off any one of the things she has done, my dad would have killed me and/or grounded me for life, and here she is, just walking away and getting off scot-free.
It was in that moment that the Lord turned it around on me and said,
“how do you think I feel?”
which stopped me in my tracks. And then the Lord in his love and mercy took me back to a couple situations/mistakes Matt and I had made in the past, and He showed me how at the time we didn’t make the right choices either. Even though it was well after we were both out of the house and out from under our parents’ authority, so we were only accountable to the Lord, there wasn’t an immediate punishment for us either. But God showed me that just like my heart is breaking now, for my daughter, His heart was breaking for us at the time of our poor choices. He also reminded me that even though we didn’t get punished at the time, we did pay for those choices later on in our marriage.
It breaks my heart because I know that God wants the best for us, but He does give us free will, and when we make poor choices He allows those things to coming back so we can learn from our mistakes. A couple days after I had that conversation with Him, He lead me to these passages in Psalm 78 (The Passage Translation) that talks about God’s “kids”, the Israelites:
5 The story of Israel is a lesson in God’s ways.
10-11 They didn’t really believe the promises of God; they simply refused to trust Him and move forward in faith. They forgot His wonderful works and the miracles of the past.
36-42 But their repentance lasted only as long as they were in danger; they lied through their teeth to the True God of Covenant. So quickly they wandered away from His promises, following God with their words and not their hearts! Their worship was only flattery. But amazingly, God – so full of compassion – still forgave them. He covered over their sins with His love, refusing to destroy them all. Over and over He held back His anger, restraining wrath to show them mercy. He knew that they were made from mere dust – frail, fragile, and short-lived, here today and gone tomorrow. How many times they rebelled in their desert days! How they grieved Him with their grumblings. Again and again they limited God, preventing Him from blessing them. Continually they turned back from Him and wounded the Holy One! They forgot His great love, how He took them by His hand and with redemption’s kiss He delivered them from their enemies.”
It breaks my heart to think that, for thousands of years, God’s kids have been turning away from Him and breaking His heart, me included! But what an incredible Father He is to continue to love us, provide for us and let us walk with Him as we learn from our mistakes.
As I grow in my parenting, with one in college and one still in grade school, I have a choice to make – do I want to parent from my own perspective – from the attitude that because there was a mistake made, now there must be a punishment, or am I going to chose to parent like Jesus.
I believe parenting like Jesus still means that, at times, there are consequences (especially when our kids are younger and we are still teaching them) but I also believe it means proactively praying for my kids, seeking God’s wisdom when a situation arises, continuing to ask for supernatural grace and mercy, blessing their spirits to lead their mind and their body, praying for them that they would know truth and praying that God would show them their true identity in Him.
All that being said, we are in the midst of this. Our relationship with our daughter is still very broken but I am choosing to keep my eyes on the Lord, to continue to seek wisdom and even when my spirit aches so badly for her, I have to continue to give her to the Lord and trust Him with her future.
Linda Miller says
Anna, Thank you for sharing such a hard subject to share. It’s hard to share the hard times we have in our lives with people we might not even know. The wonderful thing is you are following what God wants you to do.
I will be praying for your daughter. It is hard enough at this time in her life to make choices in her life and most children choose a different way than what they have been taught (which you have not had a long time to be a part of her life). God has his hand on her. He is her Father and he won’t let go of her, just as you and Matt, being her parents, will not let go of her. Be there for her and let her know you love her. God will bless all of you.
My prayers are with you. Linda
Thank you so much Linda.
Erika Spence says
I’m in recovery for codependency and this morning as I read the Bible and my recovery materials, I wondered how do I discipline my five children (1 bio 19, 4 adopted 4,5,5,9) the blessings of obedience and not switch over to the director mentioned in the AA Big Book. Parenting a bio child and reading many Christians. parenting books did little to prepare us for parenting kids from hard places. How does one disciple so many little people and not fall into the trap of self centered control? It is utter chaos here at times. I get so overwhelmed by the noise and moving parts. Three of my kiddos have special needs and that’s not including the dynamic of processing the adoption trauma and pain. My biggest struggle is stepping back and letting God be the director. Allowing him to lead me. Remaining quiet and teachable. Not reacting, but waiting for direction. It often means sitting in the chaos and not making a move. Oh.so.hard.for.me!!!!! I am commenting because I know you get the dynamic of parenting a child with trauma scars. The unique issues that an adoptive parent navigates. Thanks for reading. On Him who saves. E
Wow Erika, thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing your story. You are an amazing woman for adopting all those children, and even though it doesn’t feel amazing most of the time, what you’re doing is Kingdom work. God sees, He knows your needs, lean into Him and He will give you the guidance you need.
Merisuzan Forbes says
Just came across your post tonight because someone shared your list of parenting like Jesus bullet points image on Instagram. So I came to your website to find the image. Upon reading this blog, it is so timely as we have just been given disturbing news about our adopted son. He is 15 and while he stays even keeled on the outside, he’s been talking about taking his life at school. This was just the encouragement I needed. Thank you for your story as it is continuing to help others.