Pain can make you smarter but it doesn’t always.
I’m not very good at pretending especially when the topic is pain so this might be a little raw for you…
This will seem like an unusual way to end a series about parenting but I felt like it needed to come up in conversation as we normally avoid these sorts of topics until we’re in the middle of it all. When we’re neck deep in pain we rarely think clearly, let alone filter through the discomfort to ask what the purpose of it all could be?
Parenting is a game where you can lose… where you WILL lose sooner or later. A defeat in business can be crushing but in the home the devastation actually breaks your heart. From marriage to raising kids, the cost of failure is high and very, very personal.
I think a large percentage of the parents I know (and myself on occasion) would rather bury a parenting failure inside the four walls of our homes rather than let it out. This creates off limits conversations for your peers in community and moves real conversations into the “Let’s be polite about this situation and pretend everything is ok” mode. Canadian decency at its finest!
By the time you have kids you realize it’s too late to send them back:) A poor purchase can be returned and a poor hire can be let go, but behavioural issues in your own child is tough because you actually have to live with him! I cannot think of a place more prone to failure than my own home and the irony of it is… I cannot even entertain the thought of losing what I care about most.
My personal goal for all of my girls is that they grow up to love Jesus and live for Him. I’m convinced it will be the healthiest life possible, full of purpose and challenge. I would hate for them to grow up thinking their lives were all about them and proceed to hurt themselves with selfish living, it would ruin me.
But sooner or later they are going to have to decide for themselves no matter how many things I got right or wrong. Though I am a believer that parents are normally responsible for how their kids turn out, it is still completely possible for anyone to have the world handed to them and still get everything wrong. Having said that, there is not a perfect parent on earth so the guilt bar is raised when we see things cropping up in our kids that an educated guess would land the blame on our own doorstep.
See how tricky it is? You can lose so easily, and I hate losing!
Let’s look at pain.
Not a popular subject but a very popular experience it would seem. In our culture we spend most of our time and energy in seasons of pain simply trying to escape. In trying to escape (which is a healthy instinct) we miss the point.
The purpose of pain is transformation. Not deliverance.
When our focus during these hard times shifts from “Get me out of here!” to “Teach me something!”, pain can actually be quite useful.
The purpose of the pain of childbirth is not to deliver mom from pain, that is only a by-product of the real purpose: to deliver an actual baby. New life comes from pain! There is a purpose in it!
It can be the same with us. Every painful experience I’ve been through, whether “deserved” or not (subject to much interpretation), had a purpose… to transform me into a better me. This whole “Find yourself!” thing gets annoying when we wouldn’t really like what we found if we were honest with ourselves.
Some people go through pain and come out the other side selfish and entitled. They feel that life has taken from them and now everyone owes them something. This is classic circle the wagons thinking and rarely ends well.
Some people stay in the pain and feel sorry for themselves. They like the attention but would do much better to have a friend honest and strong enough to snap them out of it.
Some people walk through the other side and become better for it.
I realize this is not in any way a comprehensive list of responses, but it can be typical…
A very close friend of mine said something to me along the lines of “When I realized I actually had no control at all in my life….” it clarified the seasons of pain I myself have had to crawl through. This was not a statement from a weak or needy person, she is in many ways one of the strongest and wisest people I have ever met. You may not have met me but though some might describe me as a lot of things, weak would not be one of them.
The illusion of control.
When I talk to young people and urgently try to warn or encourage them to connect with God and with community before the seasons of REAL pain come and wash away what they thought they knew about life, I have to get through the filter of “But I am in control of my life!” This is never an easy barrier in Western culture. I won’t go into detail but when someone like me says “Five minutes of the right kind of pressure would destroy most people’s minds” I’m not saying it to impress you or frighten with old wives tales, I’m saying it because I’ve experienced it, and I am no weakling.
You can get everything right but pain is still part of the package. Sometimes the pain is unbearable but it is much worse when you don’t understand its purpose. Transformation.
Sometimes YOU need a new YOU.
You have to go through the fire for what is not that important to fall away from you. In the future, people will look to you for leadership and for help. People in pain. What will you teach them if you yourself haven’t processed pain all that well? “Just hold on and hope it all goes away!” But what if it doesn’t? Some pain comes whether we like it or not while some kinds stop as soon as the behaviour that causes it does, but all pain can teach if you want it to.
Sometimes the best thing to do is let go in the middle of the storm. I’ve had to say “God, it’s over if You don’t show up now. I’ve done everything I can think of and I’ve got nothing. I know inside myself I would walk away from everything and everyone I love if only the pain would stop and I hate that about myself! If I can get out of bed today it will have to be in Your strength, mine isn’t enough. I know I don’t have control so You’d better take over.” Having said that you have to actually roll out of bed and try to stand. If you can’t walk then crawl, but keep moving.
Sometimes you have to let a dream die before you get a new dream. The crucible of pain is something you can’t walk through for me and I can’t walk through it for you, I have to let go of you.
Your child will have to walk through their own pain. If you shield them from it you may only prolong the season and your child or adult daughter will not learn the lessons that only come when you feel the desperation of soul from having lost control. It’s ironic that we see best when the distractions and fluff of life are cut with a little pain, only then do we realize what is most important and what is worth living and dying for. You can’t teach a person what resolve in the face of massive suffering FEELS like. They have to go it alone.
But sometimes you get kids back by letting go.
There is a story of a prodigal son (us) in the Bible who leaves the home of a loving father (God). The son is focused on himself and takes the inheritance he feels is owed him and blows it all in a far country. He “comes to himself” living with a bunch of pigs because no one would feed him as he hits rock bottom. He says “I’ll go home to my father! I’ll say I’m not worthy to be his son but would he take me as a servant? Anything is better than the nothing I have right now!”
The father had been watching the road since the son walked away on it. He runs out to meet him in the joy that the son he loved and thought was dead is now alive! His son had finally come home.
That is what we really want in raising kids isn’t it? We want our adult kids to be our friends and feel like they can come home anytime (and bring the grandkids with them).
Sometimes you get kids back by letting go.
Final note: the father never went to the pigpen to rescue his son. THAT is the part I don’t like much….