My daughter turns two this week! It’s truly amazing to see how much kids develop and change in the first couple years. No longer the crawling baby we had this time last year, Nora’s now a fun and goofy and hilarious toddler!
There was a moment after she started speaking in full sentences where it became a felt reality for me that she is her own person. Of course I knew this already, but it just becomes more real when this little human is telling you what she wants, what she likes and doesn’t like, and expressing her thoughts completely unprompted.
Seeing her begin displaying that independence and realizing that before we know it, she will live her own life apart from Michael and I is both exciting and terrifying. If God grants her the days, who will this little toddler become as an adult? What will she be like? What does life hold for her?
As moms, we often envision only the best for our kids. I mean, doesn’t this sound great?
My daughter will be a grow up smart, kind, and well-loved by her peers. She will excel in school and establish a fulfilling and well-paying career before finding a wonderful man with a solid career to marry. She will give me several wonderful grandkids and be generally healthy all her life. She will live in a beautiful home in a safe suburb with good schools. She will be active in serving her community and have many friends and important connections. She will live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in her sleep. Oh, and she became a Christian at a young age and followed Jesus all her life, being spared the heartache caused by “big sins.”
These types of visions for our kids drive us to give them advice and discipline and expectations so they can achieve what we want for them – the best circumstances, the best relationships, and the “happiest” life.
I want only the best for you, so listen to me. Mama knows best, right?
In Christianity, we see a sovereign God who has an “upside-down kingdom.” He uses hard and unexpected circumstances to establish his purposes. He sends His people into battle with the odds stacked entirely against them, just to show them that it is He and not they who will win the fight. He raises up complete nobodies and “serious” sinners to be his representatives and to follow Him. He rejects those who are serving Him only for the purposes of serving themselves. He redeems killers of Christians to become church leaders, both thousands of years ago and today. And he calls us to live a life of joy and fulfillment and peace, but this is accomplished only via the example of Christ – self-denial, humility, and choosing good for others at cost to yourself.
So if I believe in this upside-down kingdom where God accomplishes his perfect will through circumstances that seem far from ideal, safe, or comfortable, then maybe the “best things” I want for my daughter may not be what’s actually best for her?
What if she doesn’t need to be smart or brave or deeply ambitious because God loves her and offers her an unshakable identity with or without any of those things?
What if it’s better that she remains single, learning to find her identity and completeness in Christ while devoting herself to serving others in her local church and community?
What if it’s better that she and her husband will never conceive, but this heartbreak leads them to a life spent rescuing others’ children enslaved in the sex trade in Southeast Asia?
What if it’s better that instead of living in a safe and comfortable suburb, she and her husband move their family into the inner city to better work alongside churches and organizations serving the local community?
What if it’s ultimately better that she goes through a long period of rejecting Christianity before she can see the riches of His grace for what they are, and her time of rebellion uniquely equips her to reach and love others who are stuck and hopeless just as she was?
Does this mean I want my daughter to be lazy, alone, barren, in peril, and far from the Lord? Does this mean I should in any way teach her to reject marriage and children and a good job? Of course not! It just means that whenever I begin thinking that her ultimate happiness, worth, or success in life are attached to any of those things, I am not pointing her to a life with gospel-lenses. I am not remembering that God’s ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8) and that my perspective is actually too limited to know what will really cause her to flourish. And I am not believing the truth that God often gives people paths to walk that they never wanted or imagined, and yet they are better than what they wanted or imagined.
All of this is easier said than done. My heart aches just thinking about the pain, disappointment, and detours that may lie ahead for her. But I have to remember that ultimately, it’s not specific circumstances or even living out Christian activities like church or serving the poor that are “best” for my daughter. It’s a mind and heart that has been transformed by the love and grace of God, resulting in a steadfastness that looks at any circumstance, any situation, and says, “Lord, you are working everything together for my good and for your glory.”
So to Nora, my daughter, I may know what’s best for you right now as I tell you that it’s better to change your diaper than to keep playing with poop all over your butt, or that it’s better to eat real food and not cookies all the time. But if God grants you the years and you get older, I often won’t know what’s truly best for you. I will always try to give you the best and most God-honoring advice I can, but there will be times where I am more concerned with pushing you toward a worldly vision of success and happiness than a godly one. I hope that in those moments, God will quickly remind me that the best for you won’t be found in a specific circumstance, person, possession, number in a bank account, or even number of years that I hope you get to have.
So I’ll say it now, the only best I truly want for you, the only best that your dad and I pray and pray for you is this: First, that you would learn how desperately broken and in need of a savior you are and then of the infinite love in Christ that heals and pays for and redeems all of that. Then, that you would see the beauty and invaluable treasure of that grace and recognize that Jesus is better than anything. And then that you would go and live this life in sunshine and rain, triumphs and challenges, joys and pains, firmly anchored and secure in God’s love and grace.
It may look much different than what the world calls “successful” and “happy,” and it will often not be what you or I want in the moment, but if you trust Him and walk with Him, Yahweh will write you a life truly better than you or I could dream for you.