About the author: Becky Bennett is the wife of a bearded-hipster-worship-leader and is the mother of three small children, Ava (5), Avianna (3), and Jack (1). Becky was diagnosed with a life-altering nerve disorder called CRPS in October of 2014 and is determined to choose joy in suffering. Originally from Maine, Becky now lives in Webster, NY, where she and her family love being a part of Northridge Church. Becky is a writer, a dancer, a singer, an artist, and a dreamer. Her greatest passion is Jesus. You can follow her journey at ToChooseJoy.blogspot.com.
This week, my dear little first-born is heading off to kindergarten. Like so many mommas who have gone before me, I’m transitioning into the place where I have to let go. As she sets her little light-up-sneakered foot onto the soil of her new school, she is stepping into the beginning of a lifetime of choices that will happen outside of my home, outside of my reach. The questions she will have to answer are about to get much more serious than, “Would you like grilled cheese or peanut butter?”
It is in these first few steps that I have to release from my arms the baby who taught me what it meant to labor and to ache but to keep my eyes on hope and on the prize of my pain. In the same way that I had to breathe deeply and walk away from her crib at night, wondering if she would keep on breathing when I did, I have to let go of the fear of what might happen to her when my eyes aren’t on her. I would suffer anything if it meant that she didn’t have to experience pain. But I can’t do that for her. I cannot choose the trials that she will have to face.
It’s been three decades since my own mom set out on this journey with me — the journey of letting go. I wonder what was it like for my mom when she stood on the other end of the phone line while my husband told her, from the hospital, that our life was going to change forever because I had just been diagnosed with a disease with no cure. In that very moment, she was in another hospital hundreds of miles away, where my dad was having surgery for cancer. I wonder how many times her stomach turned I wonder what her grief must have felt like. A mom — having to let go.
For all of the years that she spent lovingly preparing me for possible decisions and potential scenarios, my mom couldn’t choose my next steps for me as I faced loss after debilitating loss. She couldn’t give me back my legs when they were pulled out from underneath me, and my dancer-mobility was replaced with a wheelchair and a hopeful pair of crutches. She couldn’t be close enough in proximity, because of my dad’s condition at the time, to help care for her three small grandchildren whose momma had just been bound to a bed. She couldn’t be there to try to coax my youngest into taking a bottle — my baby, who, at the time, was only nine months old and had just lost his only-known food supply because of the medications I now had to take. She couldn’t be there to make us dinner. She couldn’t be there to tie my shoes. She couldn’t wish away my tears. She couldn’t take away my pain.She was helpless to help me, her little girl, in any way other than to pray. And pray, she did. She cast me into the arms of the One who cares for me more deeply than even she. And care, He did.
And I was ready for it. I was up for the challenge, resolved not to give in or to let it get me down. I chose joy in the suffering. I chose hope underneath heavy despair. In large part, I was able to make those choices because my mom had spent her life modeling the strength and mercy and joy and hope of Jesus for me.
When I think about letting go, when I think about releasing my daughter into a world of choices and inevitable suffering, I have another choice of my own to make. Will I trust God with her life? Will I believe Him, not just for myself, but for my child, when He says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” (James 1:2-3)?
I pray for good friends, kind teachers, and strong mentors to fill the years that are to come for my daughter. I pray that they would draw her towards Christ, rather than away from Him. I am reminded, however, that so often it has been through the least friendly “friends,” through the most difficult teachers, and through the greatest weaknesses in my mentors that I have learned the most about what God’s faithfulness and never-ending love and true wisdom really look like. I pray for a smooth journey and for success for my daughter. I know, though, that it has been on the bumpiest terrain and in some of the most devastating failures that the darkest places in my own heart have been revealed and that I have been healed. Trying times have been the very instruments of my maturity and my ability to press on through further trials. And those trials have been the very influences that cause me to cling more tightly to my Savior.
So, I will cast my cares on Him. I will entrust my child to the tenderhearted God of the most intimate and gracious and life-giving love. To the One who is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and binds up their wounds. As my mind reels with urgency, wondering if I’ve missed something in these years that flew by so quickly, I’m comforted in knowing that my five-year-old does not have to be prepared, right now, for everything she will ever face. She only needs to be ready for today. I will pray her through each moment that I cannot be a part of, and I will be waiting with open arms when she comes running back home at the end of the day.
I will rest knowing that no matter what choices or challenges lie ahead for this little girl, she has already made the most important one that she will ever make: to give her life to Jesus. He will always be with her. He will carry her. He will never let her go. “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day,” (Psalm 46:5).
This beautiful little person didn’t come into the world just to fill my arms. She came to fulfill a destiny. She’s walking out the door. She’s ready. And I think that now I’m ready, too.
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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by nick.amoscato http://flickr.com/photos/namoscato/8297366194 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license