–By Rene Tyson–
When my family takes long car trips, I read aloud to Bryan while the kids play video games…or so I thought. I was recently reading a book that dealt with some pretty heavy subjects. It is an SOS manual for how to help those around you who are going through crisis: divorce, death in the family, etc. When I got to the section on suicide, I lowered my voice so that my kids couldn’t hear me reading.
“Mom, could you read louder? I want to hear this part,” twelve year old Olivia piped up from the back seat.
I gave Bryan the eyebrows, “Should I? This is pretty heavy stuff.” He replied, “Go ahead and let her hear it. It isn’t as if she hasn’t already been exposed.” Last year two of our daughter’s friends were suicidal. They had both suffered tremendous loss and hardship outside of their control; they were victims of circumstance and evil. We had a family friend drown in a freak accident and just recently another friend’s baby passed away. Needless to say, my daughter’s life has been affected by death.
And I just now noticed.
My daughter is one of those kids to whom hurting children are drawn toward. She loves them unconditionally and likes to help when she can. Often it just means listening, but the stuff she hears shocks me. There is so much hurt in the world and even though her home life is safe, she is not immune from hurt and sorrow.
How do I help her to process those hurts?
My first response is to shield her. Cut her off from all friends and situations that might cause her pain. Make her do on-line school and never talk to another teenager ever again. Are you laughing? I am. If I did that she would have no friends! And worse yet, if I isolated her then I would be stealing her purpose and she would be miserable.
God didn’t put my daughter in this world for me to lock her away in a little box. He made her to be light and love and life to those around her. He made her to shine, but part of shining means you touch the dark places.
Parenting challenge #5651: Let my children shine and be light to others, knowing that it means they will be hurt in the process.
So what are my options? I will not extinguish her light or, “Hide it under a bushel,” as the song, This Little Light of Mine, says. The only thing I know to do is to be available to her when she needs to talk. Oh–and lots of prayer! Lord, fill my cup. Make me shine brightly for my children so that your love and life and light spill out of me and fill them up.
My daughter’s well-being and her current ability to practice her God-given purpose is directly connected to my willingness to believe that Jesus meant what he said in Mathew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…in the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” These words were not just meant for some other person far away. They are meant for my daughter and they are meant for me. I am glad that Olivia asked me to speak louder in the car. Glad that she wants to learn how to help those who are suffering. Glad for the young woman that God is growing right before my eyes–and grateful that he is using me in the process.