Thursday, March 21, 2013

suitcases, parenting, and a good father

Every parent comes to that time. The time when our children innocently ask the big questions. Questions too big for them to handle yet. Hard questions about why people make bad choices, sex, drugs and alcohol, violence, racism, and the brokenness in the world.


In Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place, I've never forgotten this story:

Oftentimes I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me, since anything I asked at home was promptly answered by the aunts. Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her.

“Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and “sin”  Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my  said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It’s too heavy,” I said. 

“Yes,” he said, “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

We're in a season now as a family where Isabelle and Jackson are asking hard questions.

The other night, in the midst of a hard discussion, Isabelle began asking questions that I couldn't give her answers for. Isabelle is my forever inquisitive and insightful child who can always sense when there's more to the story. So, pulling from Corrie ten Boom's story and my sweet friend, Gretchen's advice, our conversation went like this:

Bella, you know when our family goes on a trip and Mommy and Daddy carry the heavy bags? (Uh-huh.)

And you and Jack carry the smaller bags, right?  (Yep!)

Isabelle, Mommy and Daddy carry the heavier bags because we're bigger and stronger than you and Jackson right now. You carry the smaller ones because it's what you can handle. There aren't secrets in the bags. Our family doesn't keep secrets, only surprises (giggling). But there is some information that's too heavy for your young hearts right now. When you're older and the time is right, Mommy and Daddy will let you carry the bigger bags. We'll give you all the information we know. But for now, you're going to have to trust that we know what's best for you and let us carry the big stuff.

As I'm talking, I'm holding my proverbial breath and praying that explanation would suffice. Thankfully, it did. That word picture gave her enough to hold on to to trust me with the big stuff and rest in me carrying it. Now, when she asks a question that and I know she's not ready for the answer, I just tell her that's a big bag.

This world has got a lot of things backwards, and being information-givers for our children is just another one. As a mom, I often hear things like, If your child asks a question, you have to give them the answer - they must be ready for it! or Our children are going to find out sooner or later!

My job as a mother is not to shield my children within some magical bubble and pray that it works until they turn 18. We all know a slew of adults raised that way and the horrible way it backfires. Instead, I want to prepare Isabelle and Jackson to live in a world full of beauty and brokenness, fully leaning on their perfect Heavenly Father who will carry their big stuff for them.


This morning as I was getting ready, I realized I missed something huge. What if God does the same for me? I heard him say this to me:

Daughter, the weight you are trying to carry to too big for you. Let me carry the big bags; I'm stronger than you. You're in charge of the small ones for now because I know what you can handle. You're going to have to trust that I know best.

And my heart echoed the words of Corrie ten Boom, after hearing the wise words of her father that loved her:

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were is and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.

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