Move in Freedom
by Tina Newson
This article first appeared in the January-February 2016 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
As a mental health professional I am in a trusted position. By the time people come to see me they are often feeling a mixture of desperation, anger, sadness and hurt. Let’s face it, no one seeks out help when life is working for them.
My job is to reassure people when they are unsure. Feeling unsure is very uncomfortable. All of us, young and old, like to feel competent and confident. Confusion feels like the antithesis to security. However I have found that confusion can be the catalyst for great growth.
Each one of us can think back to a time when we think we have life figured out and then an event happens that does not fit into our framework of how life is supposed to work. Perhaps it was an event that caught us by surprise, an action that throws us off balance. One of those events for me was the birth of my second child. My firstborn, Ashley, was the epitome of a happy, quiet, easy- going child. If I told her no about touching something she would smile, gently step away from the object of her desire and go about her business. I naively thought her demeanor and pleasant attitude was a result of our exceptional parenting skills, after all, I had put much energy into parenting “the right way”. Fast forward four years and my son, Austin, is born. It didn’t take long to notice this sweet child was not as easily moldable, nor as easy going as his sister.
Austin had a bad habit of escaping. Like a little Alcatraz prisoner the kid would take of running and not look back. We put locks on the fence, he learned to climb over. We put a leash on him and he would play Harry Houdini and break free. Being the competent parent I was I pulled out my bag of tricks. Consistent discipline with love was what this kid needed—or so I thought. I pulled out my arsenal of tools - I spanked, gave him time outs, scolded, chided and lectured. I took away privileges and handed out punishments. Nothing seemed to work.
There is nothing more humbling then having a three year old out maneuver you.
So out of desperation, I took a parenting class. I learned a few more techniques of discipline but mostly I learned to relax. I learned that I was acting on fear and false beliefs. I feared my son was going to become a juvenile delinquent because I could not control him. I believed I was completely incompetent as a parent because he refused to do as I asked him to do. I felt afraid (and rightfully so) that he would get hurt if he kept running in the street. I felt shame because I had run out of answers and I felt confused. How could I have gone from being such a good parent to being such an incompetent parent?
The parenting class was a sweet mixture of good and bad news. The good news was that I was not alone. There were others, mature-competent-functions-well-in-society adults that were brought to their knees by their own little ones. Just knowing I was not alone in my struggle was wonderfully refreshing news to me. The bad news was they were as lost as I was. Fortunately we had a good teacher who offered us great hope. She reassured us that lots of out of control children become well-adjusted adults, testing boundaries is a normal part of childhood. Ten years later I am happy to report that my son no longer runs out the door and into the street. He is able to delay gratification and responds well to authority. I am pleased and proud of the person he is and the man he is becoming.
I am thankful for the parenting class I attended. Thankful there was a safe place for me to share my struggles. I am reminded of the healing power that comes when we are able to share freely, the encouragement that can come when we have the courage to speak the truth.
Calmness in confusion takes practice. I have learned and am still learning how to relax in the unknowing. God continues to give me many opportunities to learn the art of acceptance. Ironically part of acceptance is realizing that it is unrealistic to think we can have perfect peace this side of heaven. We have glimpses, fleeting moments when all in our world is right but then the moment passes and it is clearly evident that we are far from our true home. Someday we will have eternal peace but not today.
I will close with these encouraging words from one of my favorite songs that paints the picture of what I hope my future will look like some day.
In open fields of wild flowers,
She breathes the air and flies away
She thanks her Jesus for the daises and the roses
In no simple language
Someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all.
He’s more than the laughter or
the stars in the heavens
As close a heartbeat or a song on her lips
Someday she’ll trust Him and learn how to see Him
Someday He’ll call her and she will come running
And fall in His arms and the tears will fall down
And she’ll pray,
I want to fall in love with you.