Our kiddos often find themselves standing on shifting sand.
Friends disappoint, school disappoints, glitzy cultural promises disappoint. Then there’s the double whammy when our kiddos disappoint themselves.
These kids need something absolute on which to stand. That’s fine because we’re just the parents to give it to them (otherwise known as: we’re the only parents they’ve got, therefore, ready or not, we’re on).
The problem is, we have lived.
We know that many promised “absolutes” absolutely fail us. Wherein, we the parents bestow what wisdom we have, first on the ugly and then on the beautiful of two absolutes: that which hurts and that which heals.
Absolute #1 – There is no need to pretend that hurt doesn’t hurt.
Hurt hurts? Who wants to cling to that?
Kiddos in a world of pain, that’s who.
Current culture pressures our kids to meditate away or medicate away what hurts. Celebrities encourage them to chant niceties like, “I don’t believe in mistakes, only lessons!”
Sure. Fine. By all means, learn. A lesson may very well be step two in processing pain, but step one starts with a wound that’s bleeding and cannot be attended to without facing a fact about hurt.
It hurts. Pretending otherwise makes things worse.
This is nothing new. From present to past, from small personal conflict to enormous wars played out on the world stage, people have tried to handle hurt by hiding from it.
Just ask Corrie ten Boom.
Back in the days of World War II, Corrie ten Boom and her family hid their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. However, before that, Corrie dreamed that she saw God, and she also saw herself and her family pulled slowly down a street on a flatbed wagon.
Corrie’s sister said the dream meant scary times ahead, but that it also testified to a soothing message: God knows.
God knows? It’s hard to understand how that was soothing to Corrie, since we, too, know what awaited Holland residents in 1939.
Then another four horrifying years after that.
Their Prime Minister had told Holland residents that there was no need to fight. Corrie’s political leader asked them all to pretend that Hitler was not going to hurt.
Corrie’s God did not.
The fact that God could have plucked them right up and out of that horror was not lost on Corrie. That He did not do that was as confusing to her as anyone. If God so loved the world, then one would assume His children suffering in pain must be utterly unbearable for Him.
Which speaks to the concept of love.
Corrie’s father had once said to her, “Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love,” he said. “Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain.”
Learning lessons from that kind of struggle can be healthy. However, we must tread carefully, or more precisely, we must tread personally. Corrie’s God did.
Because some struggles just…hurt. The God who did not explain all to Corrie, still saw all and committed to all of three words: I. Am. Here.
To which our indulged little cherubs, in their most honest moments, wonder, what good is “God is here” if that still means nobody wants to sit with me at lunch?
That brings us to absolute number two.
Absolute #2 – Healing is possible, when healing gets personal.
A God who knows our kiddos’ personal pain also knows our kiddos’ something else – their personal balm.
He once preached through a man named Isaiah that He would bind up the brokenhearted and bestow beauty for pain. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
It is a beauty that is exacting, supernatural, personal. That, and it often looks weird.
That’ll be a problem for our kiddos. It was a problem for God’s kiddos in pretty much every plotline in the Bible. God came to their rescue in ways that were extraordinarily unique to the character at hand – He showed up in bushes and thickets and found people where they sat down and cried. However, it didn’t necessarily mitigate their immediate circumstances.
That’s a hard thing for kiddos to get behind. They think they know what will heal them: an embarrassment erased or a family restored or acceptance, merciful acceptance, by a friend or a class or a college.
If God’s not going down that exact route and instead promises “beauty,” then beauty better be good. Beauty would have to bear witness to pain, and then have the muscle to decisively trump it anyway.
Corrie experienced that beauty. Precise words popped out of her mouth unexpectedly, once saving one hundred victims rather than five. A kind woman came to Corrie’s rescue when she was delusional and dehydrated.
Beauty was specific. Beauty was personal. Step by step, beauty showed itself to be stronger than hurt.
Most personal to Corrie, beauty meant change. During long stretches when bad things around her did not change, Corrie still absolutely knew: they should. That fortified her to carry on until they did.
Which our kiddos can take to heart.
First, hurt absolutely hurts. Got it. Acknowledged. Second, healing absolutely begins with beauty from a God who personally knows our kiddos by name. Okay. We get that.
And then…change. Where there’s hurt and healing – that’s a place where things can change.
This is where we the parents do ordain and establish the role of “parent” to be the most impossible love! Watching these kiddos hurt, then heal, then change in all the ways they did not know they needed most – we can hardly take it.
But they have a Father who can and He would like to show us just how much if we give Him the chance.
He absolutely wishes we would.
Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership. For info on her upcoming book, “How Can I Answer My Kids’ Questions About God? (…since I barely know what I’m talking about),” contact firstname.lastname@example.org