My sweet Nathan graduated from high school today and heads off to the Air Force Academy later this month. I love this kid and am so proud of him. Some of my fondest memories of Nathan were "Mommy Mondays", a rare window of one-on-one time for a 4th child when the big kids were still at school, Clare was at preschool, and he was home from half-day kindergarten. He got three hours a week to pick whatever he wanted to do with me. We played in fire hydrants, went to lunch, read piles of books, went on adventures at the park, and played St. George and the dragon on the swings. We played hour after hour of games and generally just loved being together. We shared delight and wonder and awe, three qualities we both still embody.
The love of a young boy for his momma is magical, and one of the hardest things to let go of as he grows. Oh, not the actual love, but his willingness to show it and snuggle and throw his arms around you and let you know how much you mean to him. Nathan has an enormous, beautiful heart and I am so grateful that despite many hardships and tears and challenges and heartbreak and ruptures in our relationship, we can still meet heart to heart. Being his momma is one of the greatest privileges of my life. Here are some excerpts of the thoughts I felt called to share with him as our official parenting dyad comes to a close. I pray they will bless you.
How can it be your high school graduation? Though this letter comes at the end of your childhood, we’ll always be mother and son. When you were baptized, I promised God I’d be a faithful mother and teach you your true identity, and you know I am going to live up to that. We are both passionate about our convictions. I have a few lessons learned that feel important to share as you move forward in your life.
Because of my own trauma, it took me a long time to learn my true identity. For many years, I defined myself by what I did. I worked hard at being what other people wanted me to be. I worked hard at religion, but didn’t know to be loved by Jesus. I worked hard at marriage and motherhood, but mostly so I could feel good about myself. I knew how to serve but not how to be served. I knew how to love but not how to be loved. It was finally through suffering that I learned some important lessons.
Self-reliance was my idol, unholy and unsustainable. I defined myself by the “rightness” of my life because I was scared. My life fell apart as a child, so I was not going to let that happen to my family. I worked really hard to get it all “right” but I could never rest. My perfectionism and control set me up for anxiety and put a lot of pressure on everyone around me to “get it right”.
I also learned that my best efforts cannot always achieve what I want them to. I could not have worked harder at my marriage, but it still ended. I could not have been a more dedicated mother, but I still failed you at times. I learned I couldn’t protect myself or the people I loved from the hurts or unfairness of life, and I didn’t know what to do. Who was I if I couldn’t rely on myself to fix it?
I learned that it is a dangerous game to base your self-worth on your achievements or your income or your fitness or on anything else that is limited and out of our control. If we do, we can find ourselves chasing happiness our entire lives without ever being at peace.
The only way to live in peace, true peace, is to receive my identity as a child of God and to let Him love me and say who I am. The One who knows every moment of my life and every movement of my heart is the only one who gets to be my judge.
I know it isn’t popular to find peace by surrendering yourself to the Lord, but it’s the greatest gift I have to offer you. Learning to experience peace and joy despite your circumstances is the pearl of great price.
It is my job as your momma to tell you the truth and to love you no matter what you decide to do with it. You are a child of God and are now invited to be a man of God for others. If you ask, the Holy Spirit will unleash His power and together you’ll do infinitely more than you could ever imagine, and far more than you could do on your own. Peace will come because your life won’t depend on what you do, but on what the Lord does in and through you. Then, even failure isn’t failure. It is a lesson learned with Jesus.
Oh, my sweet Nathan, I don’t want you to be full of anxiety, stress, and fear like I was. I long for you to rest in your identity as God’s beloved, no matter what. Jesus is so faithful and the power of the Holy Spirit can be fuel for everything you do.
We all follow something, and you get to choose every day what kind of man you will be. You get to choose whose voice you listen to and what truth will guide your life.
Will you choose to serve yourself and the myth of self-reliance?
Will you choose the standards of the world that change with the seasons?
Will you choose to live by what other people think of you?
Your life will be shaped not just by the truth you live by or the choices you make, but by how you respond to what you didn’t choose and you couldn’t prevent. In the wake of unexpected sorrow, I found truth that could hold me up, but also, He who is Truth Himself.
We all have much to learn. I don’t say that to be insulting, but with excitement! Most of life is not knowing what we don’t know until we know it. Allowing the Lord to love me and heal me has brought me more joy and peace than I ever thought possible and I want that for you too.
I love being your momma. Let yourself be loved. Fly, sweet rabbit.
Loving you fiercely,