Today I was hit by one of those random thoughts: My children are not mine. This may seem like a "duh" moment to many, especially those that know my children are adopted, but this time it means a little more to me than it did before.
Anyone who knows me knows that I delight in my kids. I beam with pride when I watch my sweet girl making her way in life. I can be heard far above the roar of the crowd at a football game shouting, "That's MY tiny baby boy!" Still, with that being said, my kids are not mine. Truthfully, they never have been. This applies whether I had given birth to them or not. I just got the amazing privilege of watching these children grow, helping keep the wildlife from eating away at the fruit of their lives and occasionally pull a few weeds from their garden. I get to work and watch and enjoy some of the fruits, but they belong to God, not me.
This is a difficult lesson for ANY parent to grasp. We can get so involved in our kid's lives, loving them and supporting them, that we think what THEY do is actually what WE do...but it's not. This isn't about trying to relive your life through your kids, but more about the way we blame ourselves or feel like we've done something wrong when they make discouraging choices. They are their own unique person, not an extension of us.
I have struggled with this for years and have given my children back to God over and over. It's not that I kept taking them back, but more like I just learned a little more each time on how to let them go. I think we all wish it was a one-time process, but I think God knows we couldn't handle that. He allows us to think that these precious little ones are "MINE!" when they never really belonged to us at all.
It's not just that our children are not an extension of us. We are not an extension of our parents either. Have great parents? That's awesome! They probably did a great job pointing you to who you truly are. Have not so great parents? Not a problem. They don't determine the purpose God has for you. And make no mistake, whether you know it or not, He has a purpose for you. It may not be what you or your parents imagined it would be, but there is definitely a purpose. It is HIS purpose.
Recently I heard a young person say she didn't "feel" loved by God and those around her. I reminded her that whether she felt it or not did not change the fact that she is, indeed, loved. Just because we cannot always see the sun does not mean it has ceased to exist. We simply have moved to a place where we cannot feel it. Like the earth orbits, there will be times when we do not "feel" that sun, but it is still there and soon we will "feel" it again. We can't depend on feelings.
And we can't depend on our feelings when it comes to our children either. There is a knowing that no matter how much we love our children, God loves them more. They are not ours in the first place. He has a unique purpose for them...and for us. That purpose doesn't go away when our "parenting" duties evolve into simply standing on the sidelines as they fulfill their purpose. (Although, I admit that I probably will still be shouting at the top of my lungs, "That's MY tiny baby!" They need to get used to that because I will do that as long as I live. It's not about claiming ownership, it's about rejoicing in what I've seen God do in their lives. That's what you do when someone you love succeeds!) Our purpose was decided while we were still in the womb, not when we carried them, or in my case, when their birth mother carried them.
And with this comes a freedom to love them even more.
This week, my oldest has chosen to go on the same mission trip I have been planning to go on. It will be our first overseas mission trip together. I am so looking forward to this, not because she's mine, but because I will get to watch her from the sidelines as she fulfills her purpose and I get to fulfill mine at the same time. She is her own person and will do things in her own unique way.
Not mine...I've got to say, I never imagined it would feel so wonderful to let them go and watch them grow. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some growing of my own left to do.