Fashioned for Motherhood: Letting Go and Dealing with Disappointment

“But when she could hide him no more, she got out a papyrus basket for him and coated it in tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.” (Exodus 2:3 NIV)

The tremendous pain at the end of childrearing is much like the searing contractions at the beginning. When a baby is born, our body is buckling under the birthing process. When they leave home, it’s our heart that revolts against their absence.

Jochebed amazes me again. Three months of intense mothering and she willingly built a basket. She covered her ark with tar and pitch and certainly tears. Then, when the time came and conditions were right, she put everything precious in the reeds. She sent her son into the Nile.

Jochebed wasn’t naive to the dangers of that notorious river. She had spent her whole life in Goshen. She was well aware of the risks: crocodiles, spitting venomous snakes, and most notably, Egyptians. Despite very legitimate concerns, Jochebed knew keeping her son at home was even riskier than letting him go. 

As a mother of two young adult children, I find solace in Jochebed’s bravery. There are risks in keeping our children from the world, especially when they’ve outgrown the nest. Moses was sent out early, but the circumstances demanded it.

We tend to hang on to our kids much longer in this time period. Child labor laws have unintentionally expanded into prolonged adolescence. An increase in privilege apart from responsibility creates oversized toddlers and it isn’t good for our kids. We need to let them go.

Emancipation always comes with risk. Like Moses’ mom, we’ve lived in the world long enough to know what’s out there. It’s tough to send our young adults into potential disappointment, difficulty and even defeat. Yet, these are the ways we grow up. Challenges produce perseverance. Hardship helps us learn to lean into God.

Think about what you know today compared to what you thought you knew at twenty. Chances are good that you’ve grown up a bit. Why? Because you had to in order to survive.

Keeping our developing babies in the nest will eventually stunt their growth. Jochebed understood that a strong and healthy boy could not continue to stretch his limbs in hiding. For Moses to grow up into the man of God he was intended to be, she had to entrust him to her higher power completely. For her, that meant a makeshift basket in a raging river. For us, it might mean a first apartment in San Antonio or a dorm room in College Station. Either way, we’ve got to give our baby over to the capable hands of their Creator. We must trust that He loves them most.

Moms, newfound freedom means they will most likely mess up. Moses certainly did. He grew up in an unbelieving household. He received a secular education. Maybe most heartbreakingly, he called another woman ‘Mom’. When Moses finally reconnected with his roots, he overreacted to the injustice of his fellow man. He killed an Egyptian in cold blood and fled the country when he was found out.

It isn’t specifically mentioned in scripture, but I can’t imagine a scenario where Moses’ parents were anything but heartbroken. Their son had broken God’s commandments, committed treason, and seemed to be lost to them forever. Let’s not make light of this: forty years passed, likely without so much as a letter. Moses was a wanted man. Jochebed and Amram wouldn’t have known if their son was dead or alive, thriving or thrashing, repentant or apostate.

It’s still true. Our adult kids will inevitably disappoint us. They will make choices we struggle to come to terms with: education pursuits, bedfellows, purchases, friendships, tattoos and piercings, just to name a few. We watch them make decisions without discretion: they haven’t the experience to deter them or the humility to ask for help. And they can get themselves into some pretty crummy circumstances in a hurry. They may very well wind up spending forty years in Midian without communication. What’s a mother to do?

We walk out motherhood much like we started: with devotion and prayer. As mothers, we have two commitments to our kids that will not cease this side of eternity: unconditional affection and intercession.

Our kids need to know that we care. Not just when things are going well and we’re busting buttons with pride, but when they’ve made a mess and they’re sitting in it. We cannot afford to be fair-weather folks, especially when our kids are mostly grown. They need to be reinforced by love even when everything has gone to pieces. Our affection has got to be unflinching. They must be assured that we love them no matter what, just as their heavenly Father does.

Additionally, young adults need to know that we pray. Convince them that we are regularly tugging their names into the throne room, interceding tirelessly on their behalf. One of my greatest joys is when my kids bring prayer requests –– they do regularly this because they know I’ll follow through!

The responsibility of mothering never lifts; it only shifts. Our children leave the nest and we move down to our knees. When we are done wiping bottoms and refilling sippy cups and signing permission slips, we can finally settle into the real work of petitioning the Father on their behalf. The primary way we care for our adult children is in prayer. We tarry until the tide turns and our son or daughter is a mature and contributing family member of the Kingdom.

Before we part ways today, I want to take a moment and encourage the momma who’s child is in Midian as we speak. God isn’t done yet. He adores our kiddos more than we can fathom. He has hopes and plans and dreams for them. There’s a bush burning in their periphery right now. God is just waiting to get their attention. One day they’ll turn aside and notice His powerful presence anew. In the meantime, we do our parental duty in devotion and prayer. We keep loving and we keep beating on the door of heaven on their behalf.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth.” (3 John 1:4 NIV)

Lord, it is so hard to let go. We’ve given much of our lives to motherhood. We’d like to hold on to our children forever, but we do not want to stunt their growth. Please give us courage when the time is right.  Teach us to build a basket that will carry them safely into the waters of life. Go with our baby as they brave the big, old world. Get their attention with a burning bush and set their lives on fire for You. In the meantime, we vow to keep up our end in devotion and prayer. We are trusting in You. Amen.

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