The problem with my teenagers turned out to be me.
As Anna and Patrick reached their teen years, they began this natural, God-ordained transition into adulthood. Their bodies were changing, their emotions deepening, their faces changing. They were thinking their own thoughts and questioning ours. Everything about them was in process.
Except me. I was not making any changes in how I parented them. I kept using the same tools, the same words, and the same expectations that I had used since they were tots. I was also experiencing a whole new level of frustration.
They were frustrated too. Good attitudes were disappearing, work ethic gone. I remember telling Anna to clean her room and she did it. . .amazingly quickly. After a few days, she was missing a shoe. I began to help her hunt for it. When I looked under her bed, I realized why her room looked so good these days. Everything--and I mean everything--was under her bed.
When Patricia and I compared observations, we came to this conclusion: We did not teach her to do that. About that time we discovered this parable from Matthew 13.
24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away .26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
28 "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 29 "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"
We realized that this parable was about people, not wheat. We knew that we had sown good seed, but some weeds were growing along with the good stuff. The wisdom of the owner in this parable gave us a new strategy: wait on the Lord to bring a time of harvest and then be there to sort things out. We discovered that these two new parenting skills were not easily adopted.
1) Wait on the Lord to bring about the right time, and
2) Take the time to sort things out.
Personally, I felt better when I pulled up the weeds. I could say what needed to be said, decide the consequences, and go on with life. Weeds pulled. The problem was that I was often “pulling up the good wheat with the bad weeds.” The harvest I was reaping in my teens was not the bounty I had hoped for. Our relationships suffered. Joy was more elusive. Harsh words replaced encouragement. Important conversations were reduced to logistics.
“What time do I pick you up?”
“Bye, have a good day.”
We wanted more than that. We believed that God promised more than that. Patricia and I began to encourage one another to wait for a right moment and sort out the issues instead of pulling up weeds every day.
When Jesus explained the meaning of this parable, he concluded with verse 43: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
That is what we want for our children; we want them to shine righteously as the sun in the kingdom of our Father.