Living in Tension

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


I know, I know—the last thing we parents need is an article encouraging us to “live in the tension.” Our lives can be tense and chaotic enough as it is without adding one more thing to our to-do list, filling our calendars with meetings, or adding to the lurking anxiety within our hearts. But I believe what the Lord wants me to share about “living in the tension” has merit, and will bring what I hope to be overwhelming amounts of comfort, if we embrace the following—together.

Each school year means that my daughter is leaving one grade and moving on to another, and that change can happen more quickly than her parents’ hearts can take. These transitions are exciting for sure, but they can also bring about grief and sadness, too. As parents, whenever our children grow, we experience a mixture of joy and grief. We celebrate and thank God for their development and simultaneously grieve each previous phase of their physical and educational growth. So while we cheer them on to reach new heights in their academic, social and spiritual journeys we also miss the days when they were smaller, younger, and spent more time at home.

I distinctly remember when my daughter Finleigh was about 9 months old and my wife, Mandi, was putting outgrown clothes into a plastic bin. She looked up at me and we both got emotional. How could our baby girl be growing so fast? We acknowledged then (as we do now) that parents are called, at all times, to live in the tension of both grief and joy.

Time flies by when you parent the precious gift of a child, and God invites us to honor this time with as much kind and compassionate love as we can muster in their developing years—even while we experience new emotions with each annual change.

As parents, we are thrilled with all the ways God is growing our child(ren). Each stage brings both joy and grief—we revel in the new experiences and blessings that Jesus brings into the life of our child while God holds us as we reminisce, realizing that our kid is not so little any more. It’s true—God calls us to live in this tension as parents. And since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), and since we know that in all things God is working for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28), we can trust that God will meet our emotional and spiritual needs as we, too, develop as God’s kids while we continue, by the Lord’s grace, to parent our own.

It blows my mind to think about the Old Testament story of Hannah and how she gave her young son Samuel to the Lord to minister under Eli the priest. She kept her promise and remained obedient to God by doing so. I’ve gotten emotional in the past, picturing Samuel’s mother taking her son by the hand to give him to Eli at Shiloh as a little boy (1 Sam. 1-2). But I can also imagine Jesus walking with Hannah on her way back home, putting his arm around Hannah’s shoulder and holding her as she cried audible tears of unimaginable grief. Now that’s a God I want to manage and care for our Finleigh all of her days. It’s true, our children are not our own, they are first and foremost the Lord’s, on loan to us to love, teach and prepare for a life of Christ-like service in the world.

So may we never forget that while we, as parents, live in the tension of joy and grief, we have a compassionate Father who wraps his loving arms around us, too, and promises to never let us, or our child(ren), go. That’s a promise (Jer. 29:11-14). Amen.