How many of you actually like being pushed into something that is unknown, uncomfortable, new and unfamiliar? Does the thought of that alone get your heart racing and palms sweating?
I can tell you it does for me. Every single time, as far back as I can remember, when I am pushed to do something unfamiliar I stubbornly dig my heels in and begin to list all of the reasons why “I cannot”, “I hate it”, “I do not want to” or even “I won’t survive”.
Now I want you to close your eyes for a minute and look back on all of those times someone, a parent, friend, life circumstance or God, pushed you into the unfamiliar. How often did you come out RIGHT? Right about not being able to, hating it, or being less than the person beforehand?
I am sure some of you are carrying around scars from your past from experiences you did not ask for, invite in and were certainly pushed on you. Catastrophic events that were life altering. Those warrant a whole other conversation, one much deeper and probably deserving of length way longer than a blog entry.
I am talking about the times in your life when your mom signed you up for camp and you cried and screamed and refused to go. With a firm denial of your request she ignored your cries, packed your bags, and lovingly kissed you good-bye as she dropped you off. And it was one of the best experiences of your life (not that you would have ever told her that!).
Or the time, in middle school, when the high school basketball coach scouted you out in the hallway because you stood a head above the other girls and asked if you wanted to play basketball. You were quick to deny being an athlete and said you did not, could not and would not. But when your parents got wind of this they encouraged you. They pushed you and would not take your excuses and signed you up. And you began to like it, sometimes love it! It opened up doors for you you had convinced yourself would never be there. You were an athlete. You voluntarily signed up for other sports in high school and physical fitness became part of your life. Your confidence soared. You expanded your horizons! You benefited in ways you could not imagine had you turned away completely and refused the push.
That happened to me when I was an awkward thirteen year old convinced I was not an athlete and determined to hunch my too tall body down enough that I would become invisible in school. When I think back to what my high school years would have been like had I not found a place to belong, a love for physical fitness, I am so grateful to that basketball coach who had the guts and foresight to push.
As a parent I find myself constantly in the battle with my children, especially my very stubborn, very cautious, very reserved eldest, in figuring out just when do I PUSH and when do I step back. When do I tell them “piano is not a choice” because I see talent that could flourish with exposure? When do I tell them “you will go to youth group” even when they know nobody (yet) and are so painfully shy but I know that being part of a youth group at my church growing up was one of the most transformative experiences of my youth? When do I let go of my fearful, anxiety-ridden child who declares they do not need to learn to swim and let their bodies do the work before the mind takes over because swimming is a life skill we all should have? ((sigh)) My list could go on and on.
Being a parent, wrestling with whether to push my children into experiences or hold back, I think a lot about who pushes me, now that I am an adult and my parents are released from the stress of raising me. It is my Heavenly Father who does all of the pushing. He actually always has. Prayerfully my parents turned to Him for guidance in the “parenting pushing” of my youth, as I do today as a parent to three young children.
When I listen carefully enough, I hear Him guiding me, leading me, encouraging me. When I am too stubborn to listen and the voices in my head scream, “I can’t” “I won’t” “I’ll fail” my Father does what HE knows best. He gives me a loving yet very firm PUSH.
Oh, I kick and I scream and I cry. Being outside of my comfort zone is downright UNCOMFORTABLE! And I am sure my Father is not up there smiling, enjoying the scene I am making down below. Sometimes it hurts His heart to see me feel that way, just like it hurts mine to see my own children struggle, fear, cry and wobble on unsteady feet.
With each passing day as a parent I feel closer to my Heavenly Father and more grateful for His work as a parent to all of creation. He made us. He knit us in our mother’s womb and created our inmost being (Psalm 139:13).
My children are too young to see that my pushing comes from a place of love and also of faith. There is a lot of prayer behind the decisions I make and the tough love choices. I see something in my children that they do not and I just want the best for them.
As an adult mature enough to recognize this, the next time I am pushed outside of my comfort zone into unknown, scary or unwanted territory, will I recognize who did the pushing and trust and rely on my Heavenly Father to guide, care for and grow me?