I recall a season a few years ago when my cheerful, out-going, full of life little girl was not acting like herself. She was weepy, anxious, over-sensitive and clingy. And not just in a developmentally normal way. In my gut, it felt more serious. She was not excited about the little things she usually loves and was tearful at the drop of a hat. In a word, she was sad.
My mama gut was throwing up so many little red flags. Did something happen at school? Did someone hurt her? Is she sick? Can 5-year-olds feel depressed? And then of course, I automatically blame myself.... Have my words been too harsh? Have I been ignoring some big sign? Have I done something to make her anxious? Is this my fault? These questions plagued me for several days.
Then one night I went out to dinner with friends but left a sobbing frantic little girl in the driveway whimpering "Please don't go, Mommy." I watched her mouth those words to me with giant tears rolling down her face as I backed the car out of the garage. Oh the guilt! I tried to get that image of her out of my mind and enjoy a night that I know I shouldn't feel guilty about. I so rarely go out and she was safely at home with Daddy. But something just didn't sit right with me and I was preoccupied the whole night. I couldn't stop thinking about her. The way she's been clinging to me so tight and the things she had been saying to me were just so sad and unlike her. What was wrong?
I was getting really worried at this point and Satan was so ready to get a foothold. He was so ready to tend the seeds of worry and anxiety in my heart. And I felt the heaviness get heavier as I let him pack on the guilt and lies and fears that something was horribly wrong.
After dinner I came in the house and went straight up to her room and watched her sleep for a couple minutes. I felt the Lord lovingly remind me He was there. In the room. In the situation. In my heart. But even still, how often do I grasp so tight to my children with my own pitifully weak hands? I must figure this out. I must fix this. I can take care of her all by myself! How often do I flip the "auto-worry" switch instead of trusting in what I know about His sovereignty?
I quietly laid down next to her, snuggled her in tight and closed my eyes. I felt the tears burning and I knew I needed to surrender this. I prayed for God to lift the sadness and stress in my little girl's heart. I prayed for an explanation so that I could better understand how to handle it. But most of all, I thanked Him that He loves her infinitely more than I do. And that in surrendering my fears, He lavishes peace and protection on me.
I fell asleep to my daughter's quiet steady breaths. Thank you Jesus for this child. I want so badly to do my best for her. But I am nothing without your grace.
I woke up the next morning feeling better. Because, new mercies. And I had a talk with my wise husband about it, and I am pretty sure God spoke right through him. We had a great conversation and worked through what we think the issue was, and it was pretty simple in the end. No need to get into details because she's becoming her own person and I want to respect that on this public space. But wouldn't you know that my girl snapped right back to herself that evening.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was probably a loving reminder from a God who loves me. This whole thing was not about her anyway. It was about me and my desire for control. He is so faithful to meet me when I need him. He knows these kinds of things will draw me closer to Him.
Like I've said so many times, He is faithful to parent me as I am parenting my children.
It was such a good lesson in trust and surrender. And one (of many) times when I am reminded to beef up my armor against an enemy who wants to take me down. And I don't ultimately have control over what happens to my children anyway. Control is an illusion. There will be so many more parenting obstacles in my future. This was such a minor one. So many parents face mountains compared to this. But I'm becoming more and more aware that my hands need to be pried open in both surrender and praise.
Bri Carlisle is a wife and mother-of-two living in the Philadelphia area. She enjoys photography, running, diet coke, and is really thankful when God gives her reminders that He loves her children even more than she does. You can find her over at her personal blog, Woven, or on Instagram where she would love to connect with you!