Gary Thomas recounts a story from David McCullough’s book, John Adams, about Abigail Adams letting her son, John Quincy, who was nine years old at the time, accompany his father overseas on a diplomatic mission knowing it would be years before she saw him again.
Nine?! Overseas?! Years?!
These words jumped out at me and caused a great deal of heart pounding as I imagined myself in her shoes.
He goes on to share how on “one such trip”, John Quincy was having “second thoughts”.
—Let’s stop right there for a second: ONE such trip? ONE SUCH TRIP?! Meaning, there was more than one? Okay.—
Abigail could have gotten caught up in his fears and concerns, as well as her own, and kept him from experiencing what I have no doubt was a life-changing adventure. (After all, he became our sixth president and successfully defended the freedom of slaves, among many other accomplishments.) However, she encouraged him and wrote a difficult farewell letter. Here is a portion of that letter:
“It is not in the still calm of life…that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues.”
How many of us could do that today? How many of us think that way regarding our children and their life experiences? I know I couldn’t and I don’t.
I am indeed experiencing some of “the hardest hurt” as my teens get closer to attending public high school in the fall, and as I realize just how close they are to attending college. Of course, that’s nothing like letting them sail across the ocean at nine years of age.
But then, in some ways, sailing the ocean may be safer than sending my daughter alone to college. If all the episodes of CSI and Criminal Minds hold some modicum of truth, then I’ll just keep her in the bubble of our home for the rest of her life. You know, I should probably stop watching those shows. I’ve had an active imagination for as long as I can remember; I don’t need any help thinking of all the “what-ifs”.
My fears, both real and imagined, leave me tempted to give my kids stress-free lives rather than help them through those experiences that develop character. Yet, I desire for them to experience all God has purposed for them.
Also, most of us want better for our kids than we had. Today, there is no shortage of ways we can make that happen, and plenty of us have. But if we give them everything they want and spare them from the harsh realities of life, we end up raising self-important, entitled-mentality whiners.
No doubt you’ve already experienced these kinds of people. They are the product of parents who couldn’t bring themselves to say “No” to their kids and “Yes” to the hurt necessary to making them into well-rounded, respectable, mature individuals.
Thomas writes: “Our hardest hurt may be their most important hurt. As much as I adore my children, as crazy as I feel about them, I betray them if I put their happiness and comfort over God’s overall purpose in their lives and in our world.”
What is your greatest hope for your children—to experience a pain-free life or to develop Godly character that serves them, and more importantly God and others, well in this life?