EQUIPPING FOR BATTLE
If you have ever gone hiking in the great Smoky Mountains, there is a chance that you may have, like me, encountered one or more baby bear cubs while wandering those lush green woods. Once, while on a tiny trail on the edge of a very narrow trail on the edge of a cliff, I paused to photograph a couple of bear cubs. My companion, knowing that their mother would not allow them to meander through the forest unattended & thus would be found not far behind them, urged me to cease taking pictures & hurry down the trail away from the cute little cubs. And that is what we did, as we knew we were no match for a ferocious mother who thought her babies were in jeopardy. Sure enough, as I was scurrying away, I caught a glimpse of her lumbering down that hillside, joining her offspring who were by that time almost to the spot where I had been standing snapping pictures.
When my kids were small, I was always like that protective Momma Bear, standing at the ready to lunge after whomever might pose a threat to their welfare. And there were many times throughout their lives when I sprang into action, fighting foes whenever needed. When my five year old daughter had a Kindergarten teacher who not only refused to allow her to cleanse her glasses with the little cleaning cloth that she kept in her pencil pouch, but who also did not let any of the children in the class wash their hands after going to the restroom or before lunch, I immediately called the teacher to complain. When that did not yield the desired results, I met with her Principal. When that still did not work, I contacted the local Health Department officer, who then enforced the hand washing policy of the school system. But not only did I do that, I had my child moved to another teacher’s classroom, for I knew that there were potential ramifications that my daughter might get from that teacher, whether conscious or subconscious because I had dared to go up against her in such a manner. Yes, I was THAT Mom. I do not like controversy, nor do I like to “stir the pot”, but if you mess with my kids, you are also messing with me! Maternal instincts are God-given, & nothing to be trifled with, for even the most stalwart souls will discover that there is “No fury like that of a Momma Bear protecting her cubs.”
And there were times when I would question the behavior of rec league coaches, school bus drivers, & anyone else that was careless with the safety, health, or well-being of my babies, for they are God’s greatest blessings to me on this earth. I tried really hard not to go overboard, & to only intervene when necessary. And while I did not always get that right, for the most part, I think I did okay with it. Do not misunderstand, my kids are far from perfect, for like everyone else on the planet, they are flawed human beings; however, though they are still a work in progress, I think that they have turned into pretty decent young adults.
But the hard part came when I had to let go & let them handle situations for themselves. I knew that, in order for them to develop as they should, they needed to learn to deal with controversy, stave off attacks, & fend for themselves in the Jungle of Life. I started out with small things, such as making them place phone calls to local businesses to ask for hours of operation or directions. (This was before everyone had GPS & internet.) They would sometimes balk & cry out against doing so, for they felt intimidated to call adults on the phone, & they knew I had no qualms about doing so myself, as that was a part of my daily professional life. Despite their protestations, I made them do it anyway. And they gained confidence from doing so.
Then, as they got older, I no longer approached their soccer, basketball & baseball coaches to help resolve issues, for I knew that, in order to secure their rightful places on teams, they had to learn how to deal with authority & interact with teammates without assistance from their parents. It was sometimes painful to watch as they went through the paces of learning how to develop the finesses to do these things, but they each learned valuable lessons along the way that they would not have learned had Momma Bear swooped in for every little issue that arose. Yes, this meant that each of them had foibles & mishaps that I was oblivious to, but I always ended up learning about anything that was truly important.
When they asked me for help with their homework, I always helped them, but I never ever did it for them. No, not one single time. While it is amusing to see parents in SitComs doing school projects for their kids, that does not prepare them for real life. One cannot exactly take one’s Momma Bear to the office to do one’s job for them every day, can one? Yes, I would purchase supplies, offer suggestions, & provide tools for them, often overseeing their efforts, But I knew that they had to do the actual work themselves, otherwise they would be cheated of the satisfaction that comes with accomplishment.
Do not misunderstand: I was always waiting in the wings, ready whenever necessary to step in & take over, if & when my kids needed me to do so. There were times that they literally begged me to take over an issue or a project, but I refused – those were the times that, while I knew it would make their lives easier & more comfortable, they would not learn the lessons that they needed in order to develop & progress properly, so I refused to do anything other than offer them my support & encouragement. At those times, they were unhappy with me. They did not understand why I could not, like many other parents, make everything right in their world. At times there were tears, rebellion, & yes, even anger displayed by them towards me. But they were learning how to take care of things themselves. Sometimes one of them would step up & help solve the other’s problem, or assist with their homework, not realizing I was watching from the near distance, happy that they were developing empathy & their abilities to work together.
And there were times when the kids hid incidents from me for one reason or another – they knew that they would be in trouble at home if I found out that they had behaved in a less than appropriate fashion, or they would be embarrassed if I came to school to discuss small daily problems. They slowly learned to navigate their days without my help, yet the guidance I had given them in their early years was constantly in the back of their minds. shaping their decisions, even if they did not listen to it & made wrong ones sometimes.
Even up into their high school years, there were occasions that I did make appointments with school counsellors, teachers, administrators, etc. in order to be an advocate for my kids. However, I limited those occasions to the times when I knew that the issues were too intense for them to handle alone, & thus required adult assistance. But I knew I had done something when they each went off to college, & refused my offers to contact their advisors. My daughter found herself in a particularly tricky situation that was entirely of someone else’s making. She was not in trouble, & had done nothing wrong whatsoever, but without divulging details, suffice it to say that someone else was not behaving in an appropriate manner. Since the individual in question was an employee of the university, & I knew that my daughter’s welfare could be potentially adversely affected by the outcome, my first impulse was to make a phone call to schedule an appointment with said employee. My daughter adamantly refused my offer to come down there, & said that she could handle it herself. And handle it she did – & very well, I might add. Part of my Momma Bear persona was sad that my cub no longer needed me to run interference, but the larger part of my heart was bursting with pride that she could handle herself & her own affairs.
And well I recall the times I knew those same kids were in over their heads & could use my help, but they refused it, thinking that they could handle it on their own. Eventually, at those times, they came back around & told me I was right, & would I please help them out. And of course, I always did so.
And that, my friends, is a lot like how I imagine that God feels about us. He is that protective parent that is with us every step of the way, but who allows us to slowly grow so that we can handle more things on our own. He gives us the foundation that we need, but allows us, as we become capable, to try more & more challenging things. He see our every distressing moment, & listens to our problems, but only intervenes when He sees that it is necessary for Him to do so. He knows we need to go through certain things in order that we will be prepared for the next level, such as how a student has to pass high school before going to college. He tells us “No” to things He knows are bad for us, but allows us to make our own choices, & then, having made such choices, watches as we face the consequences, even though His heart breaks for our pain, sort of like when my son had to run extra laps at baseball practice. Would I rather he not have had to do that? But of course! Would God rather we not have to “run extra laps”? But of course! Yes, there are players who are successful without ever having run extra laps, but sometimes those extra laps are the very things that gives the player the strength, endurance, & speed to be one of the better players on the team.
There are also times that God allows us to get a little uncomfortable, such as those cubs getting a little too close to people. Momma Bear was there, watching & waiting, & when I got too close, she made her appearance. Though you may not be able to see Him, God is right there, in the pretty woodland behind you, & He is not going to allow the stranger on the path to harm you.
Though you will be uncomfortable at times, God knows that, like my children, there are some lessons you will only learn by experience. And yes, there are some things that you will have to experience more than once until you get the hang of it. But do not think for one moment that it means that God does not care for you, that He is not silently helping you, that He has not given you the proper guidance in the past so that you are equipped for the assignment, or that He will not, when needed, swoop in & save the day.
And take comfort in knowing that God is far fiercer than the Momma Bear – no hunter’s rifle can ever bring Him down! The enemy may be attacking hard, but He knows just how much you can handle on your own, & exactly the right moment to come in & save the day. He wants you to grow & learn so that one day, you can be like Momma Bear & help protect, encourage, & support someone else. If you are in a battle, He knows He has already equipped you for it; otherwise, He would not allow you to be in it. If God is offering to help you through something, it means He does not think you are ready to face that challenge alone, & it would be best to listen to His voice; however, if you turn down His help, know that, also like Momma Bear, He is still waiting in the wings, ready & able to help you out of your messes. And when you are assigned to run extra laps? Do so without complaining, knowing that each & every step you take is preparing you for the next, & giving you more strength, more endurance, & more speed to run the race that lies before you. He is equipping you for your battle, & is proud of you when you get to that place of trust, where you know that you can rely on the lessons you have learned to get through the issues you are called to face.
~ Lou Lehman Sams