Saturday was a perfect lake day. Eighty-five degrees and cloudless with a slight, balmy breeze—just right for lounging on the dock as the wake from power boats lapped against the shore. We drank it all in from the home of our friends, Larry and Sylvia, whose lovely cabin perches on the edge of the deepest, bluest water to be found in North Idaho. Larry kept the grill going on their large deck, while kids scampered up and down what felt like a thousand wooden steps to the dock below.
Larry and Sylvia are generous with their beautiful home, and it has become a favorite retreat for many groups from church. The summer day stretched out like finely spun honey, and the hours passed in a flurry of activity: fishing off the dock, swinging on the rope swing, taking out the paddle boat, or just sitting around enjoying the sun and catching up with friends.
The highlight, for me, was riding in the speedboat. Kids and adults piled aboard and Larry took the wheel, using his considerable driving skills to make it a ride to remember. Twirling, speeding, jumping the wakes of other boats, he soon had the children squealing with delight (and some of the adults just squealing.) The shoreline flashed by and the spray kicked out behind us, making miniature rainbows in the sun.
I took two rides on Saturday. For the first one, I had Katie and Caleb nestled on either side of me as we spun around the lake. They had on life jackets, and I knew Larry to be a safe driver, but all the same, with the kids next to me, the jumps felt jumpier, the thumps felt thumpier, and suddenly it seemed as if we were all a hair’s breadth away from being tossed over the side. I started mentally rehearsing what I would do if the boat flipped over, and a normally thrilling ride seemed fraught with danger. I admit to breathing a sigh of relief as we pulled back up to the dock.
Paul was standing there when we returned, so I unloaded the kids into his waiting arms and jumped back in the boat for another go-round. I’m so glad I did! The ride, if anything, was faster and crazier, but this time, with only myself to worry about, it was sheer joy! Kathy and Jen and I were hooting and hollering, careening into each other and laughing our heads off as the rear of the boat swung madly back and forth. I joined my voice with those of the boys clinging to the front jump seats as they urged Larry to go faster, to turn harder. It was completely wonderful and over too soon. When Larry dumped us on the dock twenty minutes later, breathless and exhilarated, I counted my day complete.
The world seems like a scarier place now that I have kids in it. When you’re expecting your first child, no one tells you about the sudden bloom of fear that accompanies the birth of all that love and joy. When we had Katie, we drove home from the hospital in a clench of worry, poking along at 25 miles an hour, certain that the precious newborn cargo in the backseat would magically attract reckless drivers.
I’d like to put it down to new parent nervousness, but it doesn’t stop there. When you’re a parent, every story on the news sets off an alarm in your head as you imagine how easily it could have been your child. When you’re a parent, all the other goals and dreams you’ve ever had pale in comparison to making sure your child grows up in physical and spiritual safety. When you’re a parent, you take notes when Oprah tells you not to leave baby oil lying around or to clip the cords short on your blinds. When you’re a parent, you spend a lot of your decision-making time thinking about what could happen and wondering how you would live with yourself if it ever did.
And then, you grit your teeth and let your children get on the bus, or into the boat, or onto the plane, and pray hard that nothing hurts them today.
When my brother and sister and I were growing up, we used to tease our mother for being ‘overprotective’. She was constantly watching the news, and making sure we watched it, too, hoping it would instill a sense of wariness in us. In our teenage years, she wanted us to call at every stop we made during an evening of driving around between friends’ homes and local hangouts. Once, when I was at a party, I forgot to call and let her know I’d arrived. I didn’t think about it at all until someone yelled out, “Katrina—your mom is here!” There she was, standing in the doorway with steam coming out of her ears, ready to drag me home by mine. It was mortifying, but I never forgot again after that. Another time, I was five minutes late meeting her after a school football game. She started reading me the riot act and only stopped when my brother and sister and I all said, in unison with her, “For all I knew, you were lying in a ditch somewhere!” We’d heard it a few times before.
I regret teasing my mom so hard about her overprotective nature, now that I’ve turned into her.
Not long ago, a missionary couple that Paul and I know from college came to speak at our church during a brief visit they were making to the States. Before their joint presentation of the work they were doing in Africa, there was a split class time, during which Dave spoke to the men and Becky shared with the women. She talked about what it was like running a household in a small African village, what her children were learning as they interacted with the local children, and what a typical day was like for her as she worked alongside the women of Togo. What struck me most was something that came up during question and answer time. When someone asked her what was the most challenging thing she had to face, Becky answered, “Fear.” With the nearest hospital a long journey away and very little in the way of modern medicine and technology nearby, even the smallest sicknesses and accidents were a cause for alarm. She said that all the women on their team of five couples struggled with fear, especially for their children. Then she said something that has stuck with me: “We pray for our families every day, and then we have to make a conscious decision to abandon the outcome to God.”
Abandon the outcome to God. I wrote the words down in my notebook and underlined them, reeling from their impact.
Abandon the outcome to God.
Have I ever done that with my kids? Have I ever placed them squarely in God’s hands, trusting Him with whatever happens? Because that’s the thing. Bad things do happen all the time. Trusting God with my children doesn’t mean expecting Him to keep them completely safe from all hurts, or even, though my head screams at me as I write it, from death. Trusting God with my children means knowing that He loves them even more than I do, and that He will never leave them. Trusting God means knowing that whatever happens, however painful and unthinkable it might be, He will work it out for the best for those who love Him. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but eternally. He sees with heavenly eyes, not earthly ones, and even the pain of our worst day here is small compared with the joy He has planned for our eternity.
So, as the prototypical Overprotective Mother, that is what I’m working on. Weigh the risks, take precautions, make a decision, pray. And then, let go of fear and abandon the outcome to God.
I think I can do it. For today, anyway.