I have always had an excruciating awareness that my children are not my own. When I was 23 and only married for two years, my ob-gyn informed me that I would probably never have any children. This news discombobulated my emotional framework. Being the third-born in a family of eight children, it had always been one of my deepest longings to have my own children.
And so, our journey of “pray and try,” “pray and try,” began! God often uses the things that we long for most to transform us deeply. He provided a friend for me in Hannah, found in 1 Samuel. Like Hannah, I poured my heart out to God. Like Hannah, I knew that when God provided us with a child or children, they would belong to Him. They would be entrusted to us by God and we were to be good stewards over any children God loaned us! We realized if we could not have children via our own DNA that someday perhaps God would lead us to adopt. We were equally excited about that possibility! Either way, waiting on God was taxing and emotionally demanding!
“Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime…” 1 Sam 1:10-11 NLT
As many of you know, we were given three children after it was all said and done. When Michael, our first, was born, God gave me the following verse as a directive for Michael’s (and his siblings) future:
“I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to theLord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life…” 1 Sam 1:27-28 NLT
How did the fact that God had “given” or entrusted Michael and his siblings to us for the next 25 years as they lived in our home affect our kids and us? Four things stand out…
First, as God led us into some pretty difficult decisions where we by faith moved into the unknown (Nav Staff, overseas missions, sending them to boarding school, etc.), He regularly reminded us that our children were His and that He was committed to them far more than we could ever be. As we processed some very difficult and threatening situations throughout their lives, we were always brought back to the sovereign love God had for us and them.
Second, over the years as we witnessed His care, protection and provision, we learned that we could “let go” when the time came, in a healthy, supportive, non-invasive way. When they went to college, got married, and then stepped into parenting themselves, there was an ease in allowing them the freedom to walk with God through these transitions.
Third, because God was our children’s true source of their character, competencies, and faith, when they accomplished something, we had no need to live vicariously through them. It has been a wonderment to watch each of our children flourish according to the creative design God placed in them. Of course, as stewards over our children, we prayed for them and gave them training and help as they developed into adulthood. This process was far from flawless; lest you think we are perfect parents.
Fourth, knowing that God was always directing and helping allowed us to truly enjoy our children. Certainly we wanted them to know Christ, do well in school, have successful friendships, and in general be loving citizens in any community they took part. And, yes, we disciplined them for their own good, but also knowing that we had much imperfection in our parenting efforts. When the dust settled, we knew that these three children were God’s amazing gift to us and so, we could freely enjoy them!
The benefit of being told we would never have our own biological kids and then trusting God for the birth of our three children provided us with a distinct, and yes, sometimes excruciating awareness that they were “on loan” to us. How about you?
• Have you been able to step out by faith as a family in ways that seem unsettling, relying only upon the sovereign, all-powerful, loving God of the universe?
• Have you been able to let go of your children? Some of these ‘letting go’ times are: ‘weaning,’ kindergarten, middle school, dating, overnight trips for sports or other events, entering college and eventually, most miraculously, entering into a covenant with their spouse. (I am not saying here that you do not cry when the kids transition—whenever my kids ‘left’ I often would have a good cry and clean their room!)
• Have you been able to enjoy your children for who they are, when they have success, and even when they struggle with personal failure?
May God grant all of us discernment as we continue to wrestle with this crucial issue of parenting! And for those around us who want to be and are not yet given those children God will entrust to them, may we relate to them with sensitivity and prayerfulness.
Dana with Tom has been on staff with the Navs for over 30 years and married over 40 years. They are blessed with six children and seven grandchildren. Dana has lived in many places throughout her life time: Florida, Maryland, Indonesia, Chicago and Colorado Springs to name a few. Dana’s loves are the Word of God, people and helping people learn.
To contact Dana please email her at: Dana.Yeakley@navigators.org