Sitting on the Sidelines

David pitching

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. – James 1:19 (NIV)

When our youngest son played baseball, I learned a lot about sitting on the sidelines and watching my child struggle—knowing, outside of cheering encouragement from the stands, there was nothing I could do to help him.

That’s hard for a parent. We want to help our children any way we can. We want to fix what’s broken in their lives, kiss the boo-boos, take away the hurt—and we’ll move heaven and earth to accomplish it. 

When they’re little and still living at home, we can do that. Then they grow up, and learning to be a (good) parent moves up to another level. A whole new set of skills waits to be learned, new behaviors to be adapted, if we want to maintain a healthy, thriving relationship with them and continue to influence them in a positive way.

Watching our son struggle on the mound during his baseball years was but a prelude to watching a grownup child grapple with the curve balls of life. 

What’s a parent to do?

What the apostle James wrote in the first-century is excellent parenting advice in the twenty-first.

First, be quick to listen. Be a good listener. That means listen with your ears and with your heart. Listen without judging. Listen without trying to come up with an answer, a solution. Just let them talk. Listen without thinking of your demanding to-do list. Thank God your child wants to confide in you. Be a careful, thoughtful listener (Amplified version of James 1:19).

Second, be slow to speak. The writer of Ecclesiastes gives good advice when he advises,  “Do not be quick with your mouth. Do not be hasty in your heart . . . let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Pray for wisdom before you speak. Don’t give advice unless asked for it, and when you do, let your words be few. Be “a speaker of carefully chosen words” (Amplified). Ask questions to help them figure it out for themselves, see things that they don’t see, understand things a little bit better. “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).

Third, be slow to become angry. Keeping emotions in check is difficult when your child is hurting. The Mama Bear is roaring at her cage doors. You’ve got to keep her locked up. Know when to intervene and how. Be patient, reflective, forgiving (Amplified).

Sometimes—most times—you don’t know when or how to intervene—or even if you should. That’s where prayer comes in. Ask God for His wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

And finally, love unconditionally. Our children respond to our love more than to our words. Read 1 Corinthians 13 over and over. Model that kind of love, and keep the doors open and the coffee pot ready. 

Being a parent doesn’t come with an expiration date—it’s a lifetime commitment. Being a good parent means you never stop learning how.

With the grace of God, the wisdom of His Word, and persistent prayer, I can be the parent my child needs, even when—especially when—I’m sitting on the sidelines.

 Help me, Lord, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry when I’m standing on the sidelines watching my children struggle with life. Amen.

 Read and reflect on James 3:17–18.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Easter It Snowed

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. –John 20:31 NIV 

Easter for me as a child meant a new outfit, which included a spring-like dress, shiny new shoes and a frilly Easter bonnet that would give Diane, the girly-girl of our class, a run for her money. Easter was time to put away the heavy, dark winter coat and bring out the lightweight, pastel-colored one. It also meant brightly dyed eggs, jelly beans, chocolate, and homemade bread and Easter cheese, which we called cirak

One year my family spent Easter weekend at our cabin in the mountains near Cook Forest. Easter was early that year. We’d found a small country church a few miles away, so Mom packed our Easter clothes. I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, where the weather is much more spring-like even in late March than in the mountains. We awoke that Sunday morning to blowing snow and frigid temperatures. I shivered all through the church service in my fancy dress, white anklets, patent leather shoes, and short jacket. I never forgot the Easter it snowed. 

Now that I live in the western Pennsylvania mountains, I know not to put away the winter wardrobe too soon. The daffodils will bow under the snow, and tree leaves won’t appear until mid-May. It doesn’t matter whether Easter comes at the end of March or the end of April—we still can get snow. 

I grew up associating Easter with spring and with blooming flowers and greening trees. Now I know a different truth: Sometimes winter doesn’t want to let go.

Focusing on a new Easter outfit or the long-anticipated arrival of spring, however, is focusing on the wrong thing. It’s easy to forget what Easter is really all about, which is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Because He conquered death, we, too, can conquer death. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He told Martha before bringing her dead brother Lazarus back to life. “He who believes in Me, though he may die, shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25 NIV)

Easter means much more than a goodie basket and competing with the prettiest girl in class for the frilliest dress. Easter means much more than warm weather, flowers, and green grass. 

It means the winter of the soul has lost its grip. 

Because Jesus conquered death, I can experience an internal, eternal spring: “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)

Snow on Easter? So what? It’s always spring inside my heart.

Lord, let me see the flowers beneath the snow. Amen. 

Read and reflect on John 20

From God, Me, & a Cup of  Tea for the Seasons© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.