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.

My Redneck Deck

            And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:19 NIV

My daughter-in-law called it our redneck deck. She should have been around when we first started building this place we call home.

During our poor years in the late 1970s, when our oldest child was a toddler and I was pregnant with our second, we yearned to move out of our second-floor apartment into a house of our own. Being that I’d resigned from teaching to be a full-time homemaker and my husband’s job at the local scrapyard brought in, on average, a hundred dollars a week, no bank would take a chance on us.

So we decided to build our own house on the pay-as-we-go plan on land that had once been the Huey homestead. Every nail, every piece of lumber, every inch of wiring, every bit of plumbing, every sheet of drywall, every roll of insulation, everything that went into this place, we put in ourselves.

We lived in the basement for five years until the upstairs was done enough to be livable. We put siding on twenty-nine years after we first put the shovel to the dirt and moved the kitchen upstairs around the same time. After nearly three decades, over a quarter of a century, the house was almost done, with the exception of a painted wooden floor in the kitchen, a porch-less front door hanging on the front of the house, and our redneck deck.

The redneck deck was unique in that it was built with wooden pallets my husband salvaged from the rubbish pile at work. We wanted a deck constructed with treated or rough lumber that stretched along the entire back side of the house, but we were still on the pay-as-we-go plan and couldn’t afford the dream deck.

So when the first redneck deck built from castoff pallets became too unreliable to walk on (pallets weren’t made to be transformed into some poor folks’ back porch and suffer a western Pennsylvania winter), I prayed, “God, please supply us with the lumber to replace these awful pallets.”

I should have asked for new lumber—honest-to-goodness real lumber. Ask and ye shall receive.

Within the week, Dean came home with the “new lumber”: another load of castoff pallets. Only this time the wood was thicker, stronger, and sturdier. And he added extra strips of wood so that the grandkids’ little feet wouldn’t slip through the slats.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Truth be told, I loved my redneck deck until we replaced it with a real deck. I kind of miss it.

You see, it was a daily reminder that we don’t have to have everything perfect and exactly the way we want to be happy.

Dear God, thank You for the redneck decks of life. They remind us that happiness isn’t dependent on our circumstances, but is found in relationships—with You and with those You’ve put in our lives. Amen.

Read and reflect on Proverbs 30:8–9.

The finished back deck
The finished front deck (before that if you stepped out of the door, you dropped 8 feet to the ground. The kids loved to jump out that door!)

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