Hoping for Enlightenment


I slowly perused the local boutique looking for gifts for my daughter Riley’s seventeenth birthday.  My eyes settled on a sterling silver necklace with the word “hope” written in script.  I decided that this necklace would be a wonderful addition to her jewelry collection and a perfect wish from me to her. 

All of us have high hopes for our children even before they’re born.  We hope they’re healthy and happy.  As my kids have grown older, I’ve realized that I can’t control their happiness like I wish I could.  Perhaps that sounds obvious, but looking back, it seems I could contribute to their happiness more directly when they were little.  If they were hungry, I gave them a snack.  If they were tired, I rocked them to sleep.  If they were sad, I could act silly or distract them.  Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee my teenagers’ happiness, a difficult reality for me to  accept. 

I want so desperately to help them that I can fall into the trap of providing unsolicited and unwelcomed “suggestions.”  Riley seeks my advice on a regular basis, and I cherish those moments of connection.  But when I tell her what she “needs” to do or “should” do, she feels as though I am trying to control her.  While my motives are grounded in love, to her, it appears that I don’t trust that she can handle whatever circumstances come her way.  Instead of helping, I end up acting out of fear trying to protect her from pain or rejection.  My efforts to control what happens and how others act squeeze all the hope and possibility out of the situations.  And I teach my children to live in anxiety, instead of hope. 

So, I’ve found myself praying, a lot, in the face of uncertainty.  I express my hopes for my children and confess my desire to control everything.  I invite God into our lives and ask that we feel God’s presence.  But sometimes, I still don’t feel hopeful.  In Ephesians, Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…”  (Ephesians 1:18).  I’ve loved this verse for a long time for the beautiful imagery of God opening our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we will see and understand God’s mandate to hope.  

Instead of constantly telling my children what they “need” to do, I need to pray that my own heart will be enlightened.  Maybe then I will stop living in dread and release my stranglehold on hope.  I can better teach my children to have hope for their lives as they grow and mature.  And by truly embracing God’s call to live in hope, I can, hopefully, find greater peace with them and with myself.    

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