His manlike body snapped out of the car like a stapler sprung open. He slammed the door and walked away without looking back. I sat in the car with my heart on fire. Another fight. Another moment that started lovely and quickly turned terrible. Teenagers are full of emotions, they say. Teenagers are going through a lot and are doing the best they can, they all assure me. But, teenagers can also be mean; well, at least to their mothers. I thought car rides were supposed to be where we connected the most. This was the third fight in less than twenty-four hours.
We fight a lot. It’s not easy to admit, but my son and I see the world so differently. He is strong. I am not. He is outspoken. I am not. He is opinionated. I am opinionated. Since he came screaming out of me fifteen years ago, he has been a fighter. After all this time, I am weary.
That’s what I text my husband after driving home. “I am weary.” In my weariness, I get defensive. I get angry. I want to demand my voice be heard. I want to make him see my point of view and why it is right. I try to force my way forward.
I have a tendency to force things. Sometimes I am aggressive and sometimes I am passive. But I can be stubborn. I want what I want. A lot of times it looks like getting in the “ring.” Punch after punch, I go after what I want. I don’t like to give up. I’ve spent a lot of my life “forcing” things. I’ve done this with jobs I wanted. I push and push and push because I’m afraid of not getting what I want. I’ve done this with things, opportunities, and people.
When I am afraid, I force my way forward.
I’m reminded of so many figures in the Bible who forced things too. Sarah was afraid of not conceiving and forced her husband to sleep with her servant, Hagar. Moses used force, Judah used force, and Peter used force — all when they were faced with a fearful situation. But, when I react to my fear by forcing my way forward, I usually end up hurting myself or others.
Maybe life is less like a boxing ring and more like an ice rink.
We took our kids ice skating over the holidays. They fell and scrambled and clung to the side rails. They laughed and slipped and tried to do it on their own. The movement on the rink is always a motion going in one direction. Everyone is balancing, leaning on each other for support while skating counter clockwise. I guess what I’m trying to say is that relationships work best when we stay in the rink together, and not in the ring.
Life doesn’t have to be a battle. We don’t have to fight to get ahead or fear falling behind. Staying in the rink usually requires surrendering. I have to let go of life on my terms. It means as fear rises, I refuse to put on my boxing gloves and instead tighten my laces and lean on Jesus.
I usually deal with my fear by using my own strength. But, Scripture says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). When I sense my soul tensing up for a fight, the invitation is for me to relax. I can enter my fear with Jesus. Like a litany, I live these words: soul, be still.
Don’t force the doors of opportunity to open. Don’t force people to relate in ways that only work for you. Don’t push to get your way. Trust that the Lord is always present and will always lead you to love and be loved.
The next day I picked my son up from school. I asked him how his day was and in return, I got a shrug. We drove in silence the rest of the way home. I will not force a conversation or pick a fight. I won’t get in the ring. I’ll remember that we are in a circle. Sometimes connection looks like silence. Sometimes we are falling, but we keep moving in the same direction. That night he sat on the edge of my bed and talked until I couldn’t take in another word. His manlike body bent over me and his arms reached around me with a squeeze. He walked out, and when he was out of sight he shouted, “I love you, Mom.”