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.”
Kellie Johnson says
Oh I feel this. My son came out of the womb with a strong will from day 1 and WE ARE NEAR OPPOSITES. What a ride raising him. Thank you for your vulnerability here. Very few moms in my circles, could relate to moments like you describe here when he was still at home. Social media wasn’t a thing back then and hearing stories like this would have been comforting. Yes, stay in the rink-sometimes it’s tempting to step out when weariness is the norm. But then a conversation with your kid takes place like the one you’ve shared here, it’s like a shot of B12 to your spirit that you would never want to miss. God is good, and He is faithful to work when we feel worn out.
May the Lord help us trust in Him. I love that idea of B-12! Thank you!
I get it but it was with my daughter. She is turning 40 in a few weeks and while things have gotten better, I often feel like walking on eggs shells with her. I choose my words carefully or don’t say anything at all. Prayer certainly helps. We are now living in different states and it has actually gotten a bit better, but at what cost?
It’s so hard somedays. I understand your pain. Thank you for sharing!
Madeline – – This is an almost exact description of my relationship with my Daughter. When we are blessed with time together (which is usually only a couple of times a year), I too walk on eggshells because I just want to enjoy the little time I have with my Daughter. Thanks to all of you who are so open and honest about the challenges, and rewards, of raising kids. God is certainly our strength and our wise advisor in all areas of our lives.
Andrea C says
These were words I needed today. We are going through some hard things in my family and I tend to be forceful in fearful situations too. This was a good reminder to be still and let God work. And the ice rink visual is a good one 🙂 Thanks for sharing your heart!
Stay in the rink. peace.
Beautiful, relatable post. Thank you for opening up and sharing a part of your life’s circumstances and experiences with the rest of us.
You’re welcome! Thanks for being here!
I love this, Anjuli!
I had daughters, but the same thing. There were harsh words and slammed doors. Or, worse yet, silence. Now my girls are grown, and I try not to advise or interfere. I do a lot of listening and waiting. But I wrestle with urges to do otherwise.
Listening is the greatest gift you can give people. Stay in the rink.
karyn j says
well, Lord knows i needed to read that today! the title alone slapped me in the face and admonished me (gulp)! such a good reminder that forcing things just doesn’t work. thank you!
You are welcome. Peace.
Dawn Wood says
This one made me cry.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I don’t have kids. But I have to trust God with my family. Reason I don’t want kids is because to scared to give birth. Do love them as was a registered Childminder for 19 years. As I said I have to trust God with my family as there are times I let the things they do annoy me. That I take them to heart. Especially if they don’t tell me things I need to know. Especially my elderly Dad when he doesn’t tell me things so as I can help him. As I do home help for him 6 days a week. I find myself getting annoyed when I find out he didn’t tell me something to help him. I get annoy with him. I find God telling not force the issue with my Dad. Just say nicely you have to tell me things like this so as I can help you make life easier for you. If you don’t I can’t help you. God has said to like your reading today Anjuli the title don’t force it with your elderly Dad. Just say that and leave at that and pray for your Dad. As he is not saved. Is a man does his own thing thinks he knows best because he older than you. Even though at times he not. Your only telling him because you love in to help him make life easier for him. He doesn’t like to be told. That why he resists you saying anything to him. Does not want to listen to you. If does not that make you get annoyed. You have to not let get to you let go after you said it nicely to your Dad. If he listens and does what you say to help him you wone him. If not he might have to learn the hard way like a child. But you know you told him nicely in love. But don’t ever get to you if your Dad does not listen to you. Telling him something in love to help him. Just pray for him and leave him we me at the foot of cross. I done that. I don’t let it annoy me as much trying with God help to get theses things will not at all. Thank you for today’s reading. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little in my prayers all incourage. Xx
Two amazing books that were recommended by my friend who is a psychiatrist and also Christian: https://www.amazon.com/Nonviolent-Communication-Language-Life-Changing-Relationships/dp/189200528X
Parent-child relationships are often hard, but how we communicate makes a world of difference. I’ve practiced a lot of what these books have to offer with my own mom.
Wonderful words of wisdom; raw, real and touching. We raised two sons, one easy, one rebellious. But like your son, he always knew he was well-loved. Despite countless “rounds in the ring” on countless occasions. I loved your description of the quiet car ride home. For when he turns to silence, you can go to silent prayer rather than warring words. Such a heartwarming ending, “I love you, mom!” This is a young man who knows truth – the truth that he is loved and loves the source of that love. Indeed, trust that the Lord is present and will always lead you to love and to be loved. Thank you for these touching words of encouragement.
Beth Williams says
Raising good Godly children these days is hard. There is so much negativity in our world & social media just amplifies it. Sometimes the best thing to do is sit in silence with them & just be there for them. When they are ready to talk they will come to you. Prayers for everyone raising Godly teenagers. Times are tough for you moms.