Raising a teenager gives me a whole new level of respect for my mom. And I’ll tell her just that, just as we talk again–which is close. So close.
But here’s what I’ve learned so far. It’s a short list, mind you:
- Young love is nothing to mess with, even if they aren’t supposed to be dating yet. In fact, Romeo & Juliet wasn’t a story of young lovers; it was a warning to parents. DON’T MESS WITH THAT! IT WILL END BADLY. Like death. Or a fist size hole in the wall. Not that I would know anything about any of that.
- Some days I want to quit parenting my teen. It’s too hard. I’m not enough. He’s driving me crazy. I think he hates me. He drank the rest of my Silk milk and I can’t have a coffee. And is he really wearing my socks? He is. Awesome. They will never be free from the funk that is him.
Seriously though, when the hard words fly and their sharp edges nick my thin skin, I just want to quit him. I want to leave our relationship where it is right now before it gets worse and remember him as the three-year-old boy who sat in my lap while I dried my hair. That is my son. This—this man-boy—I haven’t gotten to know him yet and the stranger in our relationship intimidates me.
But then a night and a morning pass, and he emerges from the funk of the basement and gives me that boy grin surrounded by man scruff and asks me if there is any milk yet and I just want to hug him right there and tell him that he is awesome. Perfect. And it’s a privilege to be his mom.
Because here is the thing: We are family.
We are close—so close that our rough edges leave marks, but then again they also polish.
So close that we can smell the stink of one another’s sin, but then again we’re the ones who gladly get dirty and pull each other out of the cesspool.
So close that you know me too well and when you call me out I feel exposed, but then again I’d rather hear it from someone who loves me.
So close, there isn’t even an arms reach between us so that I can reach out and control you, but then again, I’d just make you another me.
And so my selfish desires for who you should be and what you should do must slowly die over the course of eighteen years a child–sixty a spouse. For we all unfurl to become the shape tucked inside since the beginning.
It’s hard, yes. But we don’t get to quit each other.
So why is it any different with church family? We come together and we share life and we grow and we hurt and we experience loss and love. We go to each other’s weddings. We move each other into homes. We watch each other’s kids grow. We criticize and learn from the different ways we all parent. You have my baby’s boogers on your winter coat and I have your child’s pee on my shoe. We walk through marriages together and help each other stay together and encourage one another in passion and purpose. And it’s sometimes ugly and always messy and so much hard work. And I admit I want what’s best for me while unity challenges me to see what is best for you, but at the end of the day I know you are there.
Because we are family.
We don’t get to quit.
So there’s the heart of a pastor’s wife. I hear what you’re teaching me. I’ve looked over my shoulder at two church families we’ve left behind to go and lead somewhere else. And I always find myself wondering the same thing: What could I have done if we’d stayed? Who would I have known? What would life have felt like deeply committed to one another? Would it have overflowed if we hadn’t pulled the plug?
Because I could fluff it up and say that God called us here and called us there, but that might not be true. It might just be that being family became hard. It might just be that we had wanderlust to try something new and clean in a place where people didn’t know us well enough to critique us. It might be that we were afraid to fail people, so we removed ourselves.
May I remember this about family: Choose wisely for we are called to stay. Leaving means I miss out on the gift that is you.