One day I got a message from a mother after I had talked about my sadness over some of my children leaving the church. It was one of the sweetest and most comforting things I have ever read. I wish I could find the woman who wrote it. I’ve searched back through hundreds of messages and can’t find the author but her words were a gift to me. A gift I am now going to share with you.
(And for clarification, I don’t think everyone who leaves the church is “eating with the pigs.” Not at all. Our children can live beautiful, productive lives outside of the church and we need to treat them with respect and honor all the wonderful things they do. But in the episode this mother is referencing, we were talking about the prodigal son and so that is why she talked about eating with the pigs.)
If you’ve got a broken heart today, let her words sink into your heart. They are true. Italics added by me, to stress the points I love the most.
“I was just listening to the podcast today about Alma and Helaman … the one about the kids – and as you were pouring out your heart I could tell that you really wish you could do more for the situation your kids are in and I just wished I was there to tell you, you ARE doing enough! And nothing you could have done differently or better would have changed what is. Everyone is going to have their own journey. And you were fortunate that your journey was with wonderful amazing God-loving parents and you grew up the same way. But not everyone does. Not everyone has it that together from the start. As you kept asking about what things could you do or ideas, I just keep thinking about the verse that says, train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.
It’s funny it says when he is OLD. Maybe the Lord knew we’d do a lot of dumb things when we’re young. 😉
But seriously though… don’t despair if your kids are not where you want them to be right now. They have to get there on their own and thru their own experiences. I have 7 kids, and some are older now and some are still babies. And now that the older ones are (starting to make) bad choices I had to come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter what I want. These kids are going to do what THEY want. So I have to decide what is the best way to stay relevant in their lives so that they always feel they have that door to come thru when they get back from eating with the pigs. Do I still teach them Jesus? Yes! I’m just like you. It’s in every other conversation.
Because when they are at their cross road when they are racked by the torment of their many sins, it will be impossible for them not to remember the words of their (mother). I know it hurts. I know it’s hard. I may be calling you in a couple more years when the rest of mine grow up to remind me of these words- no mother wants to see her kids stray because we know what that leads to. And we don’t want that for our kids. I grew up in a Christian home and we all were very involved in church, the scriptures, praying, evangelizing, etc… ( I have 6 sisters 2 brothers) but we all had to come to our own day of reckoning and that came at different times in all our lives
But we always came back to the Lord. In different ways. Maybe still not perfect but it’s in us. And we can’t run from it! Just like the Lord promised.
Lastly, one thing my husband always tells me is not to give up on people. You never know what they will become and when. He knows because he was raised in a “Mormon” family and he was the wildest kid you ever met.
He did every drug, every party, moved to the city, and ran with the worst gangs and now he is a completely different man.
I’ve seen the power of God work in a lot of the worst people. I’m from the inner city of Chicago- we faced a lot of tough challenges. But the bottom line is it was never in your power to “save” your kids or keep them in the church. Your job is to teach them the way so they can always know how to get back.”
She said so many beautiful things in that. Every time I read it, I bawl like a baby. But my favorite phrase is – it’s in us.
Mom’s and Dad’s, do your best and it will be enough.
I have this next quote on my mirror in my bathroom. It’s another comfort. It’s by Jeffrey R Holland from his book, Broken Things to Mend.
“If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for their guidance and the comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you can show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show to you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.”
My favorite Christian author, Jen Hatmaker said in her book, For the Love,
“Remember this: Not matter what, our children belong to God and He is very much paying attention. He is always at work; we are but one piece of their story. Our kids may detour. So many will crash and burn. They could walk away and they could come back. They will ultimately make their own spiritual decisions, and no formula ensures any outcome. We cannot guarantee their safety or loyalty, their path or decisions. The best parents can have children who self-destruct, and the worst parents can have kids who thrive.
The best we can do is give them Jesus…
So let’s give our kids Jesus and trust Him to lead, even if we don’t see the results for five years, ten years, or until the other side of this life. Because no matter what their spiritual futures contain … Jesus will remain. He is the only constant, the only Savior that has held through the ages.”
If I had it to do all over again, and I could start over with my young family and babies, I would teach them every day how much the Savior of the world loves them. I would be less concerned with teaching them “the church is true,” and more concerned with teaching them that “Jesus is real.”
When they received an answer to their prayers I would stress how awesome it was that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loved them so much and I would emphasize how much Jesus is aware of them. When my children were sad or hurting, I would tell them that the one person who truly understands how they feel more than anyone in the world is Jesus. I would teach them while they were very young to ask for His assistance and be grateful for it when they received it.
And I would most definitely teach my children that the Savior loves them no matter what! I would read the story of the Prodigal Son so often that it would sink deep down into their brains. We would act it out continuously for family home evenings and it would be the one story they knew more than any other.
Why? Because it is the story that Jesus told about His dad. Jesus knows his father better than any of us and he described him as the man who killed the cow and threw the party for the son that returned. The dad in the story, our Heavenly Father, never stopped watching down the road for his son to come home and when he saw him, “afar off,” he ran to him and threw his arms around him, and welcomed him home. I would let my babies know, that there was nothing that they could do that would ever change that love.
But now that I’m old and my kids are older, I will stand like that dad and constantly watch down the road for their return. Like Alma and Mosiah I will pray night and day for their safety and for God to work in them and bring them back to Him. But I won’t be praying for God to bring them back to me, for I will never leave them. I will always be there for them – loving them, cheering for them, and seeing all the amazing beauty of their lives no matter where they are on the gospel path.
I loved what Todd Christopherson wrote about his parents in his book, “That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family.” He said when he came out to his family that he was gay – so long ago, his parents said, “We have two bedrocks of our life, our faith, and our family and we will never be complete without both.” (or something to that effect – I’m writing it from memory.) But it is such an important lesson we need to learn! They never made him feel they had to make a choice.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A CHOICE. LOVE YOUR FAITH AND YOUR FAMILY.
I am not perfect at this. I know I flounder around and say the wrong thing a lot. But I’m trying. I hope my kids see that I’m trying. And the Lord is helping me understand, everyday, how much he loves them and how they are never out of His sight.
Don’t give up on your kids. Don’t drive them away just because they may make choices that you don’t like. Just love them. Love them more when they stumble. Love them more when they make choices you may not like. Always give them a door to come through at the end of the day.
It will be enough.
*I LOVE the Christian author, Jenn Hatmaker. This book was the first book I ever read of hers and I proudly admit that her straightforward views about Christ in this book and in a few of her other books really deepened my love for the Savior. She brought Him closer to me. He wasn’t some guy out there who did this one thing for me in the garden and then on the cross, but He is the man who is with me every day – the man that cares deeply for me and lifts my burdens and strengthens my life.
AND – she’s really funny. That’s my magic combo. Funny and spiritual. I think you’ll love this book too.
*I really liked Tom Christofferson’s book, “That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family.” I originally picked it up because a family in our ward had a daughter inform them that she was gay and I wanted a book to give me some insights. It was so much more than a book about a gay son. To me, it was a book about loving, understanding, caring parents that handled that situation with such grace and wisdom. I learned so much from them. I highly recommend it!