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The Unexpected Joy of a Grown Son, or, The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Parenting has got to be the biggest act of faith a person can take. You pour yourself into these young souls, knowing that you won’t see the fruit of that labor until well past the time that you can fix it. In faith you plant those seeds and you water them and you try to provide the most nourishing soil you can, but in the end you can only pray and wait to see what kind of plant will grow. And sometimes, the hardest part of the waiting is when that sprout first begins to show. You see something there, but it sure does look like a weed.

Cindy Rollins has spoken many times about the unique experience of raising sons. One of those experiences is what happens right before manhood blooms. In the later teen years, as sons try to come into their own, they begin to distance themselves from the family and especially from mothers.

They skip out on family read alouds. They spend more time away from home. And they no longer come to mom for those late night heart to heart talks.

Those are hard days. You look at your son and wonder if you failed completely. This child who you have devoted yourself to, this soul that you tried to cultivate, seems to disappear.

I’m not talking about rebellious behavior necessarily; although that can happen as sons test themselves and others. I’m talking more about the slow dull pain of emotional and physical distance. Suddenly this presence in your life just isn’t there anymore.

But then something amazing happens. The sprout finally breaks through the ground. The death has been resurrected. And your son returns. Now embracing his new manhood.

My son is 19, and I experienced all of this first hand. Those days of distance were hard, and even though I had Cindy’s words reassuring me that this was all a natural part of the process of growing sons, I was scared. Scared I had failed. Scared I had lost my son. It’s not that I saw bad traits, I just didn’t see him.

He moved out a few months ago. And the most unexpected thing happened. He talks to me more now than when he lived here.

He texts me regularly, filling me in on his life and sharing with me. And he comes to visit. Not to raid the refrigerator or do laundry, but to talk. He sits down and just talks—about everything going on in his life and in his mind.

He tells me about his friends and conversations he has with them. And he often says something like, “I was talking to my friend the other day about this problem he is having and I said, well my mom always says…” I was speechless. I sat there trying not to look astonished.

Be cool. Act natural, I kept telling myself. But in my head, I was screaming, Did he just quote me? To his friends? Something I said actually sank in? What is happening?

And there sitting before me was the evidence of things unseen. My labor was not in vain. The Lord had graciously brought this flower to bloom. And allowed me to see it.

Please don’t think this is any kind of self-congratulatory moment of praise for my parenting. Hardly! Repentance and regret were my two constant companions during his childhood. But the Lord was gracious and blessed the flawed efforts I put out.

The point is that in everything, including the lives of our children, there is death and resurrection. And in those moments when you see the death, it’s easy to despair, but that’s when you have to cling most to the hope of resurrection. Things are not always as they appear.

So moms, keep watering those seeds, keep nourishing that soul because one day that plant will blossom and it will be the most beautiful thing you ever saw.

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