Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Free Will and Helicopters

Today I was trying to figure out if there would be a watercraft equivalent of a helicopter or if it would still be adequate to use the term helicopter. Three of my boys are taking swim lessons. None of them are particularly skilled swimmers..yet. I have faith that they will eventually be competent enough in the water to enjoy water parks and swim parties with friends.

I was marvelling at how patient the young instructors were. They were firm enough that even the most nervous students (one, my own son) participated and even relaxed. The instructors were supportive and made the children feel safe, offered instructions and praise. I watched from the balcony bleachers offering "thumbs up" signs if they looked to me for approval. I had faith in the instructors and in my children. I have no delusions, 10 days of lessons is not going to turn any of them into a pint-sized Michael Phelps, but maybe they will feel a little more confident in the water and maybe they'll be able to swim a smidge better than they can today.

I found myself wondering, however, about the mothers hanging over the railing shouting words of "encouragement" to their children as the instructor tried to do what they are paid to do, instruct. This was more than "good job" after the task was done. They were shouting "kick those legs, paddle those arms" while the instructor was working with their child. I don't think they meant any harm. They want their child to be successful, feel safe and know that someone who loves them very much is watching...is there. I think they have the best of intentions.

God is always there with us. I love the Footprints poem by Mary Stevenson where the person finds only one set of footprints on the beach when things are particularly rough and they are told by the Lord, that is because I was carrying you. God is always with us, but we are not controlled by God. God, the ultimate parent, gave us free will. God gave us a great deal of guidance and instruction about what our path should be, but we have to make choices each and every day. And not only do we have free will, but so do other people who may have impact on our lives in both good and bad ways.

As a mom, I see my role as loving my kids and instructing them in the way they should go. But, I recognize that even with the best instructions, rules and examples (and mine are not always the best, because I'm all too human, thank you very much) my boys are going to make bad choices sometimes. Somtimes I can catch the error before it happens...like when I catch them on the wind-up before they land a punch or throw something they shouldn't. Sometimes I can stop them from following through on a bad choice and we can talk about why it's a bad choice. I cannot always be present, like God can, so at some point I have to trust them to do the right thing or deal with the fallout.

God is so much bigger than I can ever dream of being. I am so thankful that when I cannot be there to watch over these children, God is there. Being there doesn't mean taking immediate, pre-emptive action. (I have this image of superman swooping in to stop a catastrophe..and really that's what we all wish for, isn't it? A superhero.) God is much bigger than any superhero because God is able to shoulder any pain or burden and carry us through it, stronger, wiser--we are refined-by-the-fire children of God.

What I have learned from God, is to be present and available but not to do it all for them. Sometimes the best way I can show my kids I believe in them is to stand back, get out of the way and let them have at it. They get lots of encouragement and praise for effort and accomplishment, but I hope they're learning that they can do anything they set their mind to independently, because even when I'm not there physically, I will always be giving them a thumbs up and lots of love.

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