When You Don't Know What To Say
"A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!"
Proverbs 15:23 (NIV)
Sometimes our words flow as smoothly as water down a mountain, providing refreshment to everyone around us. Those are magical moments, times that draw us close and make our hearts swell with the joy of connection. Other times boulders seem to roll into our lives, cutting off the ease of connection, causing us to rethink our way and work at finding new paths toward the relationship we desire.
Does that happen to you? Someone asks you a question, and your mind goes blank. Your child or a friend calls to ask for advice, and a list of possible answers scroll through your head, yet you find it difficult to choose just the right script. They tell you a story, and you're not sure how to react. A friend shares something sad, and you trip over your words, trying to be sensitive and comforting.
I've thought about this a lot in the past several days.
Last week a friend asked for help with a difficult situation in her life. I suggested something for her to read - scriptures as well as some blogs that might explore how other women applied those scriptures in their lives.
We had lunch today. My friend told me she had looked up what I suggested and read everything. "But why did you suggest that? I'm not sure what you thought I would get out of it."
You know what?
I don't know either. Thinking about it as I drove to meet my friend for lunch, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I felt my suggestion would be helpful. Upon reflection, I realized it was possibly even counter-productive.
What was I thinking?
I'm not sure. I was in a hurry last week. I wanted to help, but inside felt unsure what to share. But there was this pressure, you know, to make it all better.
So instead of admitting I didn't know what to say, I scrambled to come up with something, ANYTHING...
Instead of suggesting we pray together, I tried to be all put together, the wise older woman who had all the answers.
You've probably never been so silly.
I would have been wiser and more put together by being honest and real. I should have told my friend I loved her, didn't know what to suggest and that I would pray for guidance while I tried to find some information that might help.
So let me do that with you today.
I don't know what to say. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I have some ideas for our parenting but don't know how to say what's on my heart. So before we go any further, would you stop and pray with me?
Dear Father in heaven who loves us all more than we can even imagine, please help us move our discussion in a slightly different direction today. Open our hearts without fear to explore some things our children would like us to consider. They love us, and they are grateful for all we have done for them. Even if they can't always find the words to say what they feel, they know we have tried to do our best in raising them. Our hearts hurt when our kids hurt. Please help us be patient with ourselves as we learn how to let go and connect as adults.
Parenting is a touchy business. It's often one of the most tender, fearful areas of our lives. Questions play over and over on the tapes in our minds. Am I doing it "right"? Did I do it "right"? I've found very few subjects hold power to make me bristle as fast as discussing a glitch in my parenting.
When I find a way to be brave in those moments, however, the rewards are usually monumental. If I can bravely obey
what God teaches me through James and look in the mirror, I don't walk out the door with lipstick all over my teeth. If I am afraid to do more than peak and then quickly glance away, I miss the opportunity to grow and change.
This parenting thing is tough. Just when I had hit my stride and knew what I was doing, my kids left, and I've spent years figuring out new strategies to keep our connection. Changing mid-stride has been hard. As I get older, it's tempting to brush my past and present weaknesses under the carpet. The more I meditate on this, however, the more I realize what a privilege and blessing it is to have the opportunity to change.
What if we were destined to always be who we are today? I like who I am, but I'm thankful that I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago or even the same woman who moved to Texas 18 months ago. The ability to grow and change is a blessing. Growth is our friend.
Does fear keep you from facing that nagging little thought that pops up after a(nother) failed attempt at connection? Do you find yourself blaming your spouse, your kids, your community for the lack of closeness you long for?
Don't worry, my friend. You are not alone. And on these pages, you will find no judgment. Go ahead, look inside. See what God is whispering in those nagging thoughts. Take them to him, lay them before him and ask for his guidance. Connection is his specialty, and if you look long and hard at the words in his letter to us, you will find answers to connecting with your child.
"But God does not just sweep life away; instead he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him." 2 Samuel 14:14b
Can you see the picture God is painting for us with his words? Can you imagine him reaching outstretched hands in our direction? Do you see him drawing up a plan to win our trust?
God devises plans to draw us near. He contrives new ways to gain access to our hearts. He schemes (in every good sense of that word) ingenious plans to show us the extent of his love. Over and over and over again God reaches out to us, hoping for success, never giving up.
I know we want to enjoy a deep connection with our children.
Our adult kids want connection, too. They long for it, actually.
They don't always find it easy though. You might not either.
I've received some letters in the past few months. Adult kids have reached out for help (no, probably not yours), frustrated with interactions that have left them feeling sad and disconnected. In making life choices that veered from the path their parents expected, they believe family relationships have suffered.
Our adult kids hate that. They want to be close. They want to be friends. They love us. They respect us. They hate to see us hurt - and they know when we do.
The stories are different, but the questions are similar. "How can I live my life, yet stay connected to my family when they don't agree with my life or spiritual choices?"
Superficial connection, where the only safe topics of conversation are the weather and (perhaps) their job, isn't a satisfactory option. They long for a deep, meaningful, honest relationship that transcends agreement. Why is acceptance such a hard thing sometimes?
If complete agreement (and compliance) is the only way to gain and keep our connection, I'm afraid we will be destined to have broken relationships. The adult kids who wrote to me know their parents don't agree with their choices. They know the spiritual convictions their parents hold. They don't want to disrespect those convictions, but they do want the freedom to make their own choices.
Our adult children are going to think differently than we do about many things. They might choose a career path we believe is a mistake. They might want to live someplace we think is unwise. They might adopt a lifestyle we don't agree with. They might develop different spiritual conclusions. They might raise their children differently. They might make a lot of choices we don't understand. They will probably move away and take our grandkids with them.
What can you do today to build a meaningful connection with your adult kids? Is there something you can say to encourage them? Is there something you want to apologize for? Is there something to be curious about?
What plans can you devise?
I don't know the answers. Your life and your children are different than mine. But I hope we can all find the courage to let go of OUR hopes and dreams for our kids and embrace their actual lives. Our gracious acceptance of their choices may open the door to meaningful conversations and heart level understanding.
I often go back to John 8:1-11. This story of the woman caught in the act of adultery was one of my first encounters with Jesus when I was learning the Bible. He amazed me. He offered grace and mercy toward an undeserving crowd. He was respectful to a group of people that were trying to trap him. He was kind to a woman who probably feared for her life.
I want to be like this Jesus. I think you do, too. Jesus found a way to respectfully and graciously communicate with a group of people he didn't agree with.
I'm praying for each of us to enjoy a lifetime of connection with these precious people we carry in our hearts. Even when we don't know what to say.
As always, I love to connect with my readers. Share your ideas and thoughts below or feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org