I spend a lot of time in our laundry room – I mean a LOT. I learned a long time ago to use that time productively – well, by that I mean using it for more than just getting the laundry done.
Each of my kids has had his/her own laundry bin since they were born and I have a system where I do certain people’s laundry on certain days of the week. It works for us.
One of the byproducts of my little system is that while I’ve spent week after week, year after year, doing laundry for my family this way, I have prayed for each person specifically, pointedly, fervently while doing his/her laundry. I don’t really mind doing the laundry – even though for a family of nine there has certainly been a lot of it. There’s a lot of love that has happened in my laundry room.
And, because of the volume of laundry and the time that gets spent keeping the process going, the laundry room is one of the first places my kids look for me when they can’t find me. It is not at all uncommon now for one of them to seek me out for some one-on-one mom time when I’m in there. There is still a lot of love happening in my laundry room.
So it was no surprise to me when one of my sons came in to “help” me fold clothes. He had been struggling through some weighty issues.
He’s a young man. He’s reached the age where he is thinking seriously about his mission in life, and looking forward to the time when he can ask a young woman to follow him in it as his wife. I’m glad he’s giving serious thought to these things. However, one of his friendships had put a lot of restrictions on him – or at least he felt he should be restricted. She’s a sweet girl from a great family – she’ll make a wonderful wife and mother some day. But I didn’t believe that she would be a good fit for him. He was different around her than he was around us – less prone to laugh at the things we normally laugh at, less willing to engage in activities that we normally enjoy, and a little more inclined to look at others with judgment when they didn’t behave the same way. This was never her doing – it was his. He was trying to do what he thought would please her and make her approve of him. But that’s not how God intends things to be, is it? He wants us to please Him and look to Him for approval.
We had talked about this inconsistency many times, but he didn’t really want to see it for what it was. It was the topic of many of my laundry room prayers.
But one day he went with another family to an event that was pure delight to him. The members of that family (including some young ladies) thoroughly enjoyed his company, and he theirs. They laughed and took pictures of the day and had a blast together. It was silly, frivolous, thoroughly enjoyable fun for all of them.
When he came into the laundry room, he was excited to show me the pictures they had taken together and tell me about the day. He was beaming.
After he told me the stories he wanted to share I took a breath and said, “I have a question for you. Would ______ have taken those kinds of fun pictures with you? Would she have even gone to this event with you or would it have been viewed as too frivolous or silly?” He said, “that’s more than one question.”
But he took my point.
After some reflection he answered truthfully that no, _____________ would not have gone to the event or taken the silly pictures. She would have, in fact, probably encouraged him not to waste his time on such silliness.
I asked him how it felt to be with people who just accepted him for him? How was it to laugh and be yourself and not worry about what might be considered inappropriate to laugh at or want to do – when all of it was innocent fun that had no sinfulness attached to it? I asked him, too, how it was to be with young ladies who truly appreciate his talents and personality the way they already are without implying that they might be better if….?
He was quiet.
Pressing further, I said, “Son, life can be sweet if you’re with someone who is building you up and encouraging you to be the man that God has intended for you to become. But it can be really, really long if you’re with someone who always wants to mold you into the image of the man that she wants you to be. When I see that happening to you, the mother bear comes out in me and I want to protect you from it. But you need to be looking at these kinds of things in your relationships – especially as you think through the qualities you hope to find in a future wife.”
Still quiet, I asked him, “What do you think about what I’ve said?”
His answer was precious – and so typically him! He said, after some reflection, “I think Mother Bear has much to share, and I have much to think about.”
OK. I can live with that.
Parents, a lot of discipleship – the vast majority of it – happens in moments like these. I couldn’t have had that kind of conversation with my son if I didn’t have his heart. He knows – beyond any shadow of any doubt - that I love him. He knows he can trust me to always tell him the truth. He knows I will listen to him when he comes to me – even when he has to tell me things I may not want to hear as well. He knows that I only, and always, have his good in mind. He’s heard lots and lots of words of affirmation and encouragement over the years, too. And he has learned to listen, even when I have tell him things he doesn’t want to hear. Don’t be afraid to press in and say the challenging things – but be sure you have your child’s heart first.
Our parenting roles and responsibilities change what they look like over the years, but we are always responsible to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth isn’t usually the hard part for lots of parents. – having our kids’ hearts isn’t as easy. But for our kids, knowing that there is first a foundation of love and acceptance in your home and in your relationship with them makes hearing the truth possible.
They know they need the truth, but first they’ll come looking for the heart-connection in your love.
Make sure you leave the laundry room door open.