Strong-willed children and thatched roofs: A word for weary parents

I told my husband he could name our son. (Of course, I retained veto power. I don’t play that fast and loose.).

But since I had basically, pregnancy-empowered, declared by decree the name of our second child, it was technically his turn when our third came along.

“William,” he said. “Will.”

“Okay,” I said as I thought it over. “I’m fine with that. Any reason?”

“Well, our kids are so strong-willed, we can assume this one will be too,” he reasoned. “We may as well go ahead and name him for it.”

He wasn’t wrong (though my oldest still takes the cake on that front).

Fast forward four or so years, through countless parenting tears and prayers and asking myself how in the world is this defiant child MINE?….

….to the kids and me piled on top of Will’s big bed one night – pj’s (finally) on, teeth (finally) brushed- reading a Bible story.

Now, before you think we are some precious family gathered, candlelit, around our heirloom KJV Bible, let me clarify. In with the books about bulldozers and anthropomorphic pigs and whatnot, we read a Bible story from our “well-loved”(i.e: beat up) children’s Bible with the cover torn off.

We read Mark 2:1-12 to be exact: the story of the paraplegic man let down through the roof.

Isn’t it strange/glorious how scripture you know by heart can speak to you completely differently at different times?

When I realize something new in scripture and my heart leaps a little, I think of that as God speaking to me. So, herein is a story where I felt God spoke to me.

I read the story, and you probably know it:

-A disabled man’s friends carry him on a mat to where Jesus is speaking

-The house is packed; they can’t get through the crowd

– So, instead of waiting or leaving, they cut/dig/tear a HOLE IN THE ROOF and lowered their friend down (“Rude!” -crowd, probably)

– Jesus acknowledged their faith, forgave the man’s sins, and healed him.

-The healed man walks (Runs? Leaps around like an unbridled gazelle like I would?) away praising God

The kids and I pause for a minute, studying the pictures.

“Think about how determined his friends were.” I told my kids. “When these guys had a problem, they didn’t give up. They figured out a way around it.”

Then it hit me. Like the an angel smacking me upside the head with those delicate angel wings (assumptions here).

I recognized that determination. AND HOW.

The people in this story were strong-willed people. Like my own young troupe of incredibly strong-willed people I struggle daily to raise.

These friends – and I think it’s fair to assume probably just one or two of the most headstrong of them, probably the one most like my daughter – didn’t like taking no for an answer. They were persistent. (So.darn.persistent. Also very familiar.)

These were people who didn’t care at the moment about what most of the other kids would do. (Check.) They didn’t care that it might annoy other people. (Check). They wanted what they wanted and were undeterred by obstacles. (Double-check).

They were desperate to see Jesus, but a lot of desperate people probably still wouldn’t risk breaking social norms and cutting a hole in the roof and disrupting Jesus’s talk by lowering their friend very nearly on top of him.

My eyes teared up, as I felt God whispered to me: “I use strong-willed people.” It’s right there in black and white (and red), retold for centuries.

I needed to hear it; I needed to hear that God sees my often-difficult children and their often-discouraged mama, and tells me that there is a gift and a purpose in it.

And I am sharing it here for any other storm-weary parents who need that same encouragement.

God has a use for your child’s strong personality. It’s not simply an afterthought, or the leftovers, or a thorny part of the shell just hiding the other, usable parts.

Sometimes those thorny, unmoldable, atypical parts make the story. It would not happen without them.

So thank you, God, for my and all of our headstrong roof-cutters out there.

And heaven help their parents along the way.

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