By Laura Booz
When our daughter, Vivienne, was thirteen years old, we sent her to an intense ballet camp in Philadelphia for five weeks. This was not our typical parenting move. After weeks of prayer, we were shocked when we said yes.
Viv was excited about the opportunity, but truth be told, I was the driving force behind the decision. I was convinced she needed the adventure. She’s a beautiful dancer and I wanted her to meet dancers, choreographers, and instructors from around the world. I wanted her to revel in the freedom and to seize the opportunity. It was a safe, well-organized, and well-supervised program and I felt good about it until… ugh... the night we returned home from dropping her off at the dorm three hours away.
I had a pit in my stomach. How could I have left my child in Philadelphia?! I wondered. What was I thinking? My sister lived minutes away and could help her at any time, but honestly, what was I thinking?!
Viv doesn’t mind my telling you it was a rough five weeks for all of us. Even though she was a light there - the RA’s, teachers, and chef gushed over her cheerfulness, hard work ethic, and selflessness - she was miserable.
She didn’t know a soul.
She was dancing eight hours a day.
She was homesick.
And she was only thirteen.
If Ryan and I weren’t praying, texting, or talking to Viv on the phone, we were wondering if we should bring her home early or encourage her to complete the challenge (she did!).
After the ballet intensive, Vivienne stopped dancing altogether. It had lost its joy.
I wondered if I had misunderstood the Lord’s leading. Did my imagination trick me? Did I push too much and ruin a good thing? I may never know the answers to those questions.
The teen years are challenging because we want to do right by our kids. We begin to see glimpses of their gifts and calling. As they enter their teen years, we want to set them up for success, but we also have to work within the boundaries of their personhood and our relationship. We may want one thing for our daughter, but she may want another. We may see certain gifts in her, but she may not be interested in developing those gifts. She might have her heart set on something entirely different.
It’s so complicated.
Jesus cares about mothers and their teen daughters. He cares about the pressure we feel to get it right and to set them up for success. He cares about the likelihood that we will mess things up and need to be reminded that He’s got it covered.
A story in the gospel of Luke reassures me that my teen’s happiness, success, and well-being doesn’t rest on my shoulders. When Jesus was twelve, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. On the return trip to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph did not realize that Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem. After they had traveled for a day, Mary and Joseph couldn’t find Jesus anywhere. They began a frantic search. Eventually, they returned to Jerusalem and found him in the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46-47) Mary was beside herself with astonishment and distress, but Jesus calmly said to her, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Scripture tells us that Jesus respectfully returned home to Nazareth with them.
At the end of this scene, we read, “And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:52
I wonder, what was Mary treasuring in her heart?
Was she simply treasuring the delight of finding her precious twelve-year-old son? I can only imagine how wonderful she felt when she held him, heard his voice, and knew that all was well. Or perhaps Mary was treasuring the fact that she found her son in the temple in conversation with spiritual leaders, astounding them with his understanding of Scripture. What an incredible display of his gifts! She must have felt so proud of him. More than that, perhaps Mary was treasuring Jesus’ haunting and holy words about the temple being his Father’s house. This is the first time we hear Jesus acknowledge that he is the perfect son of God. In that moment, God himself was connecting with the mom of a pre-teen and assuring her that the weight of the world didn’t rest on her shoulders… it rested on His. It wasn’t her job to set her son up for success, perfection, happiness, or wellbeing. God had sent His Son into the world – a teen who was perfect, who understood His gifts and calling perfectly, who knew how to develop and use those gifts, and who was honest, obedient, and respectful all the while.
In this scene, we discover a foundational truth for our teens: Jesus has fulfilled the role of the perfect teen for our daughters’ sakes. For every doubt and question that our daughters have about their calling, purpose, and future, Jesus holds the answer. He welcomes each precious teen girl to share in His righteousness and to become God’s child, too. “…to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13
Do you think He will faithfully guide our daughters as they develop their gifts?
Do you think He will guide us as we raise them?
Do you think He will take our imperfect and stumbling efforts and work them all out for our good and His glory?
I do. I’m counting on it.
In time, Vivienne began to dance again. She does pirouettes in the kitchen and takes a few classes at the studio. God only knows how she will use her gifts. Choreography, maybe. Musical theatre, maybe. Speech therapy, maybe. We’re learning to hold our gifts loosely, hands open before God, who fills them with the treasure of a perfect Savior.
Author Bio: Laura loves to learn and share practical encouragement with other homeschooling moms. She lives with her husband and 6 children on a farmette where they sing, raise chickens, host campfire parties, and read books. Laura is a member of the Church, a friend, a writer, and a teacher. Most of her writing focuses on homeschooling, marriage, motherhood, and ministering in the local church. She received a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in English Literature from the University of Richmond, M.A. in English Literature from Penn State University, and Certificate in Women’s Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. She serves as the Coordinator of Women's Ministry at Oakwood Presbyterian Church. Connect with her at www.LauraBooz.com.
Looking for more Truth for your teen? Check out True You, with new episodes releasing each Friday! Dannah Gresh, Staci Rudolph, and Alena Pitts hit the round table of Truth to expose the lies we often believe as teens and discover the Truth that replaces those lies. Centered around content found in the book Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, True You aims to encourage teens to be the truest version of who God created them to be. Our first episode launches next Friday, August 7th!