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The Unpredictable Path

When your child's life doesn't follow your plans.

When we began this parenting journey, most of us set our sights on the end goal: getting from A to Z. You know, A is birth and Z is where your child grows to become a mature-ish, responsible adult who loves God and knows that he has something valuable to contribute to God's kingdom here on earth.

So we step from A to B to C and so on: walking, talking, potty training, sharing toys, heading to school. We read the books and go to the seminars and listen to the experts tell us that this plan, this method, this product will make the path straight and move our children smoothly along the road.

Of course, once in a while we're surprised by a seemingly backward movement, like when the doctor says, "Her speech seems to be delayed," or the teacher says, "He's having trouble reading." But eventually, we learn to take such moments in stride, aware that sometimes our kids can only move forward by stepping back for a bit.

Over the months and years, the linear process continues: C on to D then to E. Looking good. Predictable. The way it should be.

But for some children, and therefore for their parents, an odd turn occurs in this progression toward Z. The child takes a bizarre, unpredicted turn, moving off the path, catapulting into another dimension. Instead of moving toward adulthood the way we hoped, they make a choice that is nowhere in our plan for their lives, nowhere near our heart's desire. An eating disorder. Failing grades. Lying. Drugs. Alcohol.

When it happens, when a child heads off in a direction all her own, I have to ask myself if all children really do go down that linear, predictable path. Some do. But I didn't. Why do I think my children will? Why do I think my children's friends will? And as I ask these questions, I realize that somewhere along the line, I came to a crazy conclusion that if I do everything "right" as a mom, then my children will follow the "right" way. It's as if I've talked myself into believing that God is limited to this straight road, that he can't be found on the wild paths my children might take.

But deep down, I know better. My own life shows me the truth of the Apostle Paul's words in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." In all things, God works for the good of those who love him. In the wise and the foolish, in the predictable and the unpredictable, God is working for good. That's not to say I want my children to veer off the path. But I can take great comfort in knowing that if they do, they will still be well within God's reach.

It would be wonderful if all children walked from A to B to C. But in this wacky world of ours, there's no guarantee that they will. What is certain is that God walks with our children, no matter what road they take. And even if that road leads them past Q and on to Q to the 16th power, God can bring them to Z with hearts and minds full of his love and glory.

Elisa Morgan is president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International. Her most recent book is When Husband & Wife Become Mom and Dad, with Carol Kuykendall (Zondervan). For information about a mops group in your area, call (800) 929-1287.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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