The Sideline Shuffle

I came home from work a few months ago to find this little guy in front of our house.  As I walked up, his tiny head turned, and we locked eyes. The second I saw him, my heart hurt. It felt like it was 110 degrees out and the sun was beating down on his little body. I had no idea where he came from. No nest in sight, panic washed over me. Tears filled my eyes. My mama heart took over.

Yes. Yes. I know. It is a bird. But all I could see was this helpless little creature who looked lost and scared.  As I shifted my position to look at him closer, his eyes followed me.  He didn’t look scared.  It is like he wanted me to rescue him. Wherever I moved, his little neck turned. I knew he was young. He still had those sweet soft fluffy feathers. I wondered if he was hungry. I’m sure he was thirsty. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew I couldn’t leave him there.

At this point my husband had joined me to see what I had found. He too looked for a nest of some sort but saw nothing. It was landscaping day so I knew the guys had been through the area with the leaf blower and might have quite possibly blown this little guy right out of his nest.

We decided to walk into the house and watch from the front door to see what might happen next.  And when we moved, he moved. He hopped his little body right toward the front door.  His little mouth was open wide as he began to cry.  I thought I was going to burst into tears. The mama in me couldn’t stand it.

At this point, my husband had begun googling what to do with a lost baby bird and he discovered we had come across a fledgling. This was a not a baby bird in distress, but instead one that was learning its way. The article my husband found suggested that the mother was most likely close by watching her young one, making sure it was okay. But she did so from a distance. I was fascinated. I watched longer as he began to hop and attempt to flap his tiny little wings all while crying out for help.  

As he hopped, he headed for the direction of the bushes and this time when he flapped his wings, he gained a bit of air and landed himself on a branch in the bush. Finally, I felt better and was able to give him the room he needed to do his thing.

Over the course of the last week, I have thought quite a bit about that little fledgling.  How much my heart hurt watching this little bird try to figure out its next move and not knowing what waited ahead for it. It made me think about my children.

Watching your kid struggle is never an easy thing. Especially if they have placed people in their life who add to their struggle.

Four of my five children are adults. They don’t need mom anymore to prepare their meals or do their laundry or keep them safe.  They are on their own and much like that fledging, they are navigating the world around them as I sit in the background and watch from a distance.  I don’t get to pick what they eat, who they choose to allow into their lives or what activities they participate in.  Instead, I watch. I attempt now and again to offer advice or direction when asked, but I know, the only way they will truly figure things out is to let them make mistakes and live out the consequences of those mistakes.

Parenting is hard. But as parents we must know when to let go and allow them to navigate their journey.  And as badly as we want to intervene and overstep, we can’t. Taking a seat on the sidelines and doing what I like to call the Sideline Shuffle all while letting them find their way is the most selfless and loving action we can take. Even when it’s hard.

About 18 years ago, my youngest son became very ill while we were on vacation. He had a very high fever and his breathing had become labored. We found our way to the nearest urgent care where we were told we needed to get him to a hospital.  As I sat in the back seat with my less than a year-old baby, I held him close.  The entire way I prayed.  I thanked God for allowing me to be his mom and that no matter what happened next, I knew my child belonged to God and that He loved my child far more than I could comprehend. I knew God’s plans were greater than my own and that He was in control.  I trusted Him.  But at the same time, I was afraid of what might happen to my little one.  But God.

As parents, we must recognize that our children do not belong to us.  They are His.  He gives them to us for such a short time and our mission is to point them towards truth and to Jesus. To teach them Who should be first in their life. To encourage them to turn from the things of the world that would distract them from following Jesus. To not encourage them to worship idols or material things. We have only been given a few short years before we must push them out of the nest and let them learn to fly. 

Over the last few weeks, I have been able to share this story with a few of my friends who have littles still at home. The wonder and fear that fills their eyes when I say, “those babies don’t belong to you” always makes me smile just a little bit. The moment that realization sinks in becomes a moment that will forever change your perspective and parenting strategy and will forever change the course of not only how you see your children, but the way in which you see your Abba Daddy!

Pushing them out of that nest is a scary move but sending them on their way without Jesus is far scarier. Be confident!  God has them and He loves them!  He’s watching and waiting to catch them! And His love and His provision for their lives is far more than anything we can ever give!

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