CAROLINE WATKINS: Angels Unawares

Caroline Watkins

Inspired by a Bruce Hornsby concert recently, I was planning to write about how music has the power to transport us. Hearing some of the songs from early in his career took me right back to my younger days when I would run along the dusty roads of Howard, Colorado listening to his music on my walkman after a long day of river guiding. (Yes, I’m a dinosaur.) But sometimes you travel down roads in life – and in writing – and are redirected!

I was also recently quite literally redirected OFF the road after rolling through a stop sign near UVa’s Darden School. Not that it happens often, mind you, but seeing those flashing lights in the rear view mirror always makes my heart sink.

I immediately pulled over and rolled down my window. The officer approached and asked me if I knew what the infraction was. I smiled knowingly and told him I had a hunch. He collected my license and registration and returned to his car. When he came back to mine, the most unexpected exchange ensued.

He inquired about my day in a disarmingly genuine way. I told him I had just come from a very involved phone conversation with a client at my office and that I was driving to pick up my daughter and her friends at a local Shopping Center. I admitted I was simply not paying attention and thus, had no excuse.

Pressing further he said that it sounded like I had a lot on my mind. It occurred to me, rather spontaneously, to tell him that the safety and well-being of my daughter had indeed been weighing on my mind of late, and that was part of the reason I wanted to be the one to pick her up.

He explained that he worked The Corner, a hotspot of bars and restaurants near UVa, with his partners a lot and that it was always surprising to him when he calls parents after having their under-age teenager in “custody.” A bit haltingly he continued, “Some of the parents don’t really care.” To my complete and total surprise, he thanked me for caring and being a “good mom” and then issued only a warning in lieu of a ticket.

Yet again it occurred to me that when I am most discouraged – about parenting as well as other things – I so often seem to get an “out of the blue” message of encouragement. Yet never has it come from a police officer!

There is a saying that when we receive a blessing, we can become a blessing. It may be a stretch to call the following a blessing, but hopefully it’s at least a message of encouragement to the parents of teens out there: There is no substitute for paying attention and things cannot be dealt with unless they are in the light. Oh, and…

Have the difficult conversations with your child; be willing to say no; do your part; hold them accountable for theirs; (resist the temptation to think, “My child would never….”); let them stumble and fall and feel the sting of consequences; be more relentless than they are; remember that you were once their age; respect their “personhood” (per George MacDonald); do the next right thing and the next right thing after that – from a place of authority, not friendship; forgive them – and yourself; pray…and pray…and pray some more; and don’t hesitate to ask others to join you in this most important endeavor.

I think quite often of St. Augustine and his attributing his very life and ministry to the prayers of his mother. And lo and behold, as I was struggling with the ending for this column, I received one on mothering by Lysa TerKeurst, which concludes with a perspective from God as if He’s thinking out loud:

“What mom will rely on Me to make her strong enough, persevering enough, tough enough to bend without breaking under the weight of the choices this child will make? What mom is willing to be humbled to the point of humiliation, yet not blinded to the wisdom to be discovered in this situation, much like finding diamonds hidden in deep places? What mom will not just pray for this child, but will truly pray this child all the way through their stuff?

What mom will be courageous enough to let Me write her child’s story?”

And there you have it, moms AND dads. This last line, the most powerful in the entire column, speaks so beautifully of two things all of us need to do: Surrender to and, by extension, Trust in the Lord, the Author and Giver of life; in the Archer who sends our children as living arrows forth into the world; in the master Storyteller.

He’s got them – and us too.

Caroline Watkins