Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leaving and Cleaving

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife…"Gen. 2:24 "Leaving" is defined as "removing oneself from association with or participation in." "Cleaving," means to "adhere closely." It's not so difficult to cleave to something, but it sure is difficult to pull away- just ask any mom and dad dropping their kid off at the bus, camp or college. I know the passage above is describing marriage, but the "leaving and cleaving" begins much earlier. A healthy progression of "letting go" of our kids is absolutely crucial to good parenting. Earlier in Genesis, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now, most parents would say, "Wait a minute, my precious little baby has me as his helper- he is not alone." It's true that our God-given role as parents is to raise our precious kids, protect and nurture them. But from day one, our role is to teach our kids to fly on their own. We, as parents, are so good for our kids, but we are not the answer to their loneliness. Parenting is tough business. From the moment we have children, we're walking a tightrope. We're "hands on" protecting and nourishing our kids while "hands off," we're letting them experience life on their own. If we're not secure in our own sense of worth, then we run the danger of living out our lives vicariously through our kids. Not good. Why? Because when we're on the basketball floor with them, then they have to play perfectly; when it's us taking that test with them, then they have to make an A; when it's us choosing a career through them, then they have to choose what we think is best. It's easy to forget that it's our kid's lives to be lived and not our own. Like someone said, "I don't want to look back and have lived out someone's else's purpose for my life- I want to live out God's plan for me." The other day I heard a mom say, "It's been harder to raise my kids now that they're adults." Sure it is, because they're raised. Do they still have a lot of life to learn? Yes, of course. We never stop the learning process. But we need to respond correctly to our kids as they're growing up. Before our kids marry, we need to let them live life on their own. As parenting experts Dr.'s Cline and Fay reinforce, we become consultant parents, always available to support and love our kids, but letting them make their own decisions. It's as much about us taking the initiative to "back off" than it is about them "pulling away." I remember asking my dad questions during college and his standard comeback was "I'm sure you'll make the right decision and I'm here to help you." I wanted to say, "If you really want to help me, then make the decision!" But he knew he wouldn't be around one day (he passed away in 1988) and that I needed to learn to make my own decisions. Even if our kids make poor decisions (which usually just means they're making decisions different from ours), we must let them live and learn and that begins by backing off. After our kids marry, we need to let them live life with their spouses. Hopefully, we've already "left" them to grow up before they're actually joined to their other half. If not, we run the risk of short-circuiting the new relationship by meddling in territory that isn't ours. The "helpers" are suitable for one another and need to be left to help themselves. In-laws that are too involved have compromised many a marriage. Parents need to "leave" and let the couple "cleave." The initial degrees of "cleaving" are directly proportional to the degree the in-laws let go and "leave." We need to show our kids we love them by "leaving" them to "cleave" to God and eventually to their spouses. Simply put, we have to let them grow up. Trust them and let them learn in the process. But, like my dad said, "Always be there for them." By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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