One of the best (and hardest) pieces of advice I received as a new mom of a toddler 15 years ago was, “Let him fall.”
What??? Let my little sweet boy faceplant when I can simply swoop in and save him from a potential trip to the ER for stitches… or worse?
“Let him fall. If you don’t let him fall he will never learn how to get up.”
Brilliant. Yes, of course. Let him fall. I can do that. (I said to myself as I winced.)
And as the years have gone by, “Let him fall” has turned into “Let him fail”. And that is still painful but wise advice as we sail through the pre-teen and teen years. However, among years of hard falls and fails, the truth remains the same with both of my boys. If I don’t let them fall, how will they learn to get back up and brush themselves off? If I don’t let them fail, how will they learn how to deal with failure? Sure, at times it would be so much easier to “help” and remove their obstacles, clear the chaos for them, and just let them ride a bit easier. And then I reflect on my own journey. I don’t recall my parents swooping in and saving me with each fall and failure, rather, I recall their presence and comfort when those obstacles came my way.
We all have faced and will face failures. The Bible even assures us, “In this world we will have trouble.” (John 16:33) So why are we so fearful of falling, so afraid of failures? And why is that fear especially prominent as it relates to our children? I think perhaps it’s because we know how hard it is to wade through failures. We know there could be pain, struggle, and sometimes even embarrassment attached to them. It’s hard to see our children going through struggle, but it’s even harder to see them going through it, ill-equipped. And how will they learn the how if they never experience it? For those of us who have seen our fair share of struggles and failures, we know that when we accept the struggles and have faith that God is walking with us, there is great hope in the struggle. We become equipped. And we are assured that God will not only carry us through it (if we let Him), but will get us to the other side of it even better than when we entered. So the greater the struggle, the greater the hope.
I love the New Living Translation of Romans 5:3-5, which states, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Emphasis mine.)
If God were to simply remove the struggles and obstacles in our path, the hope would go right along with it. There would be no need for hope. Like my one-year-old learning to walk. The more he fell, the fewer the tears and the quicker he got up, brushed his own self off, and trotted ahead. Each time with a bit more bravery, a bit more confidence. A bit more hope.
If ever there was a year with struggles, obstacles, and chaos, we all know it’s this year. I’ve heard believers on more than one occasion proclaim that God is surely at work right now; this is Romans 5:3-5 in action. We’re becoming more equipped. We’re gaining greater hope. I’ve also heard some struggling, “If there really is a God, why doesn’t He just swoop in and remove some of this chaos, this pain, these obstacles?” I have even found myself asking for His mercy and shalom on way more than one occasion.
This past weekend, a local church pastor (Matt Massey, Senior Pastor of Vineyard Cincinnati Church) shared an insightful perspective during his sermon on this word, shalom – one I’ve never considered. He pointed out that in Hebrew, each of the letters in Shalom means something: MEM (means chaos), VAV (means attached), LAMED (means authority) and SHIN (means destroy). So, this Hebrew meaning of Shalom actually translates as: “to destroy the authority attached to chaos.” In essence, he rescues us from the chaos, but not in the way you would think. In his sermon, he further pointed out that our Heavenly Father doesn’t destroy the chaos itself, rather, he destroys the authority attached to it. He destroys the power it has.
So, He doesn’t eradicate the falls, the sins, the mistakes… rather, He destroys the authority that they have over us, when we put our hope in Him and not in the things of this world. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
I can be assured that while my husband and I do not save our sons from their falls and failures, we can destroy the authority they have over them. Their falls and failures do not rule over them. For we are not defined by our failures. Our faith and hope are in Jesus. Our identities are not tied to our last fall or failure. Our identities are not as humans living among a chaotic world. As Christ-followers, our identities are in Jesus and Him alone.
When the angels told the shepherds about the birth of Christ, they called Him the One who will at last bring the much needed peace on earth (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:14). It’s what the chaotic and dark world needed at that time. Jesus is the Prince of shalom who would bring in God’s kingdom of peace that the prophets foretold (Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 14:33).
Peace. Shalom. It was what the world was craving 2020 years ago. It’s what we’re all craving now.
Pastor Matt Massey punctuated his point on shalom by sharing, “God simply says, put your faith and hope in Me and I’ll put my spirit in you and you will have power, given by the resurrection, to destroy the authority attached to the chaos, and to receive My peace.”
And that is the rescue story I will embrace this Christmas season.
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”Acts 10:36
Lord, I thank you that you are always looking out for me, just as I try to look out for my sons. I thank you for not only giving us the best blueprint for parenting through struggle but modeling that for us. Thank you for not always saving me from the falls, disappointments, and chaos, as I know that each produces perseverance, and ultimately hope; and hope from You does not disappoint. Please help me to continue to embrace that as a parent, and please help us all to destroy the authority attached to the chaos around us, and help us to experience a kind of shalom this season that breaks through the darkness just as it did over 2,000 years ago. I put my faith and hope in You alone. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.