Let me set the record straight: I am terrible at holding my children loosely. So, there’s that.

However, I am an expert at knowing what I should do. Maybe this puts me in good company with the apostle Paul who lamented over why he kept doing the things he didn’t want to do. If that guy couldn’t follow his good intentions, then I think we can give ourselves some leeway and attagirls for trying our best.

When our kids are little, they need us for survival. Holding them snug is one way we provide comfort. As they grow up, we begin the slow process of letting go as they learn to do life on their own. From holding their own bottle, using a spoon, walking unattended, going to school, spending the night at a friend’s house, and taking the wheel. We spend our days watching in amazement over the progression toward independence.

While observing the natural milestones brings tremendous joy (along with a fair amount of trepidation at times), nothing prepares us for the trial of letting go of the emotional and mental wrangling that goes along with our kids’ walks toward and through adulthood. These less tangible realms can become hornet’s nests in our heart if we aren’t careful. So how do we avoid the sting?

The wisdom of Corrie Ten Boom rocked my world a few years back. She says the following:

“You must learn to hold everything loosely . . . everything. Even your dear family. Why? Because the Father may wish to take one of them back to Himself, and when He does, it will hurt you if He must pry your fingers loose.”

Not sure about you, but her words lit me up, exposing the truth about my death-grip-attachment tendencies. My weakness is holding my kids too tight in trying to protect them from pain, adversity, and struggle As if I have any power or control beyond God’s almighty ability to work out things for good in their lives.

My mental and emotional clinging looks like a mental script of what ifs and what thens: What if he can’t overcome this struggle? What if her prayer isn’t answered the way she hopes? What if he can’t find his way? What if she can’t figure this out, then what? What if his choice means that consequence?

The inner wrangling often translates into fearful conjecture, unsolicited advice, and a tendency to focus more on the problem instead of the problem solver, Jesus. Sometimes the problems we see aren’t even a reality in our kid’s lives. We see things not as they are, but as we are.

Which is why I think Corrie’s encouragement is divinely on point. Just imagine if, as mommas, we held on loosely to the following related to our kids:

  1. Our expectations (about anything)
  2. Our dreams for their future
  3. Our ideas about what’s best
  4. Our notions of what’s right
  5. Our concerns about their decisions
  6. Our worry over their struggles

If God has to pry our fingers off these areas of mothering, and He will, it’s gonna hurt like Hades. Trust me when I say I continue to experience the reckoning. The arthritis in my knuckles is proof.

But what does letting go or holding loosely look like? How much do we let go? All the way? A little? Only in certain areas?

Also, if we let go, won’t our kids fall? I’ve learned the answer is, no. Instead, they will find freedom. Freedom to grow, learn from their mistakes, build resolve, find strength, and trust in God to guide them and carry the load when they are unable.

We find freedom as well. Freedom to breathe by letting go of fear. We hold our kids loosely in the form of prayer and surrender. If there’s anyone who should be holding our kids tight, it’s the One who gave our kids to us on loan in the first place. God really does have their best interest in mind—and ours! He will always be there for both of us, in both the highs and the lows.

Let’s do our best to hold on loosely, mommas, so God can get a grip.

Originally published on the author’s blog

You may also like:

Dear Teenagers, Be Patient While I Let Go

My Heart is Learning to Let You Go

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Shelby Spear

A self-described sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, and love enthusiast, Shelby is a mom of 3 Millennials writing about motherhood and life from her empty nest. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.") , and you can find her stories in print at Guideposts, around the web at sites like Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, For Every Mom and on her blog shelbyspear.com.