I pulled the car into our driveway and smiled at my son. “Well, that was exciting, what do you think?” He tucked the college packet under his arm and shrugged in the way that teenage boys do and walked towards the house. I kept smiling until he was out of sight, then quietly wiped a tear from my eye.
A woman snuggled her tiny, warm infant to her chest, then gently set him into the waterproof basket she had made from reeds and released him into the river. Her tears mingled with the water.
This summer my son and I have been visiting colleges. In a few short weeks he will be entering his senior year of high school and beginning the application process for school. Or rather, he will be beginning the process of going into the wild unknown. And I know that this time next year, he won’t be walking back into my home, he will be walking into his new home, away from us. I know that prepared or unprepared, he will be encountering new experiences, new challenges, and new choices. And I know that, prepared or unprepared, I will have to let him do those things on his own.
But this thought of giving up control in my son’s life is hard, and I realize that this is the parenting that no one talks about. When what we don’t control becomes bigger than what we do control. It’s an uneasy feeling and questions circle my brain. How will this brand-new world treat him? What mistakes will he make and how will he handle them? What things that we taught him will he choose to remember and what things will he push away? What happens, when what happens is no longer up to us? But mostly I am wondering is this – Am I ready for this?
And all these thoughts about parenting in the season to come remind me of the lesson that our ministry team would be sharing on Sunday about another mother who had to let go before she was ready.
Jochebed was a Hebrew slave who had young children and another on the way. She was an ordinary woman living in an extraordinary time. A time when whatever the Pharaoh decreed was placed into law, even when it was inhumane and inconceivable. And her story begins as she gives birth under the Pharaoh’s edict that every Hebrew male baby be thrown into the Nile River. Talk about someone who didn’t want to give up control, Pharaoh was the ultimate control freak. He was determined to protect his dynasty and believed that controlling the Israelite population would ensure that his reign would continue for years to come. We don’t know exactly what the penance was for those who defied his decree, but we can guess that a man who orders babies to be thrown into the river, would enforce his law with the utmost brutality. So, it is likely that those who chose to save their sons were putting themselves and their whole families at risk. As horrible as this is to think about now, for Jochebed this was the reality of the situation that she found herself in as she prepared to give birth. Can you imagine what that might have been like?
The baby’s cry filled the room. Jochebed closed her eyes, allowing herself one last moment of ignorant bliss. Her voice was heavy. “Is it a daughter or a son?” Please, please be a daughter. The midwife was silent. The baby was laid on her chest and she felt a new weight envelope her. Opening her eyes, she caught the look on the midwife’s face. She didn’t need to look down to know that the warm, solid, bursting with life, life on her chest was a son. Her son. How was she going to make this all OK?
Jochebed was facing a tough situation. She wanted the best for her child, but so much of what was threatening was out of her control. Have you ever felt like that? On one hand you have a child whom you vow to protect with your life, on the other hand, you know that your life isn’t enough to protect him from all the hard things that will come his way. As much as you want to be able to take all the uncertainties and struggle out of his life, you can’t. And sometimes the choices that you have feel like no choice at all. Have you ever had a Jochebed moment? Have you ever been like…
The father who teaches his son how to give a good left hook, hoping that he will never need to use it to defend against the bullies who huddle near his locker.
The mother, who writes long, detailed notes to the new teacher to educate her about a hidden disability that has a way of not staying hidden.
The father that hopes this time rehab will stick and that a new beginning is really possible for his son.
The parents who hold a doctor’s unbearable diagnosis in their hands and try to calm their minds enough just to drive home, let alone make sense out of the complicated medical decisions to come.
The parents trying to map out a plan for who will care for their child with disabilities after they are gone.
And the mother who sits in the driveway worrying if the new terrain of campus life will be kind to her one-of-a-kind firstborn child.
Maybe something on the list sounds like you, or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe your Jochebed moment is different from these or has yet to come. But if you have children then the one thing that is certain is that the future is filled with uncertainty. And one day you will come to realize that while your love may not have limits, your ability to control everything does. And for most of us, this is hard. I would imagine for Jochebed, clutching her forbidden son, Moses, to her breast, this was hard for her too. So, what did she do?
By faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Hebrews 11:23
Jochebed did two incredible things. First, she chose faith over fear, keeping her son alive and hidden from authorities. Second, she chose trust in God over trust in herself. Woah, that is a hard one. But she recognized that there would come a time when letting go of her child would be better for him than if she kept him too close. This means she had to let go and let God.She knew that keeping her beloved child with her would result in almost certain death when he was discovered. So, she found a quiet spot in the river, placed her three-month-old son into the waterproof basket she made from reeds, and gently let him go. Can you imagine what that must have that been like for her?
Jochebed gave the basket a gentle push, and watched until it became smaller and smaller, finally disappearing into the bulrush. When the sounds of her son became lost in the wind, she fell to her knees and let the tears fall until her breath was gone. She knew she had done all she could, and now all that was left was to pray and trust.
It’s difficult to imagine how frightening that moment must have been for her, but it was only the beginning of her journey. Just like all of us, her parenting didn’t end just because her son went out into the world. Not only does she come back into his story in a dramatic twist, but I believe that she continued to love, worry, hurt, and hope for him as he grew, and I believe that we still have a lot more to learn from her experience. So, whether you know the rest of Moses’s story or you don’t, I would encourage you to read it today through Jochebed’s eyes.
After all, we don’t know exactly what happened to her in later years, but we do know what happened to her son. And if she had been able to watch him as he grew into the leader that we all know, then she would have witnessed him encountering struggle after struggle in real time. Can you imagine how she would have felt watching this without having the luxury of knowing how the story ends? Talk about a kid who gives you reasons to worry. From the problem with his speech, to the trouble with the slave master, and forty long years of hardship in the wilderness, Jochebed would have had to place her trust in God again and again. Do you think that she would have swooped in and erased all the obstacles for him if she could have? Who would have Moses been if she had?
I ask this very question to myself now as I type this. Who would Moses have become if Jochebed had never let him go? Who would he have become if she would have been able to wipe away all his struggles before he persevered through them? Who would my son become if I always kept him safe at home with me? If the challenges he has faced had never been and the ones yet to come would never be, who would he be? I don’t know. What I do know is this. The college packet stares up at me from the coffee table by my feet. The unknown is coming. My ability to control my child’s future is leaving. But as I think through the story of Jochebed, for the first time I realize I may not ever be ready for this – but I can trust that God is.