Woods: Growing up is hard to do

Dear God, we cannot fool you or pretend to be something we’re not; you know us too well.

Open our minds and our understanding to know you as best we can, and to grow in appreciation of your great mercy. Amen.

Every parent who has children approaching or into the early teenage years knows that the day of reckoning is coming. The day of which I speak, of course, is the day when our desire to care for and love our children openly clashes with our children’s quest for a separate identity from us and their search for independence.

Hosea 11:1-11 shows us a picture of God trying to be the loving parent to children who are just bound that they are going to go their own way.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him. But the more I called him, the more he turned away from me. I took my people up in my arms; they did not acknowledge that I took care of them.”

Sound like God was trying to parent teenagers here? In fact, the people of whom the prophet Hosea is speaking are all adults, grown people, parents, people who themselves were the merchants, the shepherds, the priests, the leaders — all people who should have long ago lived through these testing years.

But, no, now even they are acting like immature adolescents. What’s up? Who is grown up and who still has some growing up to do? God came face-to-face with a people who were set on doing it their own way. They were sure that they could do it much better than any way God’s laws would teach them to live. So they did, again and again and again.

There had to be limits on what God would let his wayward people do. Like a loving parent of teenagers, God had to set limits. At times past he had punished his people because they did not follow what he had taught them. Now again God was being tested.

“They insist on turning away from me. They cry out because of the yoke that is on them.”

What was God to do? It was clearly time to act. Was it time for a new revelation of his anger? Was it time to “teach his children a lesson they wouldn’t forget?” No, no, no! God couldn’t do it.

“My heart will not let me do it,” God says. “My love for you is too strong.”

So instead of blurting out anger, God waited. Waited for the moment that wayward people would turn and recognize who had created them, given them life and guided them every step of their lives insofar as they would let God do so.

Time and again our emotions prevail and we as parents and children say and do things which hurt one another. We need more of God’s good example. We also need God’s ever-present forgiveness. And we have it. As often as we seek it, God is waiting to forgive us and show us mercy.

God says, “For I am God and not Human. I, the Holy One, am with you. I will not come to you in anger.”

There are no better words than these for those of us who desire to be loving parents and discipline out of our love.

There are no better words for those of us who are children becoming adults who want so much to find our own identity and have our own independence and, yet, always have as one of the strongest ties of our lives, love for the ones who have given us life and brought us to the day when we can take our own wings and learn to soar.

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