“HELP!” the desperate cry reverberated up the basement stairs, “HELP ME!” The impassioned voice of my four-year-old sent me leaping into action, vaulting out of my chair, running down the stairs, expecting injury, catastrophe, life and death in the balance, to find—an emotional little girl stuck, trying, unsuccessfully, to carry two empty laundry baskets up the stairs. The baskets were too wide to fit through the doorway at the same time, hence—complete freak out, the world ending, frantic cries for help. Trying not to show my exasperation, I suggested that she let go of one of the laundry baskets, a simple solution, which miraculously solved the previously world-stopping problem.
My four-year-old is my most sensitive and emotional child thus far. Her nerves seem easily jangled, sending her from happy to hysterical in somewhere less than five seconds. The reasons for her freak-out moments are often so ridiculous they’re comical, at least to me. “The tent’s going to blow away!!” when a light puff of wind cools the air. Or, “the bug’s going to get me!!” when an ant is spotted six feet away. Or “the water’s going to overflow!!!” she screams, standing in half an inch of water in a slowly filling tub. From my vantage point, I know with great certainty that the bathtub will not overflow if I look away for one minute, something I’ve tried to explain time and again. But her emotions are quick to react, and she’s not always sure she trusts me.
Some wise friends, parents a few years ahead of us, once told my husband and me that whatever is happening in your children’s life is probably somewhere, in some way, a reflection of something the Lord is trying to tell you. In a recent moment of frustration over my daughter’s anxiety, this thought ping-ed back into my brain with startling clarity. What things am I freaking out about that the Lord, from his vantage point, knows will be fine?
Truth be told, my own tendencies are much like my daughters—she comes by her anxiety honestly. Of course, I’m anxious about much more important things, like my children’s future, my husband’s job providing for us all, the state of society, having the right outfit to wear for every occasion, my hair turning grey, and what if I say something really stupid in front of these people I want to impress?? Ok, maybe not all that important and worthy of anxiety. But what if, what if I could shift my perspective? As the adult looking down at my four-year-old, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything will be ok in the circumstances—and even if the tent does blow away or the ant touches her or the bathtub overflows, it really won’t be the end of the world. It’ll be ok. Life will go on. What if that’s a little bit of how God, my heavenly Father, looks down on me? Knowing, with perfect, sovereign certainty, that everything will be ok—He will faithfully give me everything that I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Life will not necessarily be easy or free of suffering—my husband could lose his job, my children could make disastrous life decisions, society could fall to pieces around us, or worse—but even so, God holds all things in His hands. Death itself has been swallowed up in victory.
A long time ago I memorized that passage from Matthew 6—the one about not being anxious about your life or what you will wear or what you will eat. Look at the birds of the air, look at the lilies of the field. Turning to the Lord instead of to my anxious thoughts is a lesson I’ve been learning my whole life and I’m a long way from being done. But I have found that one of the gifts of parenthood is the way it can shift your perspective. There’s something about parenting young children that helps me to see things from God’s point of view like nothing else can. The message He is whispering to me these days is, “Look at this beloved young daughter, afraid and worried over little things, and you, in your limited understanding, know that it will be alright. How much more will I, in my perfect knowledge, power, and love, take care of you and the circumstances of your life? Do not be anxious; do not be afraid.”
It’s a message I desperately want to take to heart, to let sink deep into my being, to permeate all my thoughts and actions. And not only for my own sake—somehow I have a feeling that the more I can embrace the peace my Father offers me, trusting him completely, the better I’ll be able to parent my daughter through her anxiety, leading not only with the truth, but also by example.
By Sarah Williamson
Sarah is a wife and full time mom to three young kiddos and one on the way. She grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, studied English and French at the University of Michigan (go Blue!), but now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she and her husband help lead an intentional Christian community group and serve college students with University Christian Outreach. In what spare time she can find, Sarah enjoys experimental cooking, gardening, playing Scrabble, being outside, and reading good children's literature.