If there is one steady plot line in every family story, it’s this: just when you think you’ve got things figured out, everything changes. In fact, once we become parents, it seems like the changes just don’t stop.
Babies become toddlers. Toddlers become teenagers. Teenagers become young adults who get married and start families of their own. It happens fast and at every stage, right when we think we’ve figured out our new role and responsibilities, things change again.
While my title – MOM – has stayed the same, the everyday realities of my role have regularly shifted ever since I earned that name 30 years ago. And I’m here to tell you that’s one thing that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Even after our kids are grown, the roles we play in their lives continue to shift and morph into something new.
Spoiler alert! As time goes on, things don’t get less complicated. Your family is going to keep growing and changing. This is a good thing! New family members join – think weddings and babies – and new relationships form – in-laws and maybe a few outlaws.
Our stories will keep growing along with our families, and we will do our best to keep up. Learning how to fill our roles at each stage – I’m a mother-in-law now! And preparing ourselves for the new chapters still to come.
In our ongoing efforts to figure out where we fit into all of these changes, it can be easy to get caught up in thinking about ME. How my part is affected. What I might be asked to do more or less of. How I might need to change my focus, how I use my time or energy. How many new responsibilities I’ll have. Or what duties will no longer require my expertise.
In musical theater, there is a cast position called the “swing.” The swing is an actor who covers several different roles and must be ready to fill in for any performance on a moment’s notice. (Sounds a little bit like a mom to me.) Just imagine the hours it takes to learn just one part in a Broadway show, then multiply that by five or ten, and you get some idea of the preparation involved.
When the swing takes the stage, she understands how the part she’s playing fits into the bigger picture. And the rest of the cast understands, too. By working together, interacting and relying on one another in all their various parts, they succeed in telling the story. By performing their parts with flexibility and grace.
And that’s just what we need!
Flexibility and grace help us perform our new parts inside our changing families.
Flexibility to step into a new role or out of an old one. And to allow other family members (like our growing kids) to do the same. To understand that things won’t always stay the same. So my expectations have to change – right along with the changing roles and responsibilities the people I love must learn to fill as they grow.
And grace to help me remember that I’m not always the main character in a scene. That my relationship with another family member (like my newly married son or my daughter who travels on business) is not the only one they’re trying to handle at the moment. And that sometimes the best place for me is not on the stage at all but in the cheering section.
“Sure!” you say. “Who couldn’t use more flexibility and grace in their life?”
But what if your family doesn’t operate like that? (What if YOU don’t operate like that?)
Maybe someone in your family believes they might be allergic to flexibility. They’re afraid it will hurt. A lot. Or another family member seems to have an especially hard time thinking about anyone but themselves.
Well here’s the best news of all.
You don’t have to wait for your family to muster up the flexibility and grace it needs to handle change on its own.
God is Master of the change business.
And God’s been busy all along changing us from the inside out. Also, in case you haven’t heard, He’s designed all of life to be about renewal. And His grace is in abundant supply to renew us again and again in the changing family roles we play.
So we don’t have to worry about the changes happening in our families and where and how we fit in. Because change has been happening since the day we became parents, and God has been with us through every minute of it all. So we can continue to rely on Him to help us zoom out and see how He is causing all of our roles and the parts we play to work together to create our family story.
And it’s a real beauty – even though it never stops changing.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)