In high school, I had the privilege of spending some time in London. Even though we saw Buckingham Palace and the changing of guards and nearly got mauled by the murder of crows in Trafalgar Square, what stuck with me most was the British recorded voice saying, “Mind the Gap!” every time we disembarked public forms of transit.
Lately, the same phrase has been running circuits in my mind as I seek to parent teenagers. After all, the teenage years are marked by gaps: age gaps and height gaps, as well as gaping needs for peer interactions and gaping needs for security, identity, and affirmation.
As it is graduation time, I keep seeing those precious side-by-side pictures. You know, the ones where a cute toddler picture is juxtaposed with a grown teenager and captioned with sappy words from sad but proud parents?! I am clearly not opposed to these modern forms of marking out, as I have often posted similar side-by-side pictures of my own crew. However, what you don’t see in all those pictures are the agonizing moments of parents stepping around, praying over, and minding the gaps.
Emotional and relational gaps between what is expected and what is real concerning friends and fun. Physical and mental gaps exposed at try-outs, losses, and moments of risk and failure. Spiritual gaps shown between what heads know and what hearts struggle to believe. The strange, suddenly-shrinking-then-suddenly growing-gap between childhood dependence and young adult independence.
The Temptation to “Mend the Gap”
It sounds so simple to “Mind the Gap.” After all, to mind gaps is merely to notice them, expect them, factor them in and readjust to them. However, when I hear the phrase, my fleshly momma heart hears it as, “Mend the Gap.”
When my children are experiencing the gaps that mark the teenage years, so often, I want to fix and fill them as quickly as humanly possible. I don’t want them to experience the confusion and loneliness of wondering where to sit at the lunch table in a huge high school. I don’t want them to be bored on a Saturday evening, feeling like there is something wrong with them or that they are missing out. I don’t want them to feel stigmatized for speaking up about their faith and not fitting into because they are standing on convictions. I don’t want them to feel like they don’t measure up physically or don’t have what it takes to be strong compared to friends who tower over them.
But God doesn’t call me to mend these gaps, at least not always. He calls me to notice them and acknowledge them, sometimes quietly and sometimes aloud in relationship with my boys. He invites me to have conversations about these gaps with my guys. He most assuredly asks me to bring them to Him in prayer.
For these are opportunities both for me and my boys to watch and wait on the Lord and eventually to wonder at His goodness, graciousness, and wisdom.
I have found myself praying Psalm 25:1-3 for my boys as they experience various gaps right now.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust: let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous (Psalm 125:1-3).
It is so easy for me to want to offer up self-made, knee-jerk solutions when God is merely asking me to offer up the stories of my sons to Him as yet another fragrant offering.
When I mind the gaps, rather than seeking to mend them, I leave room for my children to wrestle and cry out the God who has sovereignly allowed such gaps. I leave room for His Spirit to do what I cannot and should not do. I leave space for disappointment and confusion that could be gifts to lead them closer to the God I so long that they will know.