Before the arrival of Hurricane Florence to my home state this past week, I’d heard—and said—many times: Are y’all ready for the storm?
By which people usually mean have you stocked up on water and dry goods, secured the exterior of your home, and checked the batteries in your flashlights?
But let’s be honest: In the face of an oncoming storm with a surface area twice the width of our state, a few boxes of cereal and a handful of AA batteries do not seem like adequate preparations.
Then again, at some point, what else is there to do?
Although we can plan as much as possible in advance, we won’t really know if we were truly prepared until after the storm has passed.
In this way, getting ready for a hurricane to hit is a lot like preparing to parent your children into adolescence:
You know the storm is coming, you know it’s going to be big, and you know it’s going to have a major impact.
You just don’t know much else.
At least that’s how it seems to me. At the time of this writing, I am not only waiting on an actual hurricane to make landfall, I am watching my two tween daughters barrel headfirst into the teenage years.
From the moment they are named, hurricanes and children are both keenly watched. In time, patterns of behavior emerge and predictions are made about the trajectory of these burgeoning balls of energy.
As they mature into more clearly defined entities with distinct personalities and tendencies, they begin to run more on their own vitality yet still remain greatly influenced by their surrounding conditions.
Long before these areas of interest ever get within a thousand miles of impact, they have already experienced heavy winds and high water, and we are watching, taking into consideration how these entities respond to such circumstances and making best guesses about what other factors they will encounter and how their paths will be affected.
And then as we wait for our children to make their landfall into adolescence—which we’ve known all along would happen and which we’ve seen coming from miles away—we wonder if we’re ready. Because once it hits, all we can do is ride it out, prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.
While this analogy may at first seem playful, I do not make it flippantly. I in no way wish to downplay the devastating loss experienced by some people as a result of a hurricane.
To the contrary, I think the severity of the potential damage done strengthens the comparison between the adolescent years and a hurricane landfall:
Both have tremendous potential for major impact—and damage. Why else would we feel so anxious about them both?
Most people can probably agree that events that happen in adolescence can play a big role in the long-term development of an individual. Knowing that, we as parents do what we can to prepare our children and ourselves for this season of life, to mitigate damage and prevent certain losses.
We have very likely been making preparations all along—maybe not stocking up on batteries and dry goods as for an actual hurricane landfall, but taking other measures, like keeping communication open, attending a Biblically sound church, and praying for the protection, purity, and paths of our children.
We can stay active in the everyday goings-on of our children’s lives. We can be vigilant about the outside influences are children are exposed to. We can encourage them and guide them and remind them that we love them—to the moon and back—no matter what.
But in spite of these and other measures taken to create an environment as secure as possible for the landfall of adolescence in the lives of our children, we cannot know what the future holds.
Because children, like hurricanes, are famously temperamental, able to change course almost on a whim and to defy the logic behind the most careful predictions of their development.
Adolescence will bring surprises. Some for which we will be prepared, some by which we will be blind-sided—none of which we know about in advance.
While we may not be able to know what the future holds, we can know the One who holds the future in His hands. God will not help us to parent our children well through the landfall of adolescence, He will help our children too.
God loves our children and promises to be with them always, offering Himself as shelter from storms and His word as guidance for their course.
In fact, the Bible assures us that God knows the way His children take (Job 23:10) and that those ways are in full view of the Lord, who examines them (Proverbs 5:21).
We can trust God with our children and their future, even at this crucial stage of development. After all, when they are in His hands, they are in the hands of the God…
Who speaks from out of the storm • Job 38:1; 40:6.
Who commands the wind and the waves • Matthew 8:26-27.
Who parts the waters and stills the roaring seas • Exodus 14:21-22; Psalm 65:7.
Whose voice strikes like lightning over many waters and breaks the cedars and twists the oaks • Psalm 29:3, 5, 7 ,9.
Whose glory thunders • Psalm 29:3.
Whose very presence is enthrone is above the flood • Psalm 29:10.
The God who can calm any storm—atmospheric and adolescent.
Our hearts are with those who have been hit so hard by Hurricane Florence. The Carolinas are our home too, and we will continue to pray for the healing and restoration of our home state.
Cover photo courtesy of NASA in conjunction with Flickr and Creative Commons: NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP Satellite Captures Night-time Look at Cyclone Felleng. Available from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/8433747542. Photo cropped to fit space.