A spring-fed creek cuts a quiet path through our valley, rambling over stones and through clumps of watercress and swamp lilies before ducking under the road in front of our home to join a larger creek at the edge of the field. The water that flows from our spring and creek eventually travels into a larger river and dumps into a nearby lake.
Growing up, our sons spent hours playing alongside and inside that creek. Boats made of leaves and sticks were launched from the little wooden bridge. Water scooped up in a discarded glass jar was examined for bugs and tadpoles.
I never cross that creek or stand on its banks without thinking about my children. Those memories are a gift.
The faith that carried me through days and years of parenting our boys is also a gift. I take this steady current of faith for granted, trusting it to keep me afloat, like those fragile leaf-and-stick sailboats of their childhood. I’ve dipped into my stream of faith a lot lately, holding it up to the light for closer examination, as I’ve watched a couple of my sons face personal trials.
Any parent knows that it’s one thing to tap into your faith and trust in God’s providence to sustain you during your own trials, and quite another to stand in faith while the child you love is in peril of drowning.
A dear friend and I have prayed for one another’s children over the years. It was easier when they were young, frolicking in the frigid creek, to believe those prayers were enough to protect them from the undercurrent of life. Now that they’re adults, we know the rocky patches are theirs to navigate and we pray even harder.
I learned a new word this week, one I can’t believe I’ve never heard before, since I’ve lived it with a passion all these 31 years.
“Storge” (stor-jay) in Greek refers to the natural love and affection of a parent for a child, and of siblings for one another. It’s an emotion that creates a familial bond, and it’s laid alongside the other types of love described in scripture — agape, phileo and eros (unconditional, brotherly and physical love).
According to its definition, storge love compels us to put the needs of one another above our own. It’s found in the Greek compounded with phileo; in English it is a call to:
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
Putting a child’s needs above our own is usually not a problem for a devoted parent. We can do it to a fault.
But God showed me something important this week in my quest to figure out how to help, how to rescue, these sons walking a painful path. He impressed on me that perhaps the painful path is exactly where He wants them right now, that it’s part of the journey they need to take to get where He wants them to go — where I want them to go.
Can I accept that there will be wounds? Will I allow that the sharp rocks and undercurrents of life have a purpose — even in the life of my precious child?
The liquid faith I hold in my glass jar is littered with bits and pieces of debris from my own journey, collected in the difficult times and giving substance to the current that carries me now. I know I won’t leave the bank of that creek. In devotion, I’ll continue to put my sons’ needs above my own and to pray for a good outcome. But I can’t step into or block the course of their lives, not if I claim to trust God to bring good out of even this.
To honor my sons means to trust them to the one who created them, the ultimate act of storge.