Dear Modern Mama,
Just wanted to send you a warning from what I learned as a biblical-era helicopter parent. You thought that helicopter parenting only occurred in modern times?! Helicopters, yes, but that parenting style of hovering, controlling, and meddling in your child’s life remains timeless.
Mamas love their kids and I am no different. My two boys, Jamie and Johnny, were the most adorable kids ever! My husband Zebedee taught them the fisherman’s life from a young age, just as his father did for him. Zeb and the boys made me so proud, every time they set off: in the early dawn, at sunset, or even into the dark when they fished all night. They knew that lake and they knew those fish. (All that without your fancy technology of weather reports, plastic nets, and those self-propelled motor-things!) My guys used sheer muscle strength to get the boat across the lake or to rush home during those pop-up storms on our Sea of Galilee.
My little Jamie & Johnny had their careers all set—or so Zeb and I thought. Until one day a rabbi-guy came looking for people to take with him. Simon and Andrew, sons of Zeb’s business partner, left their boat and followed the rabbi. Zeb said our boys did the same, leaving Zeb holding the fishing nets.
A rabbi chose our precious boys to school and train. As parents, we felt proud, since our people aren’t the book-learning folk usually chosen for those roles. Despite that honor, Zeb and I felt disappointed that Jamie and Johnny left everything, giving up a successful fishing business with a promising future. Instead, our boys followed this rabbi-teacher on his speaking gigs, listening and learning, but not earning any money. I wanted so much more for my Jamie and Johnny.
Can you believe this Jesus gave my boys a nickname? He called them “sons of thunder,” a title that defined my boys. How did Jesus know them so well after such a short time?! Maybe He saw me as I raised those thunderous toddlers, chasing them down to the lake and grabbing them before they jumped in Papa’s boat. From early on, Jamie & Johnny were energetic and adventurous, true sons of thunder. And Jesus just seemed to understand them, in a deep way.
Every proud Mama wants the best for her children. I saw such promise and talent in my boys, so I talked to Jesus one day about my Jamie and Johnny. (Jesus probably recognized that—why else would He have chosen them?!) I wanted my boys to get some prestige and reward for following this Jesus guy. You might accuse me of interfering with my boys’ career, but why couldn’t I make sure that Jesus realized what treasured workers He had in my boys?!
I told Jamie and Johnny to ask for a title, or a special position, from this rabbi. They had no real job description or job security; this Jesus guy just called them disciples. I thought I would make a small request on their behalf. Obviously, this rabbi liked my guys, so why not ask for the move-up position my boys deserved? I treated Jesus like the king my boys said he was, kneeling and hesitantly asking him for a favor. I’m sure my boys were mortified that I would ask for them—two grown men—to receive honors. I just thought I would help out a little bit.
When Jesus looked right at me and asked what I wanted, I had a weird feeling in my gut. But this proud, tough Mama did the asking. Basically, I wanted Jesus to place one of my sons on His right side and the other on His left when He became king. (In our culture, those positions are the seats of honor and power. And just because Simon got asked to follow first, didn’t mean that he should have an important spot. My boys were always better than Simon anyway.)
But oh the way that Jesus guy looked at me! I started to feel all guilty and my words sounded shallow as I spoke. Me, the “sons of thunder” Mama who fought for her kids’ rights! But the look Jesus gave me forced me to think about my motivations. I realized that my heart might be too proud. Instead of justifying my wonderful kids and their roles, my request sounded like a big, wrong ask. Jesus turned to my boys and asked if they could drink some kind of cup, which I didn’t understand. Then He told them that He was not in charge of seating arrangements. None of that made sense to me until much later.
I wondered about all that I heard about this Jesus. Because my boys got involved, I had to check this Jesus guy out. That rabbi’s words changed lives! Many who listened to Jesus felt challenged, encouraged, and motivated to follow Him. I met the women who followed him, and then I started being a groupie also. My life changed, and so did my boys’ lives. I will never forget that moment when I, along with the other women, followed the crowd from Galilee and then watched the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion. We stood far away—they don’t let women or kids come close—but it hurt even from that distance. But that was not the end of the story.
You can read that good news yourself, but I am writing to you, Modern Mama, so that you can learn from my mistakes. I wanted the best for my kids, but I should not have tried to get them privileges they did not deserve or ask for positions I knew nothing about. Now, I realize that I had no idea of God’s plans for my sons. My helicopter parenting plan for Jamie and Johnny involved fishing and money. Jesus taught them to be fishers of men, a deeper and more purposeful goal. That cup Jesus mentioned related to His suffering and death. I had no idea! I should have trusted God for my kids’ future, instead of trying to manipulate my own desires and plans for them. Now I see that my ideas were motivated by my pride and selfishness.
Please learn from me and realize that God’s plans for our kids will be different and better than we could ever dream of. Mamas, let go of your adult kids, and trust God to guide their “adulting.” Scares me to think of what would have happened if Zeb and I had convinced our boys to stay with the fishing business; many would not have heard about Jesus. Instead, Jamie and Johnny left all to follow and serve Jesus. And, Modern Mama, you are probably still—all these thousands of years later—reading the words that my Johnny heard from Jesus. The old me would be so proud, but the new me who learned to follow Jesus, says “Go God!”
God’s plans are always worth submitting to. Take that from this ancient Mama, who learned to follow Jesus and stop “helicoptering” her adult kids.
Love from Salome,
Follower of Jesus and Jamie & Johnny’s mother (in that order!)
(Designed to encourage tired mamas, this parenting advice is written using sarcastic humor to reflect on a biblical family’s narrative. Please read and study the Gospel accounts of James and John for yourself. In no way do I intend to misinterpret or misuse biblical passages.)
[Originally posted October 2021]
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