By Joe LaGuardia
Lord, have mercy on me, a father of a twelve-year old daughter.
She just turned twelve, as you know, and scripture says that we are not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, with gratitude, make our petitions known to you (Philippians 4:6).
I am grateful, believe me. I know that you have knit my daughter in her mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I thank you for giving her smarts well beyond her years, whits that out-whit her father, and an intuition that matches that of her mother.
But that is what makes me anxious. She is growing up too quickly, and my little girl is becoming a little woman. Everything about her is changing, but I do not want her innocence, sense of adventure, and joy to change. I’ve seen it in other girls–watched it unfold on the silver screen in that Disney movie, Inside Out– but I’m afraid to experience it in my own home.
Years ago, my wife and I worked with middle school kids, many of whom were my daughter’s age. We enjoyed our time with them: They would try anything, and it made them a really fun group to be with. Yet, they would try anything, which also made them the scariest group to be with.
I’ve always said that if our world wanted peace, prosperity, and more clean energy resources, just get a bunch of middle schoolers in the same room and let them have at it. They are little geniuses, but that is also their downfall. They get too big for their britches sometimes.
As smart as they are– (its the way they see the world, I think, the combination of madness, hormones, and naivety)– they can also be as dumb as a bag of bricks. I’ve seen one middle school student jump off of a ten foot wall just to make his friends laugh.
I also worked with high school students, and they were not as fun. They do not think it is cool to show any signs of interest or motivation. They are too concerned about what other people think and, because of that, working with them at church is about as fun as going to the proctologist.
Lord, thank you that my daughter is not there yet.
Then there are the boys. O merciful and gracious and kind Father, I pray that my daughter will still be more interested in Legos than she is about the young man with long, unkempt hair next door when tomorrow comes.
I know that your Word says that we should let the children come unto Thee and not hinder them (Matthew 19:14), but Thee is not my daughter, so may my Louisville slugger always be at the ready, your right arm there for protection. I don’t own a gun, but I’m thinking about it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Lord. This is an exciting time. It is formative, and I’m sure that my daughter will think more critically about the type of person she wants to be in life.
We’ve raised her to think independently. When we told her that she can be anything she wants to be, we’ve meant it, especially since we are the type of Baptists who will affirm her if she tells us one day that she wants to become a pastor like her Daddy.
We want to hold on to her for dear life, so give us the courage to let go when we must. We have heard of Prodigal Sons, but surely there are such things as Prodigal Daughters. We trust you and we trust her; its the rest world about which we are unsure.
As is any prayer, O Lord, this is really about me, not about you. Its about the willingness to surrender life’s greatest gifts to your plan and purpose in life, even if we don’t understand it. It is about changing, not the person for whom we pray, but us– your stubborn children, sons and daughters alike.
O Lord, have mercy on me, for my daughter is twelve.”