Janet Ruth shares a story about how even closed doors and disappointments can grow valuable character qualities in our children. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
When my daughter was in preschool, she loved to go outside with her class and play on the playground. One day, when it was time to go inside, Katie sat on a bench and took off her shoe to remove some sand. When she looked up, she saw the teacher just closing the door as the last of the children (except her) walked through. Katie sprang up and ran to the door, crying aloud for the teacher to wait for her, but it was too late. The door was closed when she got to it, and she was too small to open it alone.
I got a phone call that day. Although Katie was left alone for only a few minutes, she cried until the preschool called me and I came to get her. I tried to convince her she had been brave. Something bad had happened, but she kept trying to fix it until the problem was solved. She had waited at the glass door, knocking and yelling until someone heard her and opened the door. I said I was proud of her, but it didn’t make a difference. Not then. She kept crying, and I thought my heart would break.
A dozen years later, Katie joined my mother and me on a two-week vacation to Europe. We used public transportation where it was available, including underground railways. In Paris, we were on our way to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and needed to go two stops on the Metro. The station was crowded, and Katie was a few steps ahead of us crossing the platform. She stepped onto the train… and the door closed. She was inside, her mom and grandma were outside. Katie had no money with her, no phone, and no way to contact us. I yelled through the glass door, “Two stops! Île de Cité! Two Stops!” Then the train pulled away, and my mom and I waited frantically for the next one.
In our panic, we got off after one stop instead of two and had to wait for another train to get to the right stop. Katie, also panicking, got off at the third stop. Realizing she had gone one too far, she had to figure out how to get back. It involved leaving the station, finding a different entrance, and tearfully begging the attendant at the gate to let her through without a token. She convinced the man, and he let her in. She got the next train back to Îsle de Cité, ending up on the opposite side of the tracks from my mom and me, where we were desperate to figure out where she had gone and how we were going to find her.
A year after graduating college, Katie headed off to Europe again, this time without me. I hugged her tight before she left for the airport to fly to London to see a friend. It was hard for me to close the door behind her, but I knew I could trust her to the Lord’s keeping. It also helped to remember that Katie had faced difficulties in the past and had become stronger and braver because of them. I hadn’t protected her from every scary situation in her life—and that was a good thing!
The Apostle Paul tells us we can “glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance [produces] character; and character [produces] hope” (Romans 5:3-4, NIV). Children need good character and they need hope. Those both come from facing difficulties head-on, trying and failing and trying again, working through problems instead of having everything worked out for them. It can be hard to watch them be frustrated or scared or going off on adventures alone, but we can trust God to work through those times to mold them into mature adults—men and women of faith, character, and hope.
A closed door can be more than a closed door if we use it to teach our children about perseverance, faith, and hope.
Wife, mother, writer, speaker, Janet Ruth is passionate about encouraging Christians to truly live what they say they believe. She is the author of two Christian Living books, with a third due out this year. Her books help Christians internalize their beliefs so they influence their thoughts and actions every day. Learn more about Ruth and her books at JaneTruth.com.