The internet has been buzzing in the last 24 hours with news of Abby Sunderland, the 16-year old girl attempting to break a world record by being the first 16-year old to sail around the world solo and unassisted, because at that time she was missing and feared dead. Many questioned what sort of parent would even allow such a thing, others questioned what the rescue operation would ultimately cost and who should be held responsible for it, and a few questioned the fairness of having rescue personnel risk their lives due to the poor and dangerous decisions of others.
I must confess that all of those comments seemed reasonable, considering the circumstances.
Then I read this post by Loralee and I had to pause and consider another position, one that I had not considered before, because I have never walked in those shoes as Loralee had with her son Matthew. You should read her post but ultimately she said this:
My empathy is one that goes above blame. It’s base and almost automatic from one parent who has lost a child to others who are fearing for theirs.
“I ache for them.
Because I can tell you, if something has happened to her?
Those parents will be in a much worse hell than most can imagine and they will have to live with it and play and replay and regret and hurt and have guilt like no others. And it will not just be the hell in their own heads…as I have seen today the weight and judgment of the world will crash down and do its best to pulverize them into the earth out of their own sense of outrage.”
Thankfully, this young girl has been found alive and well. Her parents will not have to question themselves while mourning her death. Still, I cannot help but wonder; Now that Abby is home safe, do they question their decision to allow her to attempt such a thing, now that they’ve tasted what it felt like to almost lose her?
Which carries more weight? The loss of a 16-year old’s dream or the loss of your 16-year old?
John Maxwell recently preached on the importance of wanting to be bigger on the inside than you are on the outside (Inside out living video lesson). When I read about Abby Sunderland I wondered if her parents ever spoke to her about that. Because to me, the desire to break a world record and become BIG in the eyes of the world seems like a desire to be bigger on the outside—-to seek notoriety from the outside world. To validate yourself based on the perception and past World Records of others.
Now that she has failed her attempt, so publicly—- what comes next?
What will that do to her perceptions of herself? If achieving the goal was going to make her BIG—then does failing make her small?
When she was alone and afraid, did she wonder why on earth her parents let her do such a thing?
Please don’t get me wrong. At 38 I still struggle with this, so believe me when I tell you that I understand why a 16-year old would want to be bigger on the outside.
As a parent, I want my children to be bigger on the inside. I want them to want to glorify God not headlines. I want my parenting choices to reflect this, even if it makes me unpopular with my child.