We’ve all heard of moving the goalposts. It means changing the rules, or the goal, to make it more difficult for someone to succeed. Some people even do this to themselves, keeping satisfaction just out of reach. It’s definitely a negative thing.

Or is it?  I’ve written before about my love of gardening. Ironically, this is one area where I actually have patience. I know seedlings cannot become trees overnight, and I give them plenty of time to grow into what they can become. Yes, we fertilize and weed, we give them every opportunity to flourish. We don’t scold them or yank them along. If they struggle we don’t lecture them; we actually give even more love and attention.

How funny—and sad, really—that we are able to do this with plants, but less able to do this with people. Especially the people we’re “in charge of,” our children. Some of us accept the notion that there is a template, a format, for the things our children should do and when. We measure them against society (against social media posts—aauugh!) and against what we think are heavenly milestones.

These heavenly milestones are all good things—graduating from seminary, hearing the Spirit, serving a mission, making sacred covenants, marrying in the temple, having children, serving in callings, the list goes on.  And not one of these things should be forgotten about.

 But what if our children don’t hit these markers on schedule? What if they’re delayed?  What if things simply don’t work out for them the way they did for your sister’s kids?  Many parents wring their hands, cry and weep, get angry, blame themselves, blame others, fall into depression, scold or shame their kids, and/or let these omissions become chasms between them and their children.

 What plant could grow under such exacting, forceful circumstances? What person would want to keep coming home to such an unwelcoming atmosphere?  I think this is when we need to move the goalposts. We aren’t saying the goals are unimportant, just acknowledging that not everyone’s timing is the same.

And, speaking of timing, we need to remember that God’s timing rarely matches our own. He is infinitely patient with all of us. If we stumble and fall, He still loves us. He still believes in our potential. He is willing to wait for as long as it takes.

Too often I’ve found myself praying “goalpost prayers.”  I want what I want when I want it. So childish, really. I’ve acted as if I’m the only one with the goal and I just need God to assist me. That’s backwards!  He wants exaltation for our loved ones even more than we do!  He’s on it. Our job is to find out how we can supplement His truly divine efforts. We are to exercise faith that He is absolutely aware of the situation and doing all that is needful and appropriate now. I’m the one scrambling around like a chicken with, you know, no head (which also means no brain!).

Many of us need to take a deep breath, relax, and give it to God. Our prayers can be for more faith in Him. We still hope all the same goals will be met, but we’ve given up the hurry, the mortal panic, and the comparisons.

What if the changes you want in your loved ones don’t happen in this lifetime? Is all lost? Of course not. We all know that tremendous learning and growth can take place in the next life. Let’s live like we believe that. Let’s know that everything will happen according to Heavenly Father’s plan, and not behave as if mortal life is the be-all and end-all.

What if it takes hundreds of years?  Okay. So what? We’re talking about eternity. We must have faith that, at some point, things will work out and our loved ones will respond to the nurturing lessons in the hereafter (might even be easier there).

Meanwhile, we can do what a good gardener does. We can give sunshine and moisture. We can protect. We can make our garden the friendly place where any plant would be happy to live. We can talk to our plants, even sing to them (yes, I do this and believe it helps).  We cannot take away another’s free agency. We have only our own. Let’s use it to be welcoming and loving, and let’s not let goalposts become obstacles.

Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.