For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1: 6
In my early years as a mom, just as truly as my lips seemed to be magnetically drawn to the pudgy cheeks of my little ones… Just as truly as my heart could have burst with zeal to capture all the best that life could offer them… Right alongside the beautiful stuff of motherhood, the honest ugly truth is that there were several long years when nearly every time my children wore a tie-dye shirt with flower pants, or chewed with their mouths wide open, or tripped someone with the mini shopping cart at the grocery store, or just seemed to take up too much space in a room, I squirmed almost out of my skin.
Not because I actually thought they should be better. Not because I wanted them to be perfect for me. But because I wanted them to avoid every pain I had faced, every joke that had been cracked at my expense, that left a crack right down the middle of my selfhood, every pointy edge of the world’s cruelty that might make them want to shrink back.
I wanted to rescue my children from all of life’s hurts and rejections and exclusions.
Fear concluded that the rest of world would be hard on them. So, in my limited, fleshy mind of worry, I unknowingly resigned to do everything in my power to present them perfectly inside-the-box and charming in every way. Truly, whatever people-pleasing insecurity was tucked inside of my 8 or 10 or 12 year old heart came leaking out of my 30-something skin, and made a bit of a stink in my home.
I had developed this bad habit of trying to fix my children up into perfect little people. It held a thin hope of protecting them from getting bruised, and a shoddy sense of control to comfort my uncertain heart.
Several years ago, I woke to a hurt relationship with my eldest daughter, and a rugged hunger for a new way. As I timidly let the light shine in the deep, dark quarters of my heart where this critical spirit was born, I realized that the backdrop to my constant corrections and tightening grip around my enterprising, torch-bearing, wildly free-spirited girl was a steady stream of criticism of myself, as her mom.
As my own spirit was being crushed beneath the barrage of judgment, the same judgment seemed to be all that could spill out of my mouth.
Unpleasantly clear to me now is that, as I fought to save my daughter from the harshness of the world, my own harshness was crushing her in advance. Not with terrible words, but with constant critiques. Not with outright denunciation, but with a subtle spirit of Not Quite Good Enough. The same spirit with which I was judging myself.
Since that moment, God has been ushering me into the new identity that has been mine to wear all along — the identity of chosen, redeemed, adopted daughter of the King of Heaven. One purchased by the blood of Christ, pure and righteous in the eyes of God. A daughter upon whom God looks and says “You are mine and I take great delight in you.” A woman leaning and living into a perfect holiness that has already been given me as a gift, in Christ. Born into freedom. With an inheritance in joy.
As I lifted my gaze, I found the eyes of God looking on me with tender delight, gentle affection.
Friends, even sweeter are the curves of your face to the perfectly clear eyes of the God of Heaven, than the face of your own sleeping babe to your eyes.
Me, a beloved child. This is who I am to Our God. This is who you are. And here is the place from which we can be changed and sanctified into the people God already knows we were made to be.
And here, from this loved place, we have a a true and steady love to give.
As I journey into the truth of my identity as God’s beloved, I fight to believe the same truth for my children. Parental love often comes in the form of consistent and firm boundaries, as a path to real freedom and abundance.
But in all our boundary-setting, correction and discipline, we can start from a place of victory and hope, rather than a place of fear and defeat.
The thing is, if we try to fix our children up with criticism, they might just take on an identity of rejection from the start.
At any age, unconditional love and acceptance, as we bump and crash into lovingly set boundaries, is what allows us walk out our potential.
I want my children to know what I’m learning the hard way, that we learn who we are, not be looking around but by looking up into the heart of our Maker.
So that means we can start every correction with radical acceptance and bold fearlessness.
I’m through with trying to fix my children up into the perfect little people, and I’m trying to remember and share Christ’s invitation to simply be covered by Him. Because of the promises extended to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can find rest for our souls right in the messy middle of our sanctification journey. And, in turn, we can lead and teach and train our children with peace, with grace, with hope.
As we get our fear and discomfort with our kids’ mess out of the way and trust God with their hearts, and our own, we become more trustworthy parents.
Sisters, as for me and my house, we’ve determined this habit of trying to fix our children has got to go.
God works on our hearts with full confidence in the end product. He knows who we are becoming, and his patience is enduring. His grace empowers and encourages me towards a life of abundance – it lifts me to my feet when I fall.
May we all believe with confidence in the beauty and potential and God-given purpose tucked inside each of our precious babes, and may this hope and grace be a solid ground on which to stand, as we shepherd their hearts.