Over the last few weeks I have been having an ongoing conversation with some friends about
relationships. Especially mother-daughter relationships. They can be so rewarding. But they can also be, in my opinion, some of the hardest to navigate. Esther and Victoria and I have spent years talking about ours. And one very obvious fact has emerged. I have been sharing it with them for years. I think y'all might also find it helpful.
The truth is, I sometimes would rather control them than love them. Now obviously, I love my daughters with my whole heart. And I am so proud of them. They are growing into amazing women who love the Lord and I rejoice in that! But they have had to walk through life with a mom who definitely struggles with control. And my sin of control has influenced their picture of the gospel.
Let me explain. As a mom, I want obedience on their part. It is essential that they learn how to submit to authority if they are going to be happy in life. The problem is that in my desire for them to submit, I convey that if they obey and submit to me, I will love and approve of them. This not only undermines their ability to submit, it undermines their understanding of God and the gospel.
I need to constantly remind them (and myself) of the gospel. And then model my parenting after the gospel. The gospel clearly states that I am loved in Christ - first and foremost. I was loved even as an enemy of God. I am loved before I even am able to love. As a believer I have God's approval based on what Christ has done for me. I am approved of before I ever obey. Then out of the love and approval of God the Father I am affirmed and accepted and want to be accountable to his authority. Look at this diagram (it is taken from the SALT series published by Victorious Christian Living International):
In my parenting and in my friendships I need to convey that I accept people not because of who they are or how they behave, but because I choose to love them. I am loved and accepted by God because of Christ, therefore I am accountable to his authority. I never want to present to someone that I will love and accept them when they respond to my authority and accountability. This is opposite of the Gospel. It is opposite of how God has treated me. It is opposite of how I should treat my children. Sadly, I have not always parented that way. My kiddos know this... but they are gracious! And we are learning every day how to better apply the gospel to our own hearts and our relationships.
So moms... if you haven't done so, sit down with your children and talk about how much you love them. This is an excellent time to let them know that you are seeking to be more like Christ as you parent. Even draw out this diagram and show them how you desire to be a picture of Christ. Give them the Gospel - that they are loved and affirmed because God chooses to love them, not because they are good people. Let them know that you love them because they are yours!! Tell them that you desire for them to respond to your authority because they are loved and affirmed by you. BUT they have your approval not matter what - because it is freely given, not earned. Watch as their faces light up! There is freedom in a child knowing they are loved for who they are, not what they do! I had to confess to my kiddos that I fail over and over again in this. But I pray daily for them and for myself, that I will be an example of the gospel in how I parent.