Suzy called me asking to talk about some issues she was facing with her pre-teen daughter. At age twelve, Sarah was showing no interest in spiritual things and had started protesting about getting up on Sunday mornings to attend church with the family. Suzy was perplexed. Her daughter had always enjoyed going on Sunday morning and had numerous friends in the church. But in recent months she had started spending lots of time alone in her room and was increasingly reluctant to hang out with the family or church friends.
As we talked it became apparent that Sarah was blaming herself and her husband for Suzy’s spiritual apathy and family aloofness. She lamented their inconsistent family devotional times and was fearful about Sarah’s path imitating her own rebellious teen years. The thought of Sarah not having a close relationship with God and the family was haunting…
“Sheree, I just don’t understand. I’ve tried so hard to be a good mom and to raise Suzy to love God. We’ve been actively involved in our church and have surrounded her with wholesome friends. Suddenly she’s drawn to music and movies and friends that we don’t approve of. What happened? What did we do wrong?”
On Monday I reminded moms of young children that your struggles and temptations are commonly shared by other moms. Today, I want to warn you not to feel condemned by your children’s sinful choices.
The humble mother wants to take seriously her own common struggles. As Suzy and I talked over several months, the Lord graciously revealed to her that patterns of anger and fear of man (craving the acceptance and approval of people more than God) had negatively affected her relationship with Sarah. She saw that her expectations of Sarah were frequently higher than Sarah’s age and maturity warranted. When her daughter didn’t complete school assignments on time, reacted angrily or selfishly toward her younger siblings, responded disrespectfully to Mom or disregarded the request to keep her room tidy, Sarah neglected to view her daughter as a fellow sinner in need of God’s power to do what is right. Rather, she sinned back at Sarah with eye rolling irritation, anger laden mini-lectures and self-pitying comments about how much Mom did around the house without much help. God also showed her that some of her desires for Sarah to “act well” was to impress others, avoid embarrassment and to known as an effective mother.
Sarah’s reactions were familiar to me. I was easily able to identify with her and to share my own stories of similarly self-righteous responses to my children and reputation consciousness. The self-righteous mother holds herself up as the example to her children rather than doing what Christ did: condescending to assume of posture of understanding and compassion. And the approval-driven mother often evaluates herself by her children’s actions and attitudes.
I’ll be sharing more in other posts about the importance of training young children to obey and respect their parents. But we must remember that our children are just like us: flawed and broken sinners in need of a Savior to help them to what is right. Without Christ, we moms have no ability to fulfill our Father’s righteous requirements to obey and follow Him. Our unsaved little ones (or big ones, for that matter) are just as incapable of obeying their father and mother without His help.
Suzy’s and my conversations didn’t start with her contributions to Sarah’s struggles. Our first interactions focused on this important truth that I want to encourage you to remind yourself of each and every day: Your mothering weaknesses and sins cannot and will not keep God from working in your child’s heart. Nothing can prevent the power of God from invading and changing your child! Not their sin…not your sin…not anything!
Just think about it. Were you raised by sinless parents? Did they do everything “right”? Were they the ones to reach into your unsaved heart and tenderize it to see your need for a Savior? No. You are a believer today because the Holy Spirit drew your sinful heart to know and love God, leading you to request and receive forgiveness for your sin and providing you with full access to the throne of grace.
I wish I could sit with any of you who are reading this and thinking, “Is this true??? Can God really work through my weaknesses and failures; my lecturing and complaining; my angry, selfish reactions to reach my child’s heart?”
Yes He can. Every child or teen or adult that has experienced saving faith was raised by flawed parents. This doesn’t mean our flaws and sins are excusable. In fact, once Suzy became firm in the fact that God viewed her motherhood through the lens of the perfect obedience of Christ and that she didn’t have to “perform” for Him or others to feel like a good mom, she was energized to take a hard look at her sinful reactions to Sarah. She humbly asked Sarah’s forgiveness and today they enjoy a warm and close relationship. Sarah is now married and is a loving mom to Suzy’s two granddaughters — and she looks to her mom for help with her own mothering challenges. She’s still not in the spiritual place Suzy longs for her daughter to be, but she is making progress!
Would you want to take a minute and pray this prayer with me?
Lord, thank you that as a Christian I am completely accepted by You. I really don’t have to earn Your acceptance and favor, and I have Your power to help me to be a godly mother. I want to change. I want to deal with any patterns of sin in how I relate to my children. But for now I just want to say thanks. Thank you for saving me and for assuring me that YOU will work in my children’s hearts. Neither my sin nor theirs is a match for Your love and irresistible grace! What relief. I’m so grateful. Amen.