[Continuing the conversation from earlier this week …]
Her hurt hooked me in, again. She looked down and my heart picked up pace. Years of training selflessness, teaching them about a heart focused out and up (not in), were challenged in the face of this child, who just wouldn’t have it on this particular day. She exhaled ingratitude, in spite of my outpouring.
We’d just had a day together, the two of us. We held hands and giggled. She did everything one step behind me, as she’d asked to do so many days. I treasured her — it wasn’t hard — and she lit up. Time spent together was her language of love.
Minutes after we returned home, the questions began. The ones the naked eye might miss, but this mama’s heart discerned. She requested what she didn’t have for now, for tomorrow, and for next week. When can we go the pool? And: Could we have cinnamon rolls tonight? They rolled off her tongue, with others, as if the hours I’d just poured into her spirit didn’t exist.
And they stung. They hit a nerve.
We work hard, intentional, to train up ones who seek interest in others, pray out and love up. Ones who brush past what they don’t yet have so as to fix their eyes on all that God has given. She knew this anthem, we spoke of it often. Was she trying to push buttons?
Hours later, sitting at His feet, I saw the Source of my pushed buttons. Would I love her in the direction of where He was taking her or foolishly expect her to get there overnight? Was I trusting Him to heal her heart from her years outside of our home or was I giving way to that virulent fear that she would “ruin” (the toxic word for adoptive families) our well-crafted home?
Her untrained heart didn’t need my fear-fueled frustration, it needed the tenderness of long-suffering love. And to tap into Him, within me — who could dispense this kind of love, so foreign to my flesh — I needed an encounter for myself.
You’ve been here, I know. It’s the common thread of motherhood. God-sized expectations — He gave them to us — and the gaps in our lived-out reality. The world teaches us to excuse this gap and laugh away our expectations, but God speaks another word.
God’s desires for their lives are big. (He offered His Son to live inside of them).
And to get from here to there requires my heart to engage with His heart for me, it requires replacing my own lies about who He is with the Truth of what His word says He is. To grow their hearts, I need to engage with Him for my own. I need to go to my hard places with Him.
As parents, we often fear taking a detailed look “under the hood” because we don’t know what to do with the lack we’ll find there. Because we don’t know what He does with our lack.
We hesitate to assess their hearts, and ours, because we wrongfully assume we’ll have to walk aimlessly with data that damages, naval-gazing, not looking up at Him. But He came as counselor, wonderful — to speak to all of our gaps. And when we look at our own hearts and theirs, first and only through His lens — not our septic self-analyzation — we see what it’s like to look at Him as ones who wear the gift He gave.
I have a list of questions for you to take to Him. A starting point for conversation. But, before you do, consider that the barrier to asking questions like these of Him is often those same lies which form a barricade between our reality and the deep desires of our heart for our children.
Rather than seeing this list as a checklist to confirm (or invalidate) your parenting or your person, I’d ask you to slip on another paradigm.
Gaps are holy. When we see God as merciful and gently unrelenting in His pursuit of our whole hearts, brushing up against our lack creates hunger. When we see God as the harsh taskmaster, even subtly, realizing our lack creates condemnation.
So if you’re bracing yourself for The Taskmaster before reading this list, stop and adore the God-Man who delights in you.
When we see His kind eyes towards us, real repentance occurs. And that’s what this is all about, motherhood birthed from repentance. It makes it easy to go and sin no more when we receive the affections of the God-Man receiving us, in all of our deficiencies.
Now on to the questions we ask of our hearts (in no particular order)…
* “Am I delighting in my children?” Nate contrived a list of three D’s for our parenting, maybe for a later post. The first of which is delight. My flesh folds under a God as the distant coach, ready for me to fail. So does theirs. Are you asking Him to reveal their beautiful sides (just as He searches out ours) to you and tickling those places? Are you celebrating what makes them them? Do your eyes and your smile match the I love you from your lips? Does your tone reflect love, in their ups and their downs? They perceive your heart behind your words louder than what you speak.
If you are mostly frustrated and disappointed with them, ask the God of delight to reveal Himself to you as One who delights in you (Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 62:4). It’s likely that how you think He sees you is trickling down to how you see them.
I am coming to believe that the source of all of our parenting angst lies in the misperceptions we have of God.
* “Have I been consistent?” At the end of one particular day, I recounted to Nate where they fell short. “All the wheels were squeaking,” I said. As I went through the details, it slowly dawned on me: they were off because *I* was off.
Most of their bad days stem from my bad days. Is it the same with you?
Do you mean what you say and say what you mean? In order to trust Him as the God-Man, trustworthy — The Man of His Word — we get to start them early by teaching them to trust us as the mommy and daddy of our word (James 5:12). We are His representatives. Do they know the course of consequences for their actions, or are they bearing-up under a day full of threats without follow-through?
Ask Him to reveal the places where you’ve said weak words — words to which you didn’t hold them, threats. Repent for not letting your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. Experiment with a few days of clear consequences and consistent follow-through and I suspect you will see a change as they learn to trust your words. And turn. Form a habit, starting with one day, of tucking away with Him for even just 5 minutes to confide when your day looks like it’s going sour.
Our heart stability in Him makes consistency easy. When we receive from Him, we can distribute with ease to them.
* “Am I trusting Him as leader and openly respecting the stand-in He has given me?” Our early years and beyond left me weak-kneed here. I said that I trusted God, but subtly undermined my husband and my actions spoke louder than my words. When children sense this distrust — of him, but really of the God who gave him to us — everything is off kilter.
This relationship is primary in your home.*
If this is a weak-spot, adore God as trust-worthy (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 111:7) and expect Him to change your perspective on the one He has given you as a living stand-in. Maybe it’s time for a Love Project?
*I have dear friends raising children as single parents. Praise God that He fills in this gap. If this is you, fear not, He is the perfect Father to be your son’s daddy and your daughter’s desire. His word says so. He is Father to the fatherless.
I have a few more questions for you to take to Him, but will continue them in the next post. In the meantime, try Him on against the lack you see.
Repentance is a watering hole when we see Him as He really is. He is safe to press the flesh of His Son against our mommy-gaps.
We get entrusted with patching their cracks when we live daily with Him patching ours.
(For those of you wanting to dig deeper, here are some of the verses I referenced throughout this post: Proverbs 22:6, 2 Corinthians 4:18, 1 John 4:18, Psalm 8:6, 1 Corinthians 13:4, Colossians 1:27, Ephesians 3:20, John 14:12, Romans 8:15, Psalm 8:4, Isaiah 9:6, Colossians 1:30, Ephesians 3:18, Matthew 5:37.) Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.