Recently I enjoyed sitting outside in the morning having coffee with some of my friends. A May morning in Florida with sunshine and subtropical breezes cushioned amongst beautiful flowers and greenery. The palm trees were swaying and the smell of coffee mixed with the murmurings of those I sat with. The subject was children. Some of the people profess to be Christians and some do not.
I listened as one woman told of her boredom after her first few children no longer needed her. “They picked up after themselves and there was only so much housework that needs to be done.” She smiled as she told of seducing her husband so she would be pregnant again and have something to do.
Later, I heard someone speak of their bad relationship with a daughter. She vowed revenge if her daughter ever complained about her grandchildren. “I’m going to tell her she got just what she deserved.” No one remarked. The sound of the birds above gave the only answer to the woman’s statement.
I listened as some remarked that their children never called them. They made plans to exclude them.
After I went home I became aware that my own perception of parenthood had changed since the Lord changed me. No longer did I think of my children as an extension of myself. Their triumphs or failures are not a reflection of how great a parent or poor a parent I am. God gave us children as a gift and for His purposes. We love them and cuddle them as infants. We teach them how to talk and balance them until they can walk by themselves. How fun it was to see my own two children discover the world around them for the first time.
I dreamed of what they would do with their lives. The expectations of them were based on the potential I could see. Yet, children seldom live up to a parent’s dream. They stumble at times and fall. I myself stumbled and fell. How blessed I was that my mother never shut me out when I did not fulfill her dreams for me. You see, she had envisioned that I would go to a Christian college and do great things. I turned away from the Lord and married in my senior year of high school. Rather than preach at me of my failure to follow after God, she got together with the family and I had a beautiful wedding.
When I soon had a baby, she once again made sure I had a shower given by the church. She never let me see disappointment in her eyes. I wasn’t burdened down by shame. Instead, I felt that I could still go back to church when I wanted to. She phoned me, came to see me and kept the communication going. “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 My mother knew that someday I would turn back to the Lord. In fact, she put inspiration into me to make me thirsty after God.
Mom praised my efforts to be a good Mom and told of her own mistakes. She used the word of God to illustrate where she got her ideas. There was no pressure. Yet, I became thirsty after the God of my mother. Mom could have grieved over the her shattered dreams for me. She CHOSE to put me on the alter and let God have a crack at me. She opened up a new line of communication based on love.
When I had trouble with my marriage she didn’t say, “I told you not to get unequally yoked.” She prayed fervently for my husband’s salvation. She explained that if I was being abused I shouldn’t stay in the marriage. She stressed physical and mental abuse were causes not to remain. She explained the importance of good counsel, even telling me that she herself was too close to be objective at times. However, she counseled my husband with hugs and love. Her prayers went well into the night at times. Once, I went to her with idea of leaving my spouse entirely. It was for the wrong reason and I was sent home with love.
She sat down and opened up I Corinthians 13 and although I was upset, she got through. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes always perseveres. Love never fails…”
My mom was quick to point out that this verse was not just for married couples. It was how we should love everyone. This is how a parent copes with prodigals too. The Godly mom keeps no record of wrongs. She remains patient, kind, trusting, and hoping. I gave my mother very little to hope for in my twenties. I was arrogant, boastful and full of myself. I did things my way. The cost was great.
Yet, mom captured the essence of what Jesus meant for parents to do. Like the father of the prodigal, Mom waited and watched for me. She told me how Jesus died for us while we were still in our sin. Mom showed Christ’s love rather than her own disappointment and grief over my mistakes. When the time came for special days, the doors to my mom were always open because she never closed them to me.
As parents we are helpless when our children willfully disobey God. They may end up in jail, on drugs, and spit out hate at us. Yet, we are to display Jesus in front of them. Mom used tough love many times. She loved me so much that I found it too tough to resist Jesus. She didn’t bail me out of anything. Yet, she came alongside. Just like Jesus taught her. May God make himself known in the heart of every mother out there! Our children may disappoint us, even reject us and do things to spite us. Yet, if we continue to seek the kingdom of God we are less likely to be wounded.
Only God can fulfill all of our needs. A child is not meant to do that. Only God creates the end of the story, not the parent. Our job is love them, pray for them, hope the best, keep the lines of loving communication open. If we have raised them with the truth of Jesus, we need not preach. We don’t agree with them, they know that. My mother’s flesh died daily. She died to self. She threw off the brokenness over what I had done. Her dreams for me went away, and she hoped to see the Lord’s final masterpiece. Praise God she lives to see I am on my way. I’ll never be ‘there’ until that glorious day.