CHARACTER NURTURING: The Greatest is LOVE! (part 3 of 4)
I shared in Part 1 that “good behavior” could be produced without love BUT “good character” could only be produced with love.
For the first 3 years, Oldest and I were miserable and exhausted in the area of “developing good behavior“.
There was a wall being built between us.
My contribution to our wall was fear of failure which led me to stress-filled anger. Her contribution to our wall was fear of mama which led her to distance herself from me.
To be honest, I struggle with what those first 3 years developed in her as a person. I know that I am not going to be a perfect parent, that, in some way, I’m going to fail all my children.
But my heart goes out to our sweet oldest.
I was so ignorant, scared and overwhelmed!
I tell her, “Baby, mama is going to fail you but, if we can afford it, daddy and I will pay for counseling!” She will just smile, giggle and reassure me that I’m the best mom ever but I know “that day” will come when the fruits of my failures will be seen (I see some now!).
It’s intense!! I’m in tears right now!!
“Lord help remind me of Your love and forgiveness. Remind me that guilt is no longer in control! You work all this for good (even the “bad” I cause)!!”
What an incredible responsibility the Lord has given us!!
This is a bit irreverent, but sometimes the thought of Him entrusting me with eternal, little beings seems to be… well.. not such a grand idea.
How do I do it? How do I love my children?
This might seem contradictory to this entire series of posts but I can’t do a thing to 110%, guarantee anything in my children’s lives. (Good character, salvation, good careers, good marriages etc.)
All I have control over is how I love them and my husband, he needs love too. I hope that in loving them all, wonderful fruit will be harvested throughout their days!
That is my prayer.
Now, by no means, am I telling you I have grasped the great secret of loving my children all the time, 24/7.
I know I can’t.
Perfection is not something I can obtain nor should my children ever be led to think I’ve obtained.
Me, in all my glorious humanness, should NEVER be on a pedestal in my children’s mind. I want them to know I am flawed and that Christ’s love is what makes be beautiful and worthy.
That is why pointing them to the perfect love of Christ is my only good option.
And a large way of doing this is by loving them like Christ loves me.
But how does Christ love me?
I was the type who thought God’s love for me was not that special since He loves everyone. I wanted to be unique and there is still a large part of me working my “figurative” butt off to stand above the rest.
In comes the issue of fear.
I fear greatly not being the best mom. As if God’s love depended on what I do… but… the world’s praise does.
The only way I have learned to love is to not fear who God made me. Out goes insecurity, out goes selfish pursuits, out goes fear, out goes worry!
Out goes worrying if I’m glorifying God or impressing God by some worldly standard of what it is to be “useful” to God.
All I’ve been called to, all I can do, is live a loving life.
When I focus on how good or bad of a job I’m doing, fear sets in. Fear yells at me to either
hold on and keep up the stressed-filled work or to dig down deep and do better!
This fear leads me to self-preservation which leads me to stress which leads me to anger which leads me to sin.
God promises me that His yolk is light (Matthew 11:29-30) but “light” is the last thing life feels like when I am living in fear.
So what is the answer to fear? Simply… and not so simply… love!
Love is mentioned over 500 times in the BIble.
Our freedom is found in love.
Trusting that God loves us no matter what (Romans 8:37-39) and knowing that even if we possessed the greatest of world renown abilities, love is the only thing that counts (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) are two very peaceful, freeing truths.
I might not have any world-renowned abilities, but, I can love.
Naturally, in order to love, one must know what God says love is. I mean, God is love (1 John 4:7-12– a favorite of mine!), but I need something a tiny bit more specific.
I’m a practical lady. I need a tangible plan of attack!
Examples of love cover the pages of the Bible but there is one passage that gives us a definition in list format.
“Thank you Lord for keeping in mind us Type A people whose brains function in list formats!”
I am going to settle in on 1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-7.
Here is God’s glorious, Type-A list of what love is:
- LOVE IS PATIENT- *able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious* Way to start off with a whopper God… thanks a lot! My God is so incredibly patient with me. How is He patient with you? During the times I’m becoming impatient with either a character goal that I’m working YEARS to instill in one of my children or just something in everyday life-like… I don’t know… the way the phrase, “We’re in a hurry!” is translated into, “It’s okay, take all the time you need!“, I have to step back and remind myself how God treats me. He doesn’t yell and His discipline is kind, stern at times, but kind.
- LOVE IS KIND- *of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, indulgent, considerate, or helpful, humane, mild, gentle, clement* Sometimes I forget my children are human. Sometimes they are just these little, loud, passing shadows. I have to remember to validate their existence by treating them with kindness. EXTRA: clement means “merciful“… I had to look that one up… now we are all a bit smarter unless you already knew the meaning, in which case, you just wasted your time!
- LOVE DOES NOT ENVY- *a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck* So, sometimes, I envy my kids freedom from major responsibilities. It’s not as if I too didn’t have this lovely season of life, but, I didn’t appreciate it.. blah blah blah! I know the day is coming when I will never clean a toilet again, or at least for 16 years. But sometimes, on those mornings when I am tired, trying to make breakfast, getting the baby’s bottle ready, talking with my hunky husband, I’ll look up and my oldest and middle are complaining about not having some toy they just saw on TV or demanding that I stop everything I’m doing, at once, in order to cool off their hot oatmeal… well… sometimes I envy them… then I snap!!
- LOVE DOES NOT BOAST- *talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities* Now this one is more of a “what I do behind their backs” type thing. Everyone is responsible for knowing when they are just “mama” proud and when they’re boasting. If I purposely tell a mom about my child’s success in an area I know her child struggles in just to make myself feel like the most amazing mom in the room, which I don’t actually feel like or I wouldn’t feel the need to boast in the first place, (breath)… then I might not be loving. I might be a jerk… sometimes I’m a jerk!
- LOVE IS NOT PROUD- *having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance* I have to respect my children. Their thoughts matter, their voice matters, their feelings matter!!! I find it outrageous when I’m yelling at one of my children then I get upset if they yell back at me. Whose the adult here?! And why am I surprised when they don’t “seem” to be listening to me when most of the time they get the pleasure of talking to the back of my head while I run around the house like a caffeine engorged nut?! I also have to humble myself and ask for forgiveness when I sin against them. Although I will fail them, I know an “I’m sorry for XYZ, please forgive me”, NOT followed by a “but you…“, will go along way in their life!! (I do need to follow my apology with a change in my behavior) I’m hopeful this will keep the doors of communication open which is one of my deepest desires. If I take the time to truly listen and validate them now, we will hopefully have a wonderful friendship… in like 20 years! Honestly, do I expect to have a relationship where my adult children want to share things with me if I don’t stop to listen to what they’re sharing with me now?! Do I expect my children to feel safe expressing their feelings to me in the future if I don’t respect and validate their feelings now?! At this stage in their life, I am hear to listen and to walk them through coping with their feeling… not telling them HOW they should feel. You want to make me mad? Tell me how I should be feeling!!
- LOVE IS NOT RUDE- *offensively impolite or ill-mannered* SCENE: At McDonald’s. My beautiful friend Magan and I are stuffing our faces with food while our children play on the playground Megan: “You are so calm and logical when you speak to your children!” Me: “Well yeah, I’m in public!!” My goal is to treat my children with the respect I give them in public. This is why on extra “mama cranky” days, we get out of the house!! One thing that has helped, and it’s kind of Jr. High Church Campish, but I imagine God is with me, in the flesh, and it helps… sometimes.
- LOVE IS NOT SELF-SEEKING- *having concern for one’s own welfare and interests before those of others* This is my greatest struggle. I’m selfish in the areas of time and “list completing” (you know, I must be the best!). If I don’t keep a loving perspective I can go through my whole week without spending ANY quality time with my children. This might not be “organically loving” but, I now include whatever game, activity, book, etc. the children and I will enjoy together on… wait for it, wait for it… my list!! BONUS: I’ve found if I give them personal, quality time, they will give me more “whine free” time to get to life’s glamorous demands.
- LOVE IS NOT EASILY ANGERED- *having a strong feeling of or showing annoyance, displeasure, or hostility; full of anger: stormy, turbulent, or threatening* UGG!!! Unrighteous anger is directly connected to selfishness. If my children get in the way of my tasks, my dreams, my goals, my plans, my projects then… I get angry! When my focus is on my children and husband first, I get angry less. Now, do things have to get done, yes! Dinner doesn’t make itself… right?!! I also don’t believe it’s healthy to spend every moment with my children. Independent time is needed for children to build imagination, work through boredom and not always be dependent on others to “entertain”them. In my case though, I have to make sure it’s not everything else BUT quality time with my children getting accomplished!
- LOVE KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONG- As a parent, I can’t let the wrongs from the day before spill over into the next day. I have to allow my children the grace to try again, start anew, or I will become bitter towards them. Redemption is good for everyone. I never know… today I might see some good fruit… or at least a sprout!
- LOVE DOES NOT DELIGHT IN EVIL BUT REJOICES IN TRUTH- From the get go, I try to not promote undesirable behavior by thinking it’s “cute”. A 1-year-old can be very entertaining when involved in an undesirable behavior but, you know, that behavior might be cute at 1 but it won’t be cute at 3. To allow a child to get away with an undesirable behavior, to even encourage it by laughing or showing them off to friends, is confusing when that child is then disciplined for it 2 years later. So, I try to encourage good character early! If I need to laugh, I cover my mouth, run really really fast, hide myself in the closet and enjoy some good belly laughs. A 1-year-old misbehaving can be a wonderful, comedic release!!! Personal story, my Middle use to say, “Aww, damn it!” perfectly, at the correct moment and with the correct voice influx. I hid in the closet a lot until that behavior was corrected. (First step… mama not saying “damn it!” anymore… I have a bit of a mouth!) Also, in my own life am I modeling that I am a lover of truth or evil? My children are watching my every move… and the small things in life are just as important as the big things in life when it comes to truth. Do I keep my word? Do I tell the truth? Do I sacrifice? Do I speak kindly of people behind their backs? Do I rejoice in truth and in loving, and run from evil, even when it’s HARD!!! (Psalms 15)
- LOVE PROTECTS- *keep safe from harm or injury* There is just so much I can do to protect my children. This cruel fact threw me into a depression when I had Oldest (I hope to write about my struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety… soon) What is a scared mama to do??? PRAY! I am just the steward of my precious Loves, God is their protector, provider, Creator and Father. It’s very easy to write that but it’s much much harder to live in this truth. I do my best to take care of them and protect them but mostly I pray. Prayer is such a nutty thing to me. I honestly don’t know how it all works. I just know and rest in the fact my God desires for me to talk with Him. To tell Him my concerns and desires for my children. So I do and you know what?! It has helped in so many ways. Not just to calm this intense mama by helping her focus stay on her God but I see a change in my children. This is a great site for scriptures to pray over your children (click here). I pray scripture because it helps my “easily distracted” brain stay focused.
- LOVE TRUST- *to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of: allow credit to* I’m thinking this might become a larger issue with older children. “Hey mama, I think I want to do XYZ!” My mind says, “Crap, they might not be ready, they might fail!!!” No mama wants to see their child fail but at some point I have to let my children try to reach their goals, no matter how stupid and reckless they seem!! And I have to let them try without first “kindly informing” them of all the ways it can go terribly wrong. I have to trust their gut, their choice. I just hope they know the Lord and have the leadership of His Spirit! “Lord please be the Prince of Peace to my loving, freaking out heart if they don’t know You!!” But, if my children do know the Lord or are being pursued by the Him, I NEVER want to be in the way of His calling on their life!!!! “Slap me in the face Lord, in loving kindness of course, if I am being used as a tool of distraction!!“
- LOVE HOPES- *a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust* I try to have a positive outlook, self-deprecating at times, but positive. I have a lot to hope in and rejoice about!! I hope the craziness of this life never clouds me from being thankful I’m a mama!!
- LOVE PERSEVERES- *continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success* To the grave, no matter what, I will love my children. But this parenting business is hard, tiring and refining to say the least! I want to show my children the deep love I bear for them. Not just in words but in actions, by being patient, kind, content, never manipulative, humble, polite, selfless, slow to anger, merciful, truthful, protective both physically and spiritually, trust-worthy, and always hopeful!! Even if it gets difficult or I never get to see fruit, at least not on this side of eternity. “Lord, help me… I desperately need You going before me!“
Can I ask you a question?
Do you believe that God loves you the way it’s described above?
If not, might I encourage you to pray and ask Him:
- to make His love evident to you
- to remind you of His presence
- to gently lead you to truly rest in His very special love for you!
If we trust God’s love for us then we have the perspective, strength and glorious recklessness to love others. How can we expect to love, as He has called us to, if we don’t trust that He, Himself, IS LOVE!
And He love you!!
(PLEASE humor me and CLICK HERE … I hope it makes you smile!)
It’s Been a Pleasure,
Your Moderate Mama
NEXT TIME: Tangible Ways to Discipline
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BIBLE VERSES USED:
Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
1 John 4:7-12 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Psalm 15 “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? 2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart 3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, 4 who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, 5 who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.”