I can feel the hackles raise on my neck. I’ve proven myself a mama-bear to defend my children. But this time, it’s the child- the eldest child- that I want to growl at.
I can become the worst version of myself as I look at that smaller image of me, her jaw set that dares me to react. Why is it that our children, those we know are true gifts from God, can unearth this ungodly ugliness in our hearts? How can I honor God, become who He is calling me to be, when all I want to do is knock my challenging daughter down a peg or three?
I pray. I pray prayers of frustration. Of repentance. Of dependence. The truth is that I can’t honor God—I am a work in progress, needful of the Artist’s help to do or be anything worthwhile. And that includes any parenting of value—I need my Father, his overabundant grace and patience.
And then it hits me what the struggle is, how to define it. The struggle in my heart, the war, is about identity. It’s countercultural, and elusive. We might miss it if we don’t look. It seems normal, natural, to feel a sense of entitlement. It feels right to demand my rights, because they define me. But they should not. When she challenges my authority, what my heart is crying out is: Respect! Honor! My RIGHTS! And I aim to fire away until I am justly restored what is mine. Until I am content that the relationship reflects who I am. But then I think- who am I?
Who am I? Jesus calls us to give up our rights and to serve. He says that if we love him, we will obey. Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Fully entitled to all respect, all honor: God Himself. The One who designed, who created each person that turned against Him, each man that beat him and spat upon Him. Jesus didn’t turn on them and insist on His due. He loved them. He loved them from a heart that didn’t require reciprocity, from a heart that forgave when it was sinned against, from a heart that was sure of its mission. Jesus’ identity wasn’t defined by circumstance or by others’ response to Him and my identity is hidden in Him.
A new identity in Christ. How does that work? While I still need to set good boundaries with my kids, I am now free to choose how I (re)act when my children misbehave. I can focus on the condition of my own heart. I sin when I react to my children out of a need to define myself—a hope that their relationship to me will inform my identity. I sin when I forget who I am.
Parenting can be a refiners’ fire, shaping us to become the daughters—His daughters—that He calls us to be. Instead of the rights I long to claim at any uprising, my new prayer is to hold fast to Jesus. To cement myself in who He is, to have my identity so rooted in this dependence on Him that, when challenged, I remember my calling instead of my “rights.” That I recollect my mission—guiding each child to know Him and love Him with all their hearts—instead of needing authority reaffirm who I am. That I take the posture of a servant, because I am following my Shepherd as I help care for His little lambs.
By Ingrid K Cagwin, The Mundane WrestleLeave a Comment
Amy Hunt says
I so need this reminder today, and every day! Humbled is an understatement, but it’s what He knows is best. I too often compete with my own child for the right to be heard and known and recognized. It’s so yucky. Yet, His grace is so beautiful to have me see another way. I appreciate you today, Ingrid.
Rich blessings as He leads you in love for those babes of His you’re raising.
Mothers seem to struggle more than fathers with discipline because we tie our identity of who we are to our families more then men do. The Bible tells us foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and it is only by authority that we banish is far from them. Mothers are the heart of the home, the tenderness, so it is hard for us to deal with the harsh reality of discipline.
Long ago a friend helped me to understand, discipline from God is not one of emotional response but judicial. He has His absolute truths that if not obeyed, there are consequences. Children need to have consequences for bad behavior, no matter how small the offense, but the consequence cannot out weigh the offense.
I let my son get by with too much because I allowed my emotions to get the better of me. By the time came that I understood my authority as a parent, my son was lost of me and did not respect me. He said some very painful things to me. It was hard, but I learned to parent my children by how God parented me. Boundaries were set and consequences made when those were crossed.
My daughter was so easy to raise, because I helped her to understand God’s will for children, something I learned far to late for my son to embrace. I lost his heart and it took a long time to get it back. Later when my son wanted to move into our home with his, live in girl friend. I told him why we could not allow that with as much love as I could muster, afraid it would turn him away from us again. He did not become angry; he married the girl to make things right before God and his parents.
Later, my son admitted he saw the change in me, the strength he could not manipulate and it caused him to seek this God I was serving. The hardest thing for any mother is to stand strong against the foolishness of a child, but God is able to teach us how.
Identity Issues « The Mundane Wrestle says
[…] soil, to raise up our kids? Today we’re talking about identity issues… and reading my guest post on [(in)courage] home for the hearts of […]
Thank you so much for this post. My son (8years old) and I have been in an ugly power struggle lately. When the storm calms, I am ashamed and embarrassed at how I have reacted to his misbehavior.
This point of view is exactly what I need. I love the way God works. This morning I’ve been praying for help with this problem. 🙂
Blessings to you!
Although not blessed to be a parent, this so speaks to my current situation in my work environment. THANKS!!! I needed that and will be re-reading it for several days to come!
Ingrid, thank you for sharing this … I am a preschool teacher and this year several of His little lambs are challenging me mightily. I especially loved reading the last paragraph. Your words really spoke to me today. I am feeling refocused in my calling 🙂 Thanks!!
Dana Butler says
This is a great post! Thank you! A great heart-motives-check for those moments when I feel “owed” respect by my son. It should be about teaching Him to respect me because it brings God glory…not simply because I deserve it… because frankly… I don’t.
Bless you! And thank you!! 🙂
Cheryl Kauffman says
Totally LOVE the “Really Wooly” cards!! I , like your daughter, am a “card sender” = sometimes I make them, more often than not I buy them. I buy lots of the “Really Wooly” cards. I have a pastor friend in South Africa who’s on kidney dialysis so I send MANY to her. Thank you for the contest and for your words of encouragement always!
love the UNeeks card pack and also the hope and encouragement pack by holley gerth..Great selection- hard to chose..My neice and I still send eachother cards- she is now 16 and we’ve been doing it for years..Love to brighten someones day this way!
I think this could apply to any situation. I know some of my biggest hurts wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t crave people’s respect, and if I always found my worth in Him.
Ingrid K Cagwin says
YES! So applicable to other areas of life— identity is, obviously, central to who we are. Was focused on the presenting issue in my life– my parenting relationship with my eldest– but am so very thankful for those of you who saw beyond that situation and applied it to your own. Thanks for reading!
What an encouraging post! Thank you for writing!
So needed this tonight as I deal with a younger version of myself on a daily basis.