As a pastor’s wife living overseas, I often feel pulled to ministry outside the home. I have always believed that being a stay-at-home mom is my number one ministry, but somehow it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough. I see the needs around me and have a strong desire to share the gospel and disciple women, which are good and biblical desires! But despite what I say I believe about my kids being my first priority, it’s easy to look at my life where my kids literally need all of my time and energy and feel discontent or inadequate. I feel like my inability to have a ministry outside the house is my fault for not having enough energy, or not being intentional enough, not organizing my time well enough, or not training my kids well enough. As I walk through my chaotic day, I am constantly assessing whether or not I’m doing it “right”, and sometimes even feel that my kids are getting in the way of these “higher things” I should be doing (#momguilt!!). But then instead of utilizing my evening hours when my little people are sweetly asleep in their beds, I collapse on the couch with barely enough energy to maintain a conversation with my amazing husband. There are just not enough hours (or coffee) in the day.
Still, I push through each day constantly trying to be a better mom than I was the day before. I don’t have this figured out, by any means. I’m constantly learning and growing and driven to my knees by my inability to be what I need to be for my kids.
Lately I’ve seen some behavior in my oldest that has me a little concerned. She’s 7.5, and normally is incredibly helpful to me, and caring of 3 (almost 4) younger siblings. But lately I’ve heard her start saying things that make my eyes go wide in astonishment, and I react a bit in shock! How could my little girl be so selfish? How could she say something like “I am so tired of serving you Isabelle!” or use such a mean tone of voice? It has caught me off guard and makes my heart hurt.
My initial reaction is two-fold. One, I feel guilty because I know she has heard harsh words leave my mouth. I know she has heard me complain about how hard it is to serve the kids, and it grieves me that the sin I am modeling in my life is being copied by my impressionable kids. Second, I want to shut it down immediately. “Uh-uh!” I say! We do NOT allow that behavior in this house! How many times have I made you a sandwich when you didn’t deserve it?! How can you be so selfish and how dare you speak that way to your siblings?!
But there is a better way. And as I pray over my kids and beg God for wisdom to lead them in His way, he is showing me how I can address the sin in her heart, while still honoring him in my behavior. Here are a few things I’m learning:
- Humility. This is different than guilt. Guilt is actually focusing even more on your self, thinking of all you‘ve done wrong and how horrible you are. Humility is seeing yourself rightly. I’m constantly fighting my sin nature. I have sin that needs to be rooted out of my heart, and I will be fighting that until the day I die. But I am a new person in Christ! My sin has consequences, but praise God he is more powerful than my sin!! And I can come alongside my daughter in her selfishness and say “I struggle with that too. Let’s take this to God together.”.
- Her sin is not a sign of my failure. I do fail!! Every single day. But foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. And there is no one who is righteous, not even one. If anyone says he is without sin he is a liar. We are under the curse of Adam from the moment we are conceived, which you can see in the behavior of any 2 year old. Rebellion, selfishness, pride, and idolatry are our nature, and it shouldn’t surprise us to see it in our kids. Even the “good” kids.
- Patience. I see her sin and tend to freak out. But is that how God treats our sin? Sin is never okay, but God in his mercy is slow to anger. And he takes the time to teach us, work with us, and do the painful and loving thing of rooting it out of our hearts. We can do the same with our kids. I can have patience with her behavior, knowing that it’s wrong, but we will work on it, together.
- Relationship. Discipleship and evangelism happen in relationship. And as moms we are blessed with the relationships we have with our kids. Yes, it looks different when they’re 2 than when they’re 7, or even 17. But don’t forget that they are little humans that God has given us to be in relationship with. Yes, we are their authority, but also their friend and fellow sinner.
- Every time she sins, it is an opportunity to share the gospel. Every time she snaps at her siblings, it is a situation where I can gently rebuke her sinful heart issue, tell her the right way, and show her that the only way to walk that path is through Jesus. What an amazing privilege! And huge responsibility.
That last point, that is the key. I have to realize that I can’t fix my kid. I can’t make her obey or be kind or unselfish. At a younger age I can produce a certain outward behavior, but I can’t get at her heart. Only Jesus can do that! Only the life changing power of the gospel revealed by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit can affect our heart and bring us from death to life.
And so my goal as a parent is not to chide her for her selfishness and make her conform to the rules of the house. But my goal is to point out her sin, pray with her for repentance as I share her need for a Savior, and patiently trust God with her soul.
The truth is that I have an incredible privilege to walk alongside these little people and speak truth into their life Every Single Day. I don’t need to go looking for people who need the gospel. My kids need the gospel. And they need a mom who models to them how it truly is life changing.