It was a brutal, but God-inspired wakeup call that brought me to my knees. Broken and humble.
A number of years ago, my then middle-school aged daughter and I were battling constantly. She was pushing boundaries and pushing me away.
I responded with fear and trying desperately to control her. When that didn’t work, I whipped out some anger and sarcasm. I just wanted her to stop being so difficult!
One day, during a heated argument, my daughter said this and rocked my world: “I don’t know if you want me to change my behavior because it’s best for ME or because it’s best for YOU. I think you just don’t want to look like a bad mom.”
The pain came from the instant realization that she was right. I suddenly knew why nothing seemed to be changing, even though I was trying and praying so hard to get her heart to soften.
I wanted her to change. But maybe change needed to start with me.
Always a “good church girl” and eager to please, I was very conscious of what others thought of me. My daughter’s adolescent mini-rebellion was making me incredibly uncomfortable. I thought it was shattering my carefully constructed “good girl” image. It was forcing me to set and enforce boundaries that made her angry and upset with me. And I resented it.
That incredibly clarifying comment changed everything. Not overnight. But God began a work in my heart — moving me away from my selfish motives and concerns about what others thought and toward doing what was best for my daughter — because I loved her and God loved her.
If we allow it, our children can be the vessels that God uses — perhaps more than anything else — to shape and change our character and draw us closer to Him.
So how do we allow it? How can we cooperate with God as he uses motherhood to change our attitude, our hearts and our character? Here are three ways that have helped me:
Pray for a teachable heart.
I’ve always been a people pleaser (now recovering). Maybe we’ve always been controlling. Or sarcastic. Maybe we’ve been that way for so long that we’ve decided, “That’s just the way I am. It’s my personality.” We can use it as an excuse, as if change is not possible. If the behavior is not God-honoring, God wants to change it. And it doesn’t matter how long we’ve been that way. It may seem like a barrier to us, but it’s no barrier to Him.
But we have to have the desire to change. We have to make the choice to surrender to the Holy Spirit — over and over again throughout our daily struggles. He promises that He will take our hearts of stone and make them into hearts of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Be willing to admit our mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
Not only from God, but perhaps from our children. That thunderbolt statement from my daughter was a huge turning point. I told her she was right — to an extent. I loved her very much, but I did care far too much about what people thought. And I could see why she believed that I cared more about my image than I did about her. I asked for her forgiveness.
It was like a barrier was lifted. Our relationship was (and still can be) difficult at times. I make mistakes. Say things I shouldn’t. So does she. But I mark my response to that statement as a pivotal moment — where forgiveness and healing began to happen.
Change your attitude and actions — one small step at a time.
If we have a chronic problem with anger, we can’t expect to become Mother Teresa overnight. We’re human. It can take time to change long-held patterns. That struggle is what draws us closer to Jesus and causes us to be dependent on Him. We can’t do it in our own strength. We have to draw on Him.
One of my most frequent prayers as I tried to allow God to change my people pleasing habit and set consistent boundaries with my kids was this: “Please, God, give me the wisdom to know when and how you want me to change my behavior and then give me the courage to do it.”
I think as moms we can often place the emphasis raising “good” children. Ones that stay within the lines, don’t embarrass us and make our lives pleasant.
But it’s the difficulties and challenges of motherhood that send us to our knees. And when we focus on being a godly mom — raising the unique kids God gave us (not the ones we think they should be) — that we set a powerful and lasting example for our kids.
Let’s just not wait to get hit by a ton of bricks before we start.
Would you like to learn more how we can allow God
to use our children to change our character?
Check out our new book Mothering From Scratch: Finding The Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family! It’savailable now on Amazon and releases in bookstores January 20th!