Updated: Dec 29, 2022
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
One of the best-selling motherhood books of all time, and even its follow up movie, is What to Expect When You’re Expecting and a close second, What to Expect the First Year. Because as moms, we all want to know what we don’t know…and primarily, because we want to do this “job” well. Our desire to excel more in this life’s roles is probably due to the overwhelming realization of our impact on a physical life, a person’s spiritual maturation, their confidence and character, happiness and comfort, and a host of other crucial outcomes that we will craft for our children whether we decide to do it intentionally or not.
So, what didn’t I know that I would go back and tell my younger mom-self? As a mom of five, with toddlers to teens, what universal lesson have I learned along the way that I would share with you as a mom?
I was in the upstairs of a warm Texas church attending a baby shower when the host posed this very party-game question: “What is the single most valuable counsel you could share with this mama?” Laughter stopped flowing, giving way to a very reverent pause as each of us pondered what to share with this new mom of twins. I was taking my own notes from these moms twice my age offering the most practical and profound parenting advice. Waiting on my turn, I thought, “What can I offer?” What can I share that could remotely impact the unexplainable journey this mom is about to embark on?
After mentally weeding though everything I could say, I landed on what has been my single greatest lesson:
Opinions will be plentiful, but listen to God’s above any other.
Early in my parenting, I had not yet learned we are all perfectly equipped for the very child(ren) we have been gifted with and the very task we have been called to. God has a plan for our children as well as what it looks like to raise them. In my ignorance, I looked to others for approval as I insecurely pulled from what felt like limited experience. I even became embarrassed when my child (inevitably) acted outside the norm - whatever “normal” is. And, I looked to more “knowledgeable” moms to take the lead as if they had a manual that I didn’t - when really, we are all in this together; seeking God, faithfully listening, and applying God’s word all just one day at a time.
Undoubtedly, we all absolutely desire the best for our children. Which is why we seek to do motherhood “right”. But we can easily get tangled by the trap that our children are a reflection of us instead of recognizing they are individuals created uniquely by God, responsible for their own choices, and within our care and under our tutelage for just a short time. This entrapment we are all susceptible to led me personally to parent to an audience; creating for my children a movable behavioral target I expected them to never miss. I am wincing a little. What a poor and unrealistic practice! One that we can all relate to because…we all want to raise “good” kids.
But, who defines “good”?
Seeking man’s approval, another mom’s definition of ‘“good”, clouded my motives and rerouted my God-given responsibility. Parenting to an opinion other than God’s directly opposes the framework He defines for us in His word. Moveable targets wreak havoc in a child’s mind as they are defining their boundaries and developing their own Spirit-filled walk. Just like legalism, the other murderer of a child’s burgeoning faith is to ignore absolutes all together, trading them for situational “truth”.
For example, while one of our foundational family tenants is “living adventurously”, what of telling my kids they couldn’t play on the “dangerous” park equipment because the other playdate mom didn’t allow hers. Imagine the message I was sending. What of when we scold for not sharing because the other mom scolds hers…and maybe rightly so. Or, when we laugh at the joke about our children’s perceived shortcomings forgetting that they are only children who are just learning. And, the many other rules unique to each home that could overwhelm us in deciding the very best way to do everything; working outside the home, breast is best, or vaginal delivery! Ha!
Oh, I have parented to opinions other than God’s and felt the Holy Spirit conviction every time. Our children need training, our defense, parameters, and love, all rooted in the unchangeable personhood of Christ Himself. Praise God for His grace-filled conviction that led to realigning my parenting – enough to confidently share with a seasoned room full of baby-shower goers. Now, my amazing children and God’s infallible word are testimony of hopefulness for you, too.
Today, we can be conscious of our parenting to opinion so tomorrow we can change. Tomorrow is a new day to let go of seeing our children as reflections of ‘just how well we parent’ and adjusting by asking God what He thinks about a circumstance, what He would do, or how He would handle the situation. We need to be reading the word rather than reading the room. Because, no one knows how to parent like a heavenly father. Galatians is a hook to hang on, saying the mark of a Christian is forgoing man’s opinion for God’s alone. The Holy Spirit who resides in us is the voice we need to listen to. It is often not the loudest, but it is the most perfect. Let us tune in to only one opinion. His opinion.
Jesus, take away the thought that our children reflect us and define us as a success or failure. Allow us to parent from your truth versus the opinions of others. Remind us tomorrow is a new day – grace us as parents to realign our parenting, heal our children, and teach them from the timeless authenticity of your word and not our ever-changing circumstances.
Your fellow Able Mom and AMI Ceo,
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