I am a doer. I like to make things happen, see tangible results, and check them off my list. Did I mention that I have 5 children, spanning preschool to middle school? Good justification for never sitting down and being still, I know. But it’s still no excuse.
The typical type A parent, I am also a problem solver. I want to figure things out and make things “right”. Get to the bottom of things. FIX IT. Whatever it is, I want it fixed!
I also assume it’s my job to fix it
One of my most recent and prominent realizations is the fact that my children fight A LOT. They try to FIND ways to make each other mad. The older ones will just say the most hurtful things, on purpose, and wait for the sting. They put each other down and make snide comments intended to lower their sibling’s self esteem. They steal from each other, mock each other, lie to each other, hit each other, and destroy items most valuable to the other.
As their mother, it is so painful to watch
It just breaks my heart to see my children tear each other down. It makes our home a difficult place to be. It goes against everything I imagined when I dreamed of having a baby and a family.
I wanted love, joy, and kindness to flow from my children. Patience and self-control. I desired for my older, saved daughters, to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in their daily lives.
As a mother, I can not allow my kids to purposely mistreat each other (without consequences).
And as that type A mother, I will try anything. Do anything. To encourage my children to get along and lift each other up.
First, I tried verbal encouragement. “That’s not nice,” I would sweetly sing. “Apologize to your brother,” Dad would bellow. Little reminders would be posted around the house to “ love one another” and “Do unto others…”. Nothing changed.
I tried behavior charts. Rewards for desirable behavior. Consequences for unwanted behavior. I explained to them how I felt and asked them how their actions affected others. I explained to them why it was wrong. I read scripture to them. I cried. I raised my voice. I prayed for them to be kind and loving to each other. The fighting continued.
I took them to church, to conferences, to Bible Schools, to Youth Group, and to Christian camps. I exposed them to Christian families and encouraged healthy friendships. I even tried to remove negative aspects of their life that might cause them to be bitter and nasty toward their siblings.
I spent an enormous amount of time and energy trying to change their behavior
And then God reminded me:
“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener (v1)……Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (v4)
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt so stupid.
Not a one of us, my children included, can bear the authentic fruits of the Spirit if our heart is not tethered to Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
Those fruits I desire to abound in my home are fruits that only the Holy Spirit can produce in us. Sanctification is life in the Spirit. The sanctified person bears the fruit of the Spirit and crucifies his or her sinful nature. None of us is without sin, but the saved person fights against sin and clings to the Spirit.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
My saved children do not read the Bible on their own. They do not take the time to reflect on His Word and pray. They are NOT attached to the vine.
So why would I expect them to bear good fruit?
And is it truly the fruit that I’m concerned about? Yes, that’s the annoying part that got my attention. The squeaky wheel.
But the real issue is: What is at the root of that behavior?
Their behavior reflects what is in their hearts.
What I really desire is NOT a change in their behavior, but a change in their hearts.
And that begins with time in prayer and in God’s Word.
(remaining in the vine)
I must take ownership of the fact that I do not emphasize that enough. Somehow, I had gotten so wrapped up in fixing their behavior, that I had forgotten who our gardener is. I had lost sight of the MOST IMPORTANT thing I should be instilling in my children. A desire to read God’s Word and be tethered to him. The change of the heart occurs at the hand of God.
I can not change the hearts of my children.
It is not my job to fix them.
It is certainly my job to instruct them, train them in righteousness, and set a standard for obedience. My role as a mother also includes praying with them, praying for them, nurturing them, reading scripture to them, talking to them about God, telling them about Jesus, listening to them, encouraging them, taking them to church, teaching them God’s word, being in the Word with them, and modeling my relationship with Christ for them to see. Each one of these things is very important.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Do not provoke your children unto wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you. When you sleep they will watch over you. When you awake they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. Proverbs 6:20-23
God has placed a great responsibility on me as a parent. I must be diligent in tilling the soil of my child’s heart and sowing the seed of His Word.
But I can’t do it for them. They can not live vicariously through me or anyone else. It is vital that they have their own personal relationship with Christ. It is critical that they “remain in the vine” and seek to know God personally. I can not expect the condition of their heart to improve if God is not their master gardener.
Since God so lovingly reminded me of my folly, I have made some changes in my home. Bible reading is becoming a daily occurrence. I am helping my older children to learn how to read the Bible and have quiet time for themselves. We are buying journals and I am teaching them some ways they can use their journals in their time with God. I ask them to read from dedicated scripture passages every day so we can talk about them with each other (I am reading the same passages in my quiet time). I am going to teach them how to use the Index to find topics they may need or want to spend more time with. I am purposely focusing on God’s Word as our daily bread. And I can’t believe it took me this long to get here.
The degree of our spiritual strength will be in direct proportion to the time we spend in God’s Word. (Elizabeth George. A Mom After God’s Own Heart)
It is nice to snuggle up under the electric blanket and in complete silence, take in God’s Word together. How cool it is to sit by the fire with my girls, Bibles in hand.
My oldest has a hard time in the morning. She is just like her mother. Not a morning person. I am encouraging her to have a passage open beside her bed so that she can read it BEFORE she comes downstairs. Just like God has recommended for me to do. I keep forgetting that my child is not a baby. She is old enough to begin a routine of Bible reading and prayer time (she has probably BEEN old enough… she’s 11). It’s me that didn’t take the time to teach or encourage her in that practice.
And when we are having respect issues or other heart issues, I ask my saved children (who are also my only ones old enough to read) to read from the Bible. I take them back to God’s Word. I tell her (both of my older children are girls) to spend some time in her room meditating on whichever passage(s) I chose. I sometimes find it appropriate to also do that when she is experiencing some overwhelming emotions, such as sadness or anger.
There is power in God’s Word. It is important that my children experience that for themselves.
I will continue to “feed and water” my precious children
surrender the results to God
By His Grace,
another great post is linked below:
*I have 4 girls and one boy. My older girls are 13 and 11 and my only son (age 7) is sandwiched between them and my younger daughters.