When my son was finally born after three hours of pushing, I was utterly exhausted, but nothing can begin to describe the love that flooded my heart as I took him in my arms! I could sit for hours just looking at him in wonder! If anyone asked me, “Do you love your son?” I would’ve said, “You better believe I do!” And I do love him tremendously, but that doesn’t mean I always love him well.
Love as the Bible defines it is not a feeling. And caring for children is one of the hardest jobs you can ever do! Remember 1 Corinthians 13:4 – the measure of your love is not how you feel for your child, but how patient and kind you are to them… and not just in your “best” moments, but even when you’re sleep deprived and they are fussy and nothing you do can satisfy them or they’ve just learned the word “no” and are being off the charts irrational!
And being patient and kind is just the first part of this description!
When Paul instructs older women to teach what is good so younger women will love their children, he is implying that younger women need help learning to love their children.
Note he doesn’t say older women should instruct “some” younger women to do this!
It is so important younger women understand all women need help learning to love their children!
Yet there seems to be an unspoken belief that a “good mom” should know what to do, should instinctively know how to love her child, and know what’s best for her child. But this is a dangerous way of thinking ~ if you think to be a “good mom” you’re supposed to have this figured out, when an older woman approaches to give advice, it’s so easy to take it personally and take offense, walk away and miss out.
The truth is we all are deficient as moms and we all need older women to speak into our lives, teaching us what is good so we can love our children.
I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite part of discipling because it’s often like traversing a mine field. I never know when someone is going to get upset or interpret what I’m saying as “she thinks I’m not a good mom” or if they do hear me out, start making excuses, “you just don’t know my child” or “I’m already doing that.”
Like one time I was talking with a young mom about discipline and while holding her toddler she said, “But I do I discipline my child, I say no” and as the child started playing with the earring she was wearing, she said, “No” and pushed the child’s hand away, then “no…no….no…” again and again as the child continued to play with the earring until finally she exclaimed, “Oh all right, here” and she took the earring out of her ear and gave it to the child saying, “but don’t put it in your mouth.”
Now it’s easy to read a story like that and clearly see there’s a problem, but when you’re in the middle of life it’s not always so clear, is it?
But if you realize this is something no one “naturally” knows how to do, can that ever help you remain teachable.
And if we realize this is something we all need to learn and something God wants older women to help us learn can that ever spur us on to take initiative asking for input!
When our son was young we started actively looking for older couples who seemed to have done a good job parenting and we asked if we could take them out for dinner and hear their advice. Did this ever prove to be a gold mine!
I’ll never forget one couple who met with us a number of times as our son was growing – they had three boys who all grew up to love the Lord and still are actively seeking to advance His kingdom , something we highly value – now these were active boys who were far from perfect – oh the treasures those parents passed onto us and the ideas they gave for parenting and loving active, strong willed, often mischievous boys well!
But here’s the kicker, despite seeking out input from older women and being committed to parenting our son as best as I could, I still fell short in so many ways. One of the best things I had to learn to do was to confess to my son when I blew it and ask him to pray for me. Did that ever model the gospel for him. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – including his mom!
So even getting the best advice doesn’t mean you’ll do everything perfectly – we all have blind spots, times when we feel like we’re loving our child but maybe our motives are totally off and we’re just doing what feels good for us at the moment. This is why you don’t just need advice occasionally but it’s so important to invite those around you to keep giving you feedback, to ask, “Please would you let me know if you see me doing something that doesn’t seem to be loving as I parent my child.”
This is one area of discipling where it’s so important that younger women take initiative, simply because so many older women have been hurt when trying to do this.
And the best way to start doing this is asking the Lord to bring older women into your life who can help you learn to do this. Can this ever help you receive correction and instruction when it does come – so you’re seeing it as an answer to prayer and not a rebuke or imposition.
Yes, not all advice is going to be helpful! So ask the Lord to give you wisdom to know what to accept and apply in your life and what to forget! But what a difference it can make when you realize people giving you advice, even correcting you is an act of love. Even if the advice isn’t the best you can still be thankful for it.
The book of Proverbs is filled with verses related to how a wise man invites, listens to, and appreciates correction. Does this ever speak volumes to how hard it can be to receive this – it takes wisdom to receive correction well and appreciate it!
It is much easier to give and get input before you start doing something. So for older women, let me encourage you, make the most of the time you have investing in younger women before they have kids, to prepare them to love their children well. There tends to be much more openness during this season than after the baby comes out!
And one of the best ways you can help prepare her is to alert her to this trap of the enemy. Help her understand that loving her children is something she needs to learn (I’m still learning and my baby is 23!), that all women need to learn and it’s something she’s going to need ongoing input from those around her to do well. Helping her come to grips with this and even doing a word study with her on correction to help her learn to see it as a gift, can help you continue to disciple her well even after kids come!
This is such a critical part of discipleship, which is why the enemy works so hard to reinforce these lies, incite pride and isolate women regarding this! But truly one of the best ways women can love their children is by being teachable!
Two other key implications flowing from the reality that loving our children is something everyone is deficient in and needs to learn to do:
- Asking God daily to help you learn to love your child can really help! (we don’t pray for what we don’t see a need for! But can praying this daily ever serve as a reminder this is something we need help with! And what wisdom it is to go to the Lord asking for the help He so delights to give! I still pray this! And you wouldn’t believe the ideas and insight He gives in response!!!)
- Remember love is a fruit of the spirit and Jesus says in John 15:5 “He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” This is sooooo key! I remember when my son was a baby he was up at 5:30 am like clockwork every morning clamoring to be fed so I had to give up having my quiet time before doing anything! So I committed to taking the first opportunity I could to get time alone with God. And you have to know during those days, the time he spent napping was so precious, so many things screamed at me to do them and you better believe the temptation was intense to do them, but I committed that I would seek first to get time with the Lord as soon as I could – and what a difference it made. I cannot underscore how thankful I am for those daily decisions to make getting time with the Lord a priority.