“Our job is not to save our children. Our job is to teach them about Jesus, putting as much kindling around their hearts as we possibly can so that the Holy Spirit can come in and ignite the fire.” –Matt Chandler
I have no idea how to raise a child.
That was the hovering mantra of my life two years ago. Closing in on my third trimester with my second baby and watching my toddler turn in to her own person—a little girl with a Will (yes, capital W)— was a season of mostly fear and inadequacy. I watched other mamas, especially ones with little girls who seemed (much) quicker to obey than mine, and I did that dreaded comparison thing, dooming my children and myself to a lifetime of battle lines and tears. From mom. I was usually the one crying.
From the top of my staircase, looking down on a little girl who was supposed to be in timeout but had “no” on repeat at the top of her lungs, I just knew it could not go on like this. Our lives could not become day after day of defeats when I was less than two years in to parenting. That could not possibly be how God designed this.
But I also knew that he designed her, the precious toddler at the bottom of the stairs. And he designed us to go together. There was a way to navigate this journey and we were going to find it.
And you know, some days, I think we have. But the way has been a change in me, not in my kids. The way was getting back to God’s word, to the lessons He has always been exhorting in all of us, young and old. The way has been daily dying to myself and seeing motherhood as one of the primary means of sanctification in my life—the process through which God was going to show me how much I need him to ever become more like him. Figuring out how to be a mama has meant becoming more teachable, more repentant, more patient, and more humble while simultaneously becoming more confident in God’s word, more unshakable as I trust in His sovereignty, and more determined to know and love Him in front of my children.
The way to parent has become, and will always be, more about my perspective than about my children. Motherhood did not get easier. There are still moments of looking down at my toddler from the top of the stairs, wishing she would relent and take the time-out so I don’t have to follow through on my warning to spank. And my son, my sweet, soft-spoken middle child, he was kicked out of church for biting last week. So, let’s not pretend I’ve got this under control. But the difference is that, two years ago, I was exasperated in moments like that, in circumstances when things were not going well and I did not have the answers; today I am prayerful. I see it as my blessed job to shepherd these hearts toward Jesus and not as my cross to bear to raise less-than-easily-compliant children. (Everyone is less-than-compliant. That’s why Jesus came in the first place.)
Motherhood is hard, but I don’t think it is supposed to be a life sentence of frustration. A few trusted friends and mentors spoke that truth to me again and again. (Oh, where I would be without my people, I do not know!) They validated the confidence that being in God’s word would teach me and change me and equip me to love even on the most sleep-deprived nights. And then when I would still fail, the grace of Jesus would cover the gaps. Because the law of God and the rules of our home only serve to reveal where our hearts are. Just like Jesus tenderly does with us when we sin, we can do with our children: go after their hearts.
I cannot get through one day of mothering my three littles without clinging to the gospel. Not one. That’s how often I mess this responsibility up. But the realization that the very best thing I can do is teach my children the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit makes it come alive for them, that shifts my focus from the tough moment to the eternal glory. Game changer. My failure becomes a lesson in repentance. My children’s need for training becomes a teachable moment for all of us. And motherhood becomes the work, not the thing in the way of any other work.
Now I cannot give parenting advice to anyone. The thought is laughable. But I can give a (growing) list of resources that have helped me change the way I think about this work; things that have helped Alex and I put the kindling around the fire our kids’ hearts. Most of these came at the recommendation of people much wiser than me— which underscores the need we all have for community—and all of them have directed me to Jesus, then reminded me that my babies need Him, not just behavior modification. And that’s the goal: give them Jesus, at every opportunity, every day.
*No affiliate links are used here, these are genuinely resources that I love, and I hope you do, too.
This is where God does his business with us. The more I fall in love with scripture, the more I fall in love with motherhood. It’s true.
Entrusted with a Child’s Heart
This is a Bible study/Parenting curriculum that my dear friend, Meghan, introduced me to. I have done the class twice. Would do it again in a second. It’s wisdom is biblical, practical, and tangible.
Fully half of this book is underlined, but these words are some of my favorites: “I don’t want my children to treat God like a vending machine or a fire insurance policy. I want them to have a passionate love for God that is alive and outgoing, bowing to his supremacy and anchored gladly in his gospel. I want them to love God’s word and hold to it firmly in times of uncertainty. I want them to show Jesus to the world.” (Are you fist-pumping with me?!)
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full by Gloria Furman
“Parental amnesia is when we forget about two thing: tomorrow and eternity… As mother’s we can so easily become fixated on the immaturity of these little image bearers, who show people their boogers, that we neglect to treasure them as reflections of God’s glory. In our noble efforts to practically raise our children to grow up to be adults, we often miss something. We miss the rising sun that signals another day of grace in which God has entrusted us with nurturing his little image bearers to love and honor him first and foremost.”
Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood by Melissa Kruger
An 11-week study, scripture saturated study on the sacred work of motherhood—and a ton of great reflections on ourselves as mamas, too.
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard
This little book helped me more than I can say. Behavior modification was not working in our home, and the practical advice and great examples in this book helped begin a new language to use with our children.
Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Hubbard
A gift from my friend three years ago, this resource sat in a bin until about six months ago. My bad. Because when I found it again I realized something I did not when I received: it is gold. It now hangs on our refrigerator and we reference it daily in asking heart-probing questions to our kids.
Locking arms with you all as we raise a generation to love Jesus.