I can feel the hackles raise on my neck. I’ve proven myself a mama-bear to defend my children. But this time, it’s the child- the eldest child- that I want to growl at.
I can become the worst version of myself as I look at that smaller image of me, her jaw set that dares me to react. Why is it that our children, those we know are true gifts from God, can unearth this ungodly ugliness in our hearts? How can I honor God, become who He is calling me to be, when all I want to do is knock my challenging daughter down a peg or three?
I pray. I pray prayers of frustration. Of repentance. Of dependence. The truth is that I can’t honor God—I am a work in progress, needful of the Artist’s help to do or be anything worthwhile. And that includes any parenting of value—I need my Father, his overabundant grace and patience.
And then it hits me what the struggle is, how to define it. The struggle in my heart, the war, is about identity. It’s countercultural, and elusive. We might miss it if we don’t look. It seems normal, natural, to feel a sense of entitlement. It feels right to demand my rights, because they define me. But they should not. When she challenges my authority, what my heart is crying out is: Respect! Honor! My RIGHTS! And I aim to fire away until I am justly restored what is mine. Until I am content that the relationship reflects who I am. But then I think- who am I?
Who am I? Jesus calls us to give up our rights and to serve. He says that if we love him, we will obey. Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Fully entitled to all respect, all honor: God Himself. The One who designed, who created each person that turned against Him, each man that beat him and spat upon Him. Jesus didn’t turn on them and insist on His due. He loved them. He loved them from a heart that didn’t require reciprocity, from a heart that forgave when it was sinned against, from a heart that was sure of its mission. Jesus’ identity wasn’t defined by circumstance or by others’ response to Him and my identity is hidden in Him.
A new identity in Christ. How does that work? While I still need to set good boundaries with my kids, I am now free to choose how I (re)act when my children misbehave. I can focus on the condition of my own heart. I sin when I react to my children out of a need to define myself—a hope that their relationship to me will inform my identity. I sin when I forget who I am.
Parenting can be a refiners’ fire, shaping us to become the daughters—His daughters—that He calls us to be. Instead of the rights I long to claim at any uprising, my new prayer is to hold fast to Jesus. To cement myself in who He is, to have my identity so rooted in this dependence on Him that, when challenged, I remember my calling instead of my “rights.” That I recollect my mission—guiding each child to know Him and love Him with all their hearts—instead of needing authority reaffirm who I am. That I take the posture of a servant, because I am following my Shepherd as I help care for His little lambs.
By Ingrid K Cagwin, The Mundane Wrestle