Several years back I did something that was more transformational in my parenting--and my relationship with my husband--than almost anything else I can think of. I decided (really it was a God-thing, I think) to pray through I Corinthians 13:4-7 for that year. And since someone reminded me of that today, I thought I'd blog about some of my meditations during the months I prayed through this. As I recall, I prayed until September, but I decided to break it down a little further here:
In January I prayed through "Love is patient." Three little words...one huge task! "God, help me be patient when my kids are driving me nuts, when my husband is feeling sick and all I want is 5 minutes to myself." "God, am I patient? Show me where I am not patient, open my eyes that I can repent and submit that to you." Now, just so you know, if you pray for God to show you your weaknesses, He will! But He is the Father of all things Love, and if we need patience, he is the one to go to. "God, I'm out of patience--give me your patience so I can love my family."
February came, and I moved on: "Love is Kind." Are my words, my tone, my actions kind? Am I modelling the kind of kindness I hope my children will learn? God says that his kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Does my kindness lead my children to repentance, does it inspire them to want to obey? And kindness is not doormat--sometimes the kindest thing to do for a child is to establish and enforce boundaries--if it is done with kindness, compassion, love, a desire to not just have things easy, but to do what's best for our family and for that child. "God, help me to be kind. That tone I used today--oh Lord it was full of selfishness, of me--it was not kind. Help me to do better."
Selfishness...yeah...that leads me to March. "It does not envy. It does not boast." Eight words, we're moving up! "But surely, God, I'm not envious, am I?" But every time I compare my kids with other kids in my mind, in creeps either envy or boasting. We look on the surface and think others have it better--or conversely perhaps that we are better--and what fruit do these musings bring? Do we unconsciously model sometimes the very selfishness we are trying to train out of our children? Does love motivate such thinking?
April--"It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking." I guess God thought I needed another month on this theme! Rooting out pride is not easy, from our children, or from ourselves. But God never promised it would be easy. He did promise, He would be with us.
May--"It is not easily angered." I find I am not as easily angered if I keep on top of behavior issues--it's when I get lazy and ignore them and the frustration inside me builds that my anger can flare. I need to pull away, even for 5 minutes, to pray and read and get in the right frame of mind. "God, I know you are not easily angered--though sometimes I fear you will be! Help me to understand your grace and forgiveness towards me, and help me to show this to my children. Help me to train them."
June--"It keeps no record of wrongs." Hm, I remember times when I've said, "You always do this!" Yes, we parents keep records of wrongs!
July--"Love does not delight in evil, but always rejoices with the truth." What kind of a parent delights in evil? you might ask. Sheepishly raising hand. Sometimes I don't want to teach and train and discipline my children. Sometimes they make me downright angry and what I really want is revenge. A friend taught me to put "Mom" in the place of "man" in this verse:
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20 for [Mom's] anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20 (NIV)
August--"It always protects." Do my actions protect my child, or my own interests? Conversely, sometimes the best protection for our children is to let them experience the consequences of their own actions.
September--"Always trusts." One of the most powerful articles I've ever read spoke of parents who believed in their son, and spoke into his life what they believed he could become. They trusted that he wanted to be a man of integrity and character, and they told him, even when he failed, that they knew he could grow up to be that kind of young man. Do we throw failure into our kids faces, or do we build them up by believing in them? Take a chronic sin issue and tell your child, "I believe in you. I know this is a struggle now--and I'm going to walk with you through this time. I know you can grow up to be a man/woman who is honest. Let's pray, and you let me know how I can help you with this."
October--"Always hopes." Do I have hope for my children? Or do I sometimes give up? Sometimes when I'm tempted to give up, I've been neglecting myself--after all, that's what self-sacrificing, "good" moms do, right? No, good moms take care of and invest in their child's most important resources--one of which is the child's mom. Hopelessness is almost a sure sign I'm not getting enough sleep and rest, or I'm not eating right & drinking enough water, or exercising, or spending time with the Lord...
November--"Always perseveres." "Lord give me strength when I want to give up!"
"Love never fails." A fun word-study is to search the Psalms for all the times it mentions God's unfailing love. We will fail--but He never does. Draw on His unending reserves of unfailing love daily, hourly, minute by minute.
May God give you grace and love and wisdom with your children, your husband, and those in your life. Merry :-)