As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cut Yourself Some Slack for New Years

It being New Year's (okay, well New Year's plus two days) I've been thinking lots and seeing lots posted about resolutions.  Usually there is one thing that is completely self-evident, that I don't even need to think about what I should do, it's just there. I hear someone else, read something, see something somewhere and go, "aha! That's it.  That's what I need to work on." This year however, I find it's quite the opposite.

I've made no secret of the fact that I have a problem with my temper. I'm coming to see that it's many a mother's secret shame.  This balance we try to live between the perfect mother we know we should be, and the sad reality that we are not.  I am coming to accept that this is a battle I will likely be fighting for the rest of my life, and I must - I must make headway, I must strive to be someone who does not yell at her kids, no matter what.  It is possible, and that's what they need, and I need to get outside of myself and make it happen, for them and for me.

But I'm starting to notice something I find disturbing.  It seems to me that Moms are worrying too much about screwing their kids up for life, that one wrong move somewhere along the way could have drastic and unprecedented consequences, that if dear-little-Johnny ends up in jail someday it will be because I yelled at him too much as a child. Don't get me wrong, I must never accept that it's okay to yell at my children.  But neither should I wallow in despair if it happens, fearing my children will never recover from it.  They will, they are resilient.  The danger is not in being a mother who never fails, but in being a mother who never tries, and that's the difference.

Personally, I don't read articles that talk about the damaging effects of yelling on your children.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with writing about that, because truth is truth, and sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes someone needs to be struck square between the eyes to wake up from a bad circle - someone who yells too much and doesn't know it.  But I do.  I hardly imagine an alcoholic needs to be convinced that what he is doing is wrong.  He doesn't need study after study laying out the research showing the damaging effects of too much alcohol consumption.  What he needs is conversion, a way out, forgiveness.  The realization that people make mistakes, and that they can come out of them.  The whole story isn't that yelling is so bad for your kids, because it's bad, and good moms don't do it.  The whole story is that each of us is made for better, and so we strive for that.  Will we fall short?  Most certainly.  But the only thing we can do is to get back up and keep walking, to keep striving for better.  If we keep our eyes on the Lord, eventually and gradually we will make our way further from the darkness of our sin and closer to the light of Christ, which is freedom from that which enslaves us.

I'm not saying don't read those articles.  I'm not saying they are bad, they are not.  But when you take those hard truths in, do not do so in a way that shames you into thinking you are the worst mother in the world when you fall.  Let them be an empowerment, something that causes you to say, "I don't want to be that way."  And trust in the redemptive love of God, that when you do fall, He is there.  Trust in the fact that He cares for you and your children, and has the power to see all of you through the most difficult times.  That becoming a more patient parent is as much for your own happiness as it is for your children.  That the Lord uses those moments of greatest weakness to shower His love on you, to let you know that you are good, that you are worth it, and that He loves you.  And confident in this love you can step forth, a better parent.  The guilt and shame of your mistakes will not free you from them, only love will. We can only love better if we are first confident that we are loved beyond measure.

And so, my prayer this New Year for myself and every Mom who struggles as I do with a quick temper, is that we search for ways to find the love of God that is ever present and available to us.  Let those moments of greatest trial be an opportunity to turn to God, and to receive His love.  He is there in every moment, and I believe that my struggles are my greatest indication of how I desire God, and how I can best receive His love.  May I keep this ever before me this year, as I continue to grow deeper in my relationship with Him and my children.

Happy New Year everyone.  May 2014 be a year filled with many blessings.

"All of our strivings, appetites, desires, all of rituals and even friendships are, in some recessed way, fueled by an innate longing to return to the One who comes to us, and who meets us in Christ. There is nothing wrong with the drives themselves...any more than there is something wrong with thirst for water, or hunger for food. In fact, the very fact of hunger and thirst are the first reliable indictors that there may well be something like food and water...The trick is to let the truth behind those longings rise to the surface before supressing them with lesser fare, because the longings themselves may be the first reliable indicators that there may well be something like true fulfillment; satiation; joy." Steve Bell, Pilgrimage/Advent

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