Parenting by the Faith Factor
By T. Suzanne Eller
I stood in front of the small group of women. Sixty of them appeared faithfully every Sunday morning. Many of them did not know God. All they knew is that they wanted something different—for them and for their families.
For six weeks I had shared points and principles and practical steps. I loved it when I saw the information not only sink in, but inspire change in parenting methods or perspectives. I loved the conversations after class where women shared their stories from their past, or their hopes for the little ones in their arms.
These women were from diverse backgrounds, all ages, and were mothers—some with babies in the womb and others whose children were young adults on their own.
The night before my last class I wrestled in the dark as I lay in bed. I had shared bits and pieces of my faith. But I hadn’t spent a great deal of time on the faith factor. The class was a mixture of beliefs, from non-believer, to fledgling believers, to committed Christians who had been in church their entire life. Stay practical. Show them gentle steps to effective change. Keep the faith element light. This was my teaching method.Why? Because many of these women in this particular class had endured crises in their lives—molestation, abuse, addiction, abandonment. The father figures for many were the ones who did the most damage. It’s why they showed up at a class—even if it was in a church—called Pushing Past Your Past (to be the parent you want to be). So a Heavenly Father was a tough and sometimes confusing factor.
And yet that night, I thought about my own life. Would I have been the mom I wanted to be without God’s help? Not likely. Even now his help and direction were such a vital part of who I was—as a woman and as a parent. That night I rewrote the next morning’s lesson and shared these principles:
- Being a parent isn’t always easy
- I can’t be afraid to ask for help
- When we ask for God’s help, he will give it
Being a parent isn’t always easy.
One evening a few years back, all my parenting skills didn’t seem to be enough. One of my children was in high school and our relationship was close, yet rocky. Looking back I see that my child was pulling away, already stepping into adulthood and a new life, while I held on a little too tight. But that night nothing went right. Everything I said seemed to be the wrong thing. Everything my child said shot tiny darts aimed right at my heart. Neither of us were trying to create a convoluted mess, but there it was—a mess of emotions, hurt, and frustration between us. That night I walked into a quiet, dark room and cried over my relationship with my child. I know that I am not alone. Have you ever had a moment where all your good intentions flew out the window and you said what you thought in the heat of anger? Or a day when your child pushed all the right buttons, or defied you or made the wrong choice, and you felt overwhelmed? The truth is that parenting is amazing—and also the most difficult job ever. Saying this does not deny the joy of raising a beautiful child. It simply acknowledges the truth. There are good days, and some days are really, really difficult.
You can’t be afraid to ask for help.
Because it is a challenging job, sometimes we need help. Several years ago I made a personal goal: I will continue to grow as a woman, a wife, as a mother, and as a human being. I wasn’t raised in a stable home environment and I knew I needed additional help. I found that through:
Parenting books and magazines – I read books through each stage of my children’s development. I didn’t adhere to every principle, but they did provide insight and sometimes taught me a different way to approach parenting. I also read books about being a wife, a leader, a speaker, a writer. I still read up to five books a week simply because I want to grow and have a greater perspective than my own.
Mentors – One of my mentors was my mother-in-law, a gentle, kind and patient woman. Who are your mentors? Sometimes we go for advice in all the wrong places. I’m amazed at women who go to a friend and seek advice—and then listen—when that friend may exhibit everything you don’t want in your life. Surround yourself with those who show the fruit of what your desire in your home, family, or life.
Will the growth process ever stop? Recently I was a guest on a radio show and one of the hosts said, “Good thing that my kids are raised. I don’t need any of that parenting stuff any more.” I have to disagree. We never stop parenting. Our roles change, but there are always new opportunities for memories and a deep relationship as our children grow up and out of the home. I’m a mother-in-law now and I didn’t realize that I would love my son-in-law as much as my own, but I do. But being a mother-in-law—and a mother to a woman who is now a wife—is a different season for me. I want to be a mother-in-law and mom that will be a blessing to them, rather than a source of conflict.
My three children are in college. This is a different place in our relationship. I’m still mom, but I’m learning a balance of encouragement, advice when asked, and watching my children make crucial life decisions such as relationships, careers, ministries, (and trusting them to make those decisions), but praying for them as they do.
The faith factor: we need God’s help and he will give it.
This is where I deviated from my message. As I faced the 60 women I sat down and shared from the heart. “When you invite God into your home, he will come,” I said, “and we need him.”
A woman raised her hand. “But I’ve made so many mistakes,” she said.
I shared with her two words: shameless audacity.
It’s what I love most about God. When Christ died on the cross and rose, he created a relationship where I could come to him freely, mistakes and all.
Since this new covenant gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. (2 Cor. 3:12, The Message)
“It’s an intimate relationship,” I said. “You don’t have to go through another person. You don’t have to wait until you feel like you deserve his help. But I want you to know that faith is a vital factor. We need God, and he’ll walk with you as a mom.”
I saw the lightbulb go on, and I love it when that happens. You see, shameless audacity is a principle we don’t share much in parenting, but it means that I can ask God for help without shame, and full of expectation that he’s listening and will be with me as I apply practical principles, continue to grow, and view my children and family as a gift.
When you add the faith factor, you gain understanding. That’s what I found that night when my relationship with my child was cracked and breaking. God listened as I opened my life to him in honesty and asked for direction.
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away. (2 Cor. 3:16, The Message)
And he continues to help, because the faith factor—shameless audacity to trust him—adds one more key factor. The more I know him, the more I become like him. How cool is that?
And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. (2 Cor. 3: 18, The Message)
The faith factor teaches me that I can respond to my family with his gentleness, his wisdom, his compassion, and his justice.
We need him, parents, and the fact is that he’s waiting for you to invite him into the parenting process. May I pray with you today?
Father, I pray for my friend that she will feel confident to share with you the hurts, celebrations, and challenges of parenting. Thank you that you give direction, that you comfort, and that you walk with us through the good and difficult days of parenting.
Read Suzanne's past articles:
Throw Out Your "Good Mom" List
Modesty ... for Guys?
Beyond the Dos and the Don'ts
How to Have a Good Fight
A Different Type of Adoption
What You Teach Me About God
Does Your Teen Feel Accepted at Home?
Are You Really Listening?
'But I’m Almost 18!'
My Teen Won’t Talk to Me
Suzanne’s new book, The Mom I Want to Be – Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future (Harvest House, July, 2006, ISBN 0736917551), has just been released. Suzanne is an author, freelance writer, columnist, and national speaker. You can reach her at http://realteenfaith.blogspot.com.
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