One thing we’ve all learned throughout these recent months of forced family time is that it’s awesome. Until it’s not. Many of us have found the resulting pause of life to be a relief. To be water for our parched family souls. The quenching has come in the form of time and space. Families now have more time to occupy the same space, together.
Although our very sanity and coveted personal breathing room has been confronted with these humans home ALL the time, it has also created an opportunity. An opportunity to see our own children as our neighbors. I remember when this idea first showed up for me. My children as my neighbor, completely shifted my parenting perspective.
As a young mother, I consumed all sorts of parenting and mothering books. Having moved from running after a career to raising babies, I was clueless and so I needed information. Somewhere along this journey, I became determined to raise a polite, well-mannered obedient child. I naively believed that if I followed ABC in my parenting, that would result in XYZ of an offspring. God had to perform a complete 180 in my thinking and deal with some control issues in my heart!
I truly adored my children and even loved being a mother. I wanted the best for my children… I just hadn’t totally figured that out yet.
God graciously showed me there was a greater vision that He had for His children. My own sanity, peace of mind, or control was not the goal. Nor were my children’s accomplishments. At the end of the day, God wanted their heart. He saw them as people. Made in His image, redeemed by Jesus, and created to know Him and make an impact in their sphere.
David offers this advice to his own son…
“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.I Chronicles 28:9
My perspective shifted. I began to see my own little people as my neighbors. This was transformative. Freeing me from irritation at their mess-making, grocery-consuming, authority-challenging, financial responsibility. Stirring in me a more grace filled desire to love, nurture, discipline and parent through a new lens.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:30-31
Seeing our children as our neighbor brings two important aspects to our parenting.
First, it becomes relational. Not to be mistaken as striving for BFF status, but as fellow image bearers of God.
Think of the gospel model—the way God works in your life. He first draws you in with an unbreakable bond of love (justification), then transforms you into what he wants you to be (sanctification). Only those who have been justified by his grace will ever be sanctified by that same grace.
Bottom line of these big fancy Bible words is: God saves us and changes us. All through His gift of grace. I put a little link bleow for anyone wanting a nice nerdy trip down theology lane.
Justification is God’s declaring the sinner righteous; sanctification is God’s renewing and transforming our whole persons—our minds, wills, affections, and behaviors.Guy Waters with Ligonier Ministries
Hear me mamas and papas! Only God can save and transform a person. However, He created the family with purpose and parents for influence. AND we can not have a significant impact on our child/adolescent/teen/young adult for a transformed life without a functional relationship. Not a perfect relationship. But a biblical one. That still includes offenses, hurts, disappointments (including the sass-talker and strong-willed)… requiring an endless cavern of forgiveness.
Sister, I still fail to act on that perspective at times. Even operating from a right understanding that my children are my neighbors, my own flesh is weak. On those days where we feel that all has been hijacked in our mothering of these people, God has given us hope… AND so so much grace! The Bible is here to help us in our angst and mama exhaustion.
Which leads me to second thing. Seeing our children as neighbors means there is a large portion of the Bible that speaks to how we are to see them. If our children are our neighbors then all of scripture that speaks to loving our neighbor as ourselves offers parenting practices.
I’ve gathered a few verses to carry our worn mama souls on those days when our coveted family togetherness turns into a dumpster fire. Or on a Tuesday.
Hope to reorient our mom-life minds
When we want to react and are reluctant to offer forgiveness for their offenses.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT
When we are irritated that our children are not where we think they should be.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.Romans 15:1
When we become resentful towards meeting their abundant needs.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
When we tend to correct our people with harshness (aka release the Kraken).
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1
Looking through a gospel lens, within our homes, can impact the way we parent. And change our own hearts in the process.
And finally dear mamas…
When we are tempted to feel it’s all in vain.
For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.Hebrews 6:10
Try waking up tomorrow thinking of those in your home as your closest and dearest neighbors. Recognizing that our home is an area of influence that God has entrusted to us as we act as ambassadors for Him to those souls making a beautiful mess at our dinner table. Remembering this…
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.Philippians 2:13