Motherhood is not for the faint at heart. It presses upon a woman in a way that few things do. My days are not my own. They are run by three tiny bosses who think they own the joint. And these bosses, my children, threaten my sanity on a daily basis. On one particularly rough tear-filled, attitude-riddled day when Hannie was less than two months old, I sat down to a lovely fresh salad at noon, my stomach growling in anticipation. Four poops (a contribution from each and every child of mine) and a nursing session later, I sat back down to a slightly wilty salad at one o’clock. On top of fighting the hanger, there is, of course, also the sleep deprivation, as well as everyone’s adjustment to our new little baby joining the family. And, of course, it’s also summer break.
As much as everyone is all “oh yeah! it’s summer break!” and I’m cheering that school is out too, there’s this other component of my life that just goes to shambles without the structure of school.
I hardly recognize my daughter right now. If you know Sophie, you know her as the sweet and inquisitive little girl who will take your hand and be your friend, the helper, the complier. Not so this summer. She is now the foot-stomper, the door-slammer, the “NO” shouter. With the intensity of a new baby and summer break falling together, Sophie has just spiraled into chaos. I told my husband one morning as we talked about how to discipline her, “I’m just worried that her behaviors are getting out of control. We’ve got to do something to get her under control.” I felt in my spirit that day the urge to pray about this concern (yes, I should have been doing so all along). And so I began to pray and ask God for wisdom in how to parent Sophie, how to be a better parent to all of my children, really.
So this is motherhood for me right now. High pressure. I’ve been pushed to the max at times with a new baby and sleep deprivation and Sophie’s changes and a three year old. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve yelled. I’ve spoken to my children in ways that are embarrassing and ugly. And I’ve asked God to help me with this. I want to parent my children, especially Sophie, whose needs require infinitely more patience most days, in a way that reflects Jesus to them, rather than a crazed woman teetering on the edge of insanity. So I’ve reinvested in my journey of transformation as a mother and also just as a follower of Christ. Our journey as Christians is mean to be transformative, but sometimes we forget that. We forget that we have to work at it.
Part of my reinvestment in this journey is a commitment to God’s Word and to spending more time in it. God has been leading me in a study of the book of Colossians which has been rich and deep, eye-opening and soul-refreshing.
So, I’m praying for wisdom about how to transform my parenting, particularly for Sophie (and how to survive this season with my sanity in tact and all my children alive) when the words of Colossians suddenly come screaming back to me:
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
This admonition comes after Paul teaches for two chapters about the power of Jesus and how it sets us free. He says, “While you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, naming it to the cross.” Wow. That gives me pause every time I read it. So, because of what Jesus did for us, we are free from the curse of sin. And that’s where transformation comes in. Because of what Jesus did, we can be free to “set our minds on things above.” But what does that mean? How do we do that in real time?
Paul goes into detail about what our former nature, the sin nature, would produce in us — things like rage, anger, malice, filthy language, lust, etc. And he says that we should put those things to death. Pretty intense.
And then he explains what it looks like to “set your minds on things above.” He says we must “clothe ourselves” with things like compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, forgiveness, and above all, love. Clothing ourselves calls to mind the realization that we must put these things on, like our clothes. They are not just part of who we naturally are, unfortunately. But we have access to them because of Jesus, because of his Spirit in us.
So all these words come screaming back to me as I’m praying for wisdom about transforming my parenting. And it all just clicks. This is what it looks like in real time. To be transformed as a mother, I need to set my mind on higher things, not just on my emotions telling me to fly off the handle. I need to clothe myself with the traits that the Spirit gives me access to as I’m dealing with my children. I had the realization this day that I’m not enslaved to my anger or to the filthy words that might try cross my lips when I’m pushed to the breaking point with my children. As a woman set free by the death of Christ who nailed the written code opposing me to the cross, I can instead choose patience, gentleness, kindness, and so on, as I deal with my children. Not an easy choice, no. But a good one. I have to make the choice to take my mind off of my feelings, off of my anger and impatience, and to instead put on compassion, kindness, patience, love. This is wisdom to parent my children.
And it’s also wisdom for a whole variety of other life circumstances you might be going through. Whatever you scenario is, it fits there too. Trouble with coworkers? Set your mind on things above when dealing with that coworker. Trouble with your marriage? Set your mind on things above. You, too, having trouble with your kids? I know you’re out there… many of us have vented together this summer about our battle with insanity during summer break. Join me. Set your mind on things above. Don’t be enslaved to your feelings, to the voice of your sin nature telling you how to act. Choose to clothe yourself instead with all the gifts we have because of Jesus.