Monday, September 8, 2008

Chapter 3 - Loving My Children

In this third chapter, Carolyn Mahaney looks at the second aspect of training for the younger women - to love their children. Again, this is a "tender, affectionate and passionate love". "Loving our children", doesn't sound that hard - after all, loving our kids comes naturally, doesn't it? And yet again, we're sinful and selfish and we're surrounded by a world that doesn't value children in the same way that God does, so it can be struggle.

The time when I most struggled to love my children was a couple of years ago when I had my third child, Elsie. We'd just moved houses and changed churches, Dave had just started a new job; Elsie was very unsettled and wouldn't sleep, and by the end of the day she was a crying mess (and so was I!). To say I wasn't coping too well with my situation would be probably be understating it. And all the while, every time I left the house people would say things like: "Three kids! You've got your hands full!", "How do you do it?", "Do you ever get any time for yourself?". It didn't take too long for me to start feeling sorry for myself, rather than seeing my kids as a blessing. It was as if I was the only person who had ever had three kids before! I was losing my temper with the older two, complaining every time Elsie needed attention, resenting the times I had to get up and feed her in the middle of the night. I was doing what Carolyn Mahaney describes herself doing on p. 56, and seeing my kids as burdens, not joys. I was encouraged to read about her change in attitude and what a difference it made to her to see her children as blessings (Ps 127). And I agree with her about the necessity of time alone reading your Bible and praying (p. 53). I think in my case, a big part in my change of attitude came from a new commitment to reading my Bible every day.

I also thought Carolyn Mahaney's insights about the necessity for both discipline and affection in this chapter were very wise. Her observation about how withholding discipline is unloving is especially helpful to be reminded of. It's hard to say no to your child, when you love them so much - and yet it is not loving to indulge our kids. And her explanation of the need for affection as well as discipline really rang true:

Growing in warm, affectionate love does not conflict with the responsibility to teach and discipline our children. Quite the opposite is true. Tenderness actually softens our children's hearts and wins their affection, which helps them to more readily receive our instruction and training.

And finally, I loved being reminded of my ultimate aim for my kids - that they would "repent of their sins, put their trust in Jesus Christ, and reflect the gospel in the world around them".

*Pic is of my little girl Elsie now... I know, how could I ever seen her as a burden??


mattnbec said...

The mind-shift from seeing your kids as a blessing rather than a burden made a massive difference to me too at a particularly hard time. And likewise, I think it came along with spending more time reflecting on scripture.


Emma P said...

Hi Nicole,
Thank you SO much for your wise thoughtful comments.
I am currently working up a seminar on Titus 2:3-5 for this weekend and I'm using Mahaney's book for ideas. Your comments after Chapter 1 really crystallized my thinking, especially the stuff re: why we don't mentor young women (ie: church structure, societal pressures, busyness). I also found it helpful to be reminded to put these verses in the context of the "ocean of general instruction". It reminds me of Col 3:16 "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with ALL wisdom.......".
Thanks again Nicole.

Sharon said...

Some verses that have helped encourage me in loving my children in a caring manner are from 1 Thess 2:6-12, in particular vv7-8: "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."
I am reminded that God has given my children to me so I can share my life with them, not just occasional moments snatched in between chores or my own self-oriented pursuits. I am encouraged to be gentle and caring, rather than brusque and impatient with their little ways. I want to love them so much that I am delighted that they are in my life. And also, I am challenged to ensure that my everyday life is an open book of the gospel, as well as my words to them.
~ Sharon

Rachach said...

Hi Nicole,
I'm wondering how you managed to read your Bible every day with 3 young children and lack of sleep?

Nicole said...

Good question 'Rachach',

It is really hard to find the time with 3 little ones!

After getting into a pattern of not reading my Bible on a daily basis, I just decided that I needed to choose a time to do it every day and try to stick to it! I was especially challenged after reading John Piper's thoughts on this in When I Don't Desire God - how to fight for joy. I wrote about this here.

So after talking it through, my husband and I decided that we would take it in turns to look after the kids in the early morning while the other spends time reading the Bible and praying. This has worked really well for us (I wrote about this here).

Of course, we're fortunate that Dave works close by and doesn't have to be out the door at 6 every morning to travel 2 hours on the train to the city! If we were in that sort of situation, I suspect we probably wouldn't go with prayer and Bible reading in the morning, and would have to try and figure out something else.