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