After both of my daughters were born, I became passionate about protecting them, watching them breathe as they slept the first few weeks in our home. Helping them grow into their personalities by plugging them into activities that would enrich them as individuals.
I was the one who could make their world better on days the world treated them poorly. All of these “passions” I had as a mom seemed normal to me. Until one day. One day the Lord revealed to me that what I was claiming to be a passion, had become and idol.
Tim Keller speaks to how this idolatry slowly begins to play a role in our parenting in his book Counterfeit Gods.
“Previously, Abraham’s meaning in life had been dependent on God’s word. Now it was becoming dependent on Isaac’s love and well-being. The center of Abraham’s life was shifting. God was not saying you cannot love your son, but that you must not turn a loved one into a counterfeit god….”
Keller clarifies what idolatry is by saying, “If anyone puts a child in the place of the one true God, it creates an idolatrous love that will smother the child and strangle the relationship.”
My intent in being a mom to our daughters was not to strangle the relationship or to put them in the place of God. However, as the years went by passion turned into idolatry which brought about a season of strain in relationships with my daughters. I had no idea I was becoming so great at letting idols lead me. When one of our girls performed well in whatever they were doing, I would let that performance dictate a feeling of being an accomplished mom because they did so well. Saying no more than yes. Those NO’s put the ball back in my court which made me feel secure. Or how about when they would do something wrong and my response would be to take ownership of their choice. I call that pride.
As I was building idols the Lord divinely placed a couple in our lives who mentored us through a rough patch in our marriage and parenting. I believe that we all need someone who is further ahead in this journey of life.
Someone who can walk alongside you are offering wisdom, encouragement and prayer so you aren’t navigating alone. Sometimes a mentor can leave you feeling empowered and ready to take on the world. Other times they can leave you feeling irritated and frustrated. Both feelings are necessary. We need salt and light to help us recognize the realities or possibilities of an event or situation after it occurs. Even if the realities aren’t what we want them to be. One afternoon my mentor asked me a question in response to frustrations I was experiencing with one of our daughters, “do you think you are parenting out of fear?” I immediately said, “NO”! Her question left me feeling very confused and wondering if she wasn’t listening to me. Her words left me feeling irritated. Her words were salt to my already tender mom heart.
Later, I recognized the question my mentor had asked me was just the irritation I needed to recognize an idol I was clinging to in my parenting. The idol of control which was stemming from fear I had as a mom for things that were out of my control. This idol was causing frustration in my parenting and my marriage. For years I had felt confident in my parenting, from the time our girls were born to when they were beginning high school, I was in control of most of their world. From the foods they ate to the people and activities they were exposed to. Wasn’t it my job to develop a foundation of character based on the influences I allowed in their world? Wasn’t it my job to build them up for success? Wasn’t it my job to be there for them when they needed a landing pad? Wasn’t it my job to orchestrate their development as a disciple of Christ? Yes, to all those things. But somewhere along the way I had my focus on the wrong element in my job as a mom. I was focused on the daily living and was blinded to their future needs. Needs like core independence and ownership of who they are as individuals. Independence that can only be developed by releasing control and allowing them to experience the speed bumps and failures that come with life. Independence that grows with words like, “figure it out”.
Soon after my mentor posed that question to me, I had a conversation with my sister-in-law. We both realized as our girls grew older, they were involved in activities that pulled them away from home more often. Their sphere of influence was widening. My sister-in-law and I recognized we were losing control as moms. Recognizing this loss of control was hard.
Hindsight is defined as recognizing the realities or possibilities of an event or situation after it occurs. It can be as simple as recognizing when you ate too many chips and queso or it can be much harder, like having someone point out something in your life that you need to change. Either way, the beauty of hindsight is seeing past the thing(s) keeping us from moving forward to a better place.
Hindsight applied = wisdom.
Hindsight ignored = ignorance
We shared a similar struggle as we both noticed the time we spent as a family unit was fading. I began to question my efforts as a mom. It was in that conversation that the Lord revealed to me, I was parenting out of fear. Control is at the root of fear. I had to release the control to release the fear. My love for them had become an idol in my heart. An idol is something that I love, trust or obey more than I love the Lord. I had made an idol of parenting out of fear instead of trusting the Lord. I had two choices after recognizing this truth; ignore it and continue in fear or recognize it and deal with it. I chose the latter.
“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26 NIV
After recognizing I had made an idol of fear in my parenting, the Lord led me to these truths.
Fear based parenting < Parenting in the LOVE & CONFIDENCE of the LORD
“Little children keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21 ESV