C. S. Lewis said, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” This truth has been reinforced to me in recent days. During a battle with my 11-year-old son, I wondered what Jesus would do in my situation. The words of Philippians 2:5-8 came to mind: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who…humbled Himself.”
The mind of Christ is not a natural fit for me, and each time I embrace meekness, my flesh exalts itself with thoughts of what I “deserve.” In my quest for humility, I am finding out just how prideful I really am. Discouraging as that can be, the lessons I am learning through these
struggles are rich. Thankfully, changed thinking is the first step toward changed behavior! Here are five things I am learning that help me let go of my “rights” and meet my son where he is:
Thankfully, changed thinking is the first step toward changed behavior!
Concentrating on the needs of others requires a major shift in thinking. My natural state is to think of myself first, and it requires work to do otherwise. I am surprised at how often my battles with my son are about me even though my goal is to help him. I ask myself, “Why am I feeling so frustrated?” Too often I have worked hard at something and can’t accept that my plans are being foiled or that I’m not being respected. I need to remember Jesus’ example at those times, and allow my “self” to be “poured out as a drink offering” for the sake of others. (Philippians 2:17)
A sincere apology can be redemptive. I mess up regularly, but I’ve learned that failures can be redeemed. Nobody likes to be wrong, but we need more people who are willing to be transparent and show us the beauty of redemption. Admitting our faults and saying we are sorry open the door for forgiveness and renewal. God forgives us and then uses us despite our failures! That good news can help others face their failures with the hope of moving beyond them.
A little bit of hope goes a long way. Yesterday, I tried all the “right” strategies with a measure of success, but the battle was wearisome and left me emotionally drained. Soon, another battle was raging, and I didn’t have the stamina for it. The situation spiraled out of control, and at the end I felt like a failure. But then, an encouraging conversation helped me to forgive myself and come up with some new relevant ideas. Never underestimate the power of encouragement!
Prayer and faith are always sure weapons. I have recently become aware of new parenting strategies which have a reputation of being effective. As I reflect on the failures of my old ways and the testing of the new, I often don’t know what I believe. I have debated the choices, but which way will work best in my situation? Though I try different approaches, my real peace comes from knowing that God still hears my prayers and that He is my true source of help.
Jesus loves us! Mutual love and respect tend to develop as we demonstrate that others are important to us. When a person has trauma in his background, however, these same efforts do not always lead to reciprocal love. Often, while I am striving to nurture my relationship with my son, his reactions seem to sabotage every effort. His past (which includes adoption) has scarred him, making it difficult for him to accept my love. That makes me wonder: How often have I misinterpreted God’s gestures toward me and reacted poorly as He pursues me with deep love?
My real peace comes from knowing that God still hears my prayers and that He is my true source of help.
Each new day presents a new challenge, it seems, but God continues to encourage me with new insights, hints of progress, and the hope of better days ahead. Great is His faithfulness!