It's what matters most to me as their mom. Sure, I want them to behave, to learn all they can, and to live meaningful lives. But where are their hearts? That's what I really want to know.
And what does a mama do to minister in those deeper places?
Lately, I've been talking this over with our older children (does the word "child" even apply to a 17 or 19 year-old?) and asking them what touched their hearts when they were younger. What helped them connect when they were struggling, or when we were in a tough season. What's kept our hearts tied together through it all?
Of course, there's no formula. No 5-Step Program. It's a Holy Spirit thing and by the grace of God. Along with a whole lot of love, patience and persistence on the parent's part.
So then how does a mama go about reaching her child's heart?
Ask God for wisdom. Okay, I say "ask", but I've been known to literally cry out to Him, desperately seeking His light on a situation. It seems often it's in the wee hours of the night when He's revealed the Real Issue underlying a certain behavior or serious concern. At other times He has simply shown what the next step should be. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5a).
Make your child's heart the highest priority. Above our schedule, activities, and even other ministries. Hearts do not become hardened overnight - this only happens over time - so keep a close watch that they remain tender and open. This also means that we can't be so busy that we're unable to see what's going on, or have the time to do anything about it. Parenting takes TIME. Tons of it. Keep your heart with all diligence (Prov.4:23a).
Listen carefully. Sometimes as parents, we get too caught up in the talking. Lecturing. Teaching. But it's good to remember that listening says a whole bunch too. Listening says, "I love you and I care." Even if our child is off-track, this might be the chance to identify where there's been a mistake (yours or theirs) or just a plain bad attitude. After we've heard them out, then we can lovingly correct where necessary. Let every man (or mama) be swift to hear (James 1:19a).
Point them to the truth. As parents, we are to be truth-tellers. We have the responsibility to gently lead them to what is good and right. It's not about our "rules" or "preferences" or "expectations", but a matter of grounding their hearts in the truth. Teach them to love God's Word and to look to the Savior for the answers. Trust in The Lord with all your heart (Prov.3:5a).
Accept that it's a process. We can easily fall into thinking that how it is now - is how it will always be. Not so! That's the voice of the Enemy seeking to discourage. She's having troubles with lying? Maybe today. But not forever. He's been angry or withdrawn? Maybe today. But not forever. Patiently pursue their hearts and believe that God is the Redeemer He says He is.
After all, He's redeemed you. And me.
Because as much as we care about our children's hearts? More than anything else.
Our Heavenly Father cares about them far more.
In His grace,
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