If you would have asked me a year ago if I was a mature Christian, I would have said yes. That is, until a friend shared with me the truth that we are only as mature in Christ as our loving interactions with others (especially those closest to us like our spouse and our children).
Just a few months earlier, I remember sitting with a friend on her couch talking about our own personal Bible study and admitting to each other that we just weren’t feeling “fed” by any of our recent Bible studies or even Christian book studies. We both felt wrong that although we had served Christ for more than a decade (almost two decades) we had almost felt like we had reached some spiritual pinnacle. I know…I know….Hello self-righteousness! We both had a ton of Bible knowledge and did a lot of things “for the Lord.” Speaking for myself, at least, I honestly did some of them just because I wanted affirmation and approval from the church that I was “good” and I figured that if the Church was happy, then God must be happy.
I heard from the Lord on occasion. I saw prayers answered on occasion, but in reality, I could also go my entire day barely checking in with the Lord or asking Him to direct my steps. For the most part, it was MY life and I just asked God to sign a permission slip every once in a while–far from a SPIRIT-LED life!
Sure, I mentally agreed that the Bible called us to live according to the Spirit, but I was never really sure how that exactly worked. It felt like I needed to live in a monastery and just meditate or something hyper-spiritual looking like that….
But here I am, mom of two and wife for over 8 years. I didn’t have time for anything like that and so I felt lost–and a little guilty. I knew how to approach God when I NEEDED something, but what about when I felt like I had everything under control?
And here’s the crux…I DON’T have everything under control.
In a book entitled, Empowered—Healing the Heartbeat of Your Family, Marilyn Howshall challenged that your children’s fruit tells on you. Do they obey you out of fear of consequences or are they compelled to obey out of love? Do you parent your children the way Jesus parents us?
I was knocked off my tall tower.
Merely teaching my children ABOUT Christ will do little to guide their hearts in the long-run if my demeanor at home and interactions with them their whole lives has taught them that God only cares about what we look like on the outside and how we treat other people outside our home. No, the people who know my real heart BEST are those sweet little faces that are learning about the Father’s love first by how I love them. I love that Marilyn’s book and ministry frequently talks about “having your children’s hearts” in a real and practical sense.
Do I see my husband as God sees him or am I too-focused on his sin to see that he is a gift from the Lord? Do I see my own sin as clearly as I can see his?
It turns out that my quest for a good spiritual feeding didn’t need more head knowledge to help me check another book off my list. What I really needed was a real heart-check and a look within to see where I had been nurturing self-centered sin—even if it looked okay on the outside. The answer wasn’t just more pretending to be ok with my church face on, but a real and honest look at who I really am in my daily interactions with my husband and my kids….and THEN the rest of the world.
If I can’t be real in the daily grind at home, what makes me think that the “real” me is in my few interactions with people I barely see? The real ministry starts in the nitty-gritty at home, in the uncovering of my selfishness over “Me Time” or “Mom Snacks” or responding in irritation rather than in kind over the 5,000th question today that was honestly and genuinely asked.
It doesn’t stop there either. There are layers upon layers of depth in my heart for the Lord to guide me through analyzing my attitudes, intentions, and motivations behind what I’m doing and how I’m treating those He has gifted to me. It’s just the beginning. In Matthew 7:5, Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
You–moms and dads–are called to lead your children’s hearts with grace and kindness as the Lord has led you. You are called to help your spouse and not hide their sin nor broadcast it to the world. It starts with you.
Let the Lord change YOU so you can in turn help change your children’s hearts and your spouse’s heart to be a better reflection of HIS heart. That will change the world.
Amy Mefford is a self-admitted hot-mess stay-at-home momma to two sweet littles: Emery (3 years old) and Jere (1 year old). She and Kody have been married for eight and a half years and currently reside in Monmouth, IL.