My words were tight and my face was exasperated. Why were we talking about this again? Sibling rivalry is nearly as old as time and I felt like I had been battling it since it started. Why didn't they get it? I sighed as I quoted Bible verses to them once again, ignoring the angry words that wanted to come out of my mouth. But even Scripture sounded hollow and empty. The ancient words seemed to fly over their heads, unheeded.
Weary of the battle, I sent them off to play in separate rooms for a while. Why God? I'm trying so hard. I'm saying the right things. I'm searching the Bible, reading parenting books, and daily teaching the right kind of behavior. I felt disillusioned with parenting.
As I read my Bible a little later, a few small words jumped out at me.
"Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." (1 Corinthians 8:1b)
I did a double take. Love edifies. I spent so much time teaching my kids from my store of knowledge, but so often, it was done from frustration, not love. I taught from need, not desire. I began to seek Jesus on how to apply this verse to my parenting.
This is what He's been teaching me:
Love edifies. Like good, nourishing food fills empty stomachs with fuel for long-lasting energy, words spoken in love fill that void in my children's hearts with long-lasting results. When my kids fight and nag at each other, it shows a hunger for something deeper that they don't know how to produce. They don't even know how to voice their desire for what they need. Humans all long for connection, and when we don't feel it, we react. It may show up as anger and strife or pouting and selfishness in our kids, but neither is the point.
When we see our children acting out in any way, our lofty quoting of Bible verses isn't going to fill that void in their hearts. Am I saying God's Word isn't enough? Absolutely not.
Every word in the Bible was first spoken in love, because God is love. Love comes from Christ. We cannot manufacture love. We can not stir our own hearts until we feel something. When we speak the Bible over our children, in an effort to shape their thoughts and behavior, it needs to be done in love.
What our children need to point them to Jesus in the middle of their distress or anger is a mom with a heart alive with the love of Jesus.
Our children need a mom whose eyes are fixed on Jesus, who knows how to listen to the Holy Spirit, and who takes the time to do so. We need to take our eyes off of the "issues" we see in our children and we need to fix them on Jesus first of all. When we focus on our kid's behavior and how we can fix it, we parent in reaction to their behavior. But, when we switch our focus to Jesus and His glory, we parent from a place of peace and victory.
Time with Jesus should not be reserved for the days we have half an hour of peace and quiet. Time with Jesus shouldn't be saved for the days our kids are putting their sin nature on full display. And time with Jesus shouldn't only happen on the fly: a glance at today's verse before we roll out of bed and a hurried prayer while we jump in the car. Time with Jesus should be all of these put together. This is how we best abide in Christ. This is how we invite Jesus into our every day. Some days we get to linger in His presence, and sometimes we lovingly talk to Him as we drive down the road. And we should always to talk to Him before we sit down to train little hearts that have gone astray.
If we are going to foster a love of Jesus and His Word in our children's heart, if we are going to train them to make good decisions in hard circumstances, if we are going to teach them to get along with each other and the rest of man-kind, we need to start at the feet of Jesus. We need to allow Him to fill our hearts up with love, so that our words are saturated in it. Otherwise, our words become hollow truth, puffed up with our own knowledge and empty of the love and grace of Jesus.
Let us be run to Jesus moms, who put our desire for Him above our desire for perfect behavior.