“Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
As a single mother, how do you leave a legacy for your children, is often the question I ask myself. I find myself in a constant spiritual battle, these days, over the upbringing of my children. They are being raised in homes where both their father and I love them but have divorced. They are being raised with a belief in God and in living a life as He instructed us to live. The foundation has been laid however what do you do when, as a mother, the father has chosen to walk away from such faith, throwing what were mutual beliefs in upbringing out the window as well as deciding to live an alternate lifestyle. The little things that were agreed upon when having children have been lost along the way and now what is not allowed at Mommy’s is allowed at Daddy’s.
I can tell you what I do… I get angry. I argue with the ex. I cry. I argue some more. I go over the rules with my children reminding them that just because they are at another’s house, whether their fathers or a friends, does not mean that the rules do not apply. However, I can also tell you that this has done me no good. What good is anger, unless righteous? What good is an argument with an ex – clearly, you did not win any during the marriage why would you think you would win any when the marriage has dissolved? What good are tears if not being offered up to the Lord? What good is it to brow beat your children the rules of life if they cannot discover and experience life lessons for themselves?
I can tell you what I am learning… I am praying. I am listening. I am praying. I am believing. I am praying. I am living by example to the best of my ability. I am praying.
“Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.” Lamentations 2:19
As a mother, there is no greater legacy for us to leave our children than the one that reflects a loving and praying mom. In leaving a legacy that will outlive me, I recognize that I must first fear the Lord and obey Him. My legacy begins in my heart, in my relationship with God. Psalm 112:1-2 states: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” I must then recognize the world has needs and respond with compassion and action. Matthew 9:36 states: “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them.” I need to leave a legacy by being committed to doing something about the world. I must be willing to take a risk in order to make an impact for Christ and my children need to see this by me not focusing on what others may think. I then must pray that God will use me to accomplish His purposes. It states in 1 Chronicles 4:10 “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory and that Your hand will be with me and that You would keep me from harm.” In addition, I must ask God to give my children a sense of purpose, direction, and mission. The challenge here is to leave your children a heritage, not just an inheritance. As someone once said, “Our children are messengers we send to a time we will not see.”
Let us focus on, for just a moment, when the father is not the spiritual leader. Scripture tells us that God is our Father. In stating that, it is telling us that emotional needs can be met by Him. No earthly dad is perfect. However, it is critical to understand the impact that fathers have on their child’s relationship with God. Often children transpose their father to God the Father. Harold S. Hubert said, “children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.” That is grace. That helps a child to understand how they can receive God’s love.
Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called “The Capital of the World”. Hemmingway told the story of a father and his teenage son. The son had sinned against the father and in his shame, he ran away from home. The father searched all over Spain for him, but still he could not find the boy. Finally, in the city of Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed an ad in the daily newspaper. The ad read:
“PACO MEET AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA.”
The father prayed that maybe the boy would see the ad and maybe – just maybe – he would come to the Hotel Montana.
And on Tuesday at noon, the father in Hemmingway’s story arrived at the Hotel Montana and he could not believe his eyes. A squadron of police officers had been called out to keep order among the eight hundred boys named “Paco” who had come to meet their father in front of the Hotel Montana. Eight hundred boys named Paco read the ad in the newspaper and hoped it was for them. Eight hundred “Pacos” came to receive forgiveness they so desperately needed.
All children, mine included – even myself, want the approval of their fathers. I am not talking about the ridiculous and disingenuous “you are the best at everything’ drivel that some parents spew. Eventually the child will figure out that you are not being authentic. I am talking about affirming what is true about their unique design.
When my children’s father is unable and unwilling to provide such assurances, it is my job to love, to affirm, to instruct. Ephesians 6:4 states: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” As a single mother, this implies to me as well. This seems unjust, one parent carrying the load of two. I assure you, God our Father knows the depth of such a burden. He has already measured the weight of it on your shoulders.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). I can think of no one whom I would give up my life more quickly than that of my children. A mother’s love is fierce, loyal, protective, and self-sacrificing. Based on extensive studies conducted over many years by psychoanalyst John Bowlby, “the young child’s hunger for his mother’s love and presence is as great as his hunger for food.” (taken from his book, Attachment) He went on to say, “her loss or absence inevitably generates a powerful sense of loss and anger.” Beyond the initial love affair a mother often feels for her children, beyond the heroic rescuing of her children from physical danger, what is that keeps us, as mothers, lovingly devoted to our children for a lifetime? I believe that it is our need to see into the future for our children – to envision the finish line – because we know it is up to us to prepare them for a life of independence. We know, as mothers, the difficulties and insecurities of childhood will not last forever. And a wise mother also knows that present difficulties, though unpleasant, are often the schoolroom for building character.
Love is not a feeling. If love were only and always a feeling, then there have been and still are many days when I do not love my children. Daily life is not always an easy road but we must choose to continue walking, continue standing, and continue loving. President Lyndon Johnson once said, “Sometimes the greatest bravery of all is simply to get up in the morning and go about your business.” On those hard-to-get-up mornings, I like to think I am being brave in at least one area of my life. Loving our children is not always natural, nor is it easy. It is a choice, a choice that is absolutely essential. I must love my children. My constant love for them will become their bedrock of security, a ‘north star’ and hope in the midst of difficult days.
As I love my children, I must remember that the Bible clearly teaches, “all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:13). In the midst of suffering and trials, joy and celebrations, my children need my constant love and encouragement. They will indeed need to borrow my faith and lean on my hope. How can they do this if I am not praying for them and loving them? They will not always need me to rescue them and take away the distress as that may be the very thing God wants to use in their lives to build character and faith, which is what will last after I am long gone. A mother’s legacy to her children begins with love, continues with love, and ends one day on earth with love.
Lord, I submit myself to You. I realize that mothering a child in the way You would have me to is beyond my human abilities. I know I need You to help me. I want to collaborate with You and partake of Your gifts of wisdom, discernment, revelation, and guidance. I also need Your strength and patience, along with a generous portion of Your love flowing in and through me. Teach me how to love the way You love. Where I need to be healed, delivered, changed, matured, or made whole, I invite You to do that in me. Help me to walk in Your ways, enable me to obey Your commandments and do only what is pleasing in Your sight. May the beauty of Your spirit be so evident in me that I will be a godly role model. Give me the communication, teaching, and nurturing skills that I must have. Make me the mother you want me to be and teach me how to pray and truly intercede for the life of my children. Lord, You said in Your Word, “Whatsoever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). In Jesus’ name, I ask that You will increase my faith to believe for all things You have put on and in my heart to pray for concerning my children. May I leave a legacy, a heritage, to my children and not merely an inheritance. May the seeds of my faith, planted in prayer, bring forth life and grow my children into big people who follow after God’s heart, long after I am gone. Amen.
Copyrighted by reflectionsbypj 2009/08/06