I recently finished reading the book Building the Christian Family You Never Had: a Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents by Mary E. DeMuth and it was so freeing and elightening. While I grew up in a home where we did go to church, some years more regularly than others, I didn’t grow up in a home where my family had a growing relationship with Christ. Neither did my husband. So, we walked into marriage with this preconception of what a “Christian” marriage was supposed to be like and then we had children. But, it was a “preconception”. We’ve been blessed along our journey to have been surrounded by many other longer married couples and parents who have walked alongside us and shared a vision of what it means to be a family raising their children up in the admonition of the Lord, but it was always just so hard not to feel the pressure that we weren’t doing it “right.” That is why this book was so freeing.
God is writing a beautiful story in my heart that I hope to share at some point about how he has pursued me all my life and one of the quotes that she says in the book that I love is that “God doesn’t ignore, deny, play down or annihilate our histories…but He redeems them.” I am learning that, while my past may not have taught me how to be a believing mother, God is using it to make me the mother (and wife) that He longs for me to be. I think so often we want to ignore or push aside our pasts or use them as an excuse, at least I have. But I need to remember that God is using my past to create something magnificent. She also declares that “sure, our past has shaped us, but it doesn’t have to determine how I parent my children.”
The hardest chapter for me to read was chapter six on leaving home. I’ve been married for 13 years, but there is still some crazy grip on me in regards to my family. I am still trying to meet their expectations of me and want them to be proud of me. I’m still way to attached and concerned about making sure that my hopes and dreams mesh with theirs. But the reality is, none of that matters. Yes, I love my family and forgive them and respect them greatly, but respecting them and loving them doesn’t mean that I am living exactly the way they think we should. My husband and I are writing a new history for our family, but we can’t do that while always looking over our shoulders to make sure we are pleasing everyone. We need to focus on pleasing the Lord. We promised to “forsake all others” when we were married and that means “anyone who takes a priority over my spouse”. But what about “honoring” our parents? DeMuth defines honoring as “forgiving and releasing our parents of any expectations.” We pray for our family, we love them and we leave the rest to God.
So how do we become perfect parents if we didn’t have a perfect example? Ha! Ha! If I rely on my ability or commitment to parent my children well, I will fail. I have to fully rely on the Holy Spirit and through His power I will succeed at becoming what He wants me to be.
“Our job isn’t to become perfect parents so we can please God or impress others, it’s to love Jesus…If that is our goal – to love Jesus passionately – then loving our children will flow naturally from that.”
What is hardest for those of us with negative pasts is we tend to be too comfortable with the pessimistic and looking over our shoulders for the ball to drop. It’s that struggle with thinking that our past and our circumstances cannot be overcome and will always have a hold on us. This book has shown me that, while my past is a part of me, it is merely a part of the story that God is writing of my life. It doesn’t define me, it doesn’t have to be who I am as a wife and mother.
God. is. bigger.
If you are struggling, like me, to know what it looks like to parent well, hear these words:
We are not placed on this earth to know how to do things successfully or to know all the answers;
we are placed here to love the One who created us – even if our children end up rebelling,
even if our parents never come to Christ,
even if we “fail” as parents….
God has strategically placed you where you are,
not just for the sake of those in your own generation, but also for the previous generation
and the generation that will follow.
God has entrusted you to a difficult past. He longs for you to learn from it,
to be healed of it
and to influence the generations he has placed around you.
Instead of viewing your past as a burden, view it as a privilege. (DeMuth)
I am beyond excited about the coming year for us. I feel like we have finally taken a step towards breaking from our pasts and truly walking the path that the Lord is bringing us to. Life is an adventure and we both have long struggled with putting on our helmets, keeping our heads down and plugging on through. I feel like we are finally lifting our heads up and running forward with joy and excitement. Not looking and dwelling on how it might be hard or how we are going to make ends meet, but wholly trusting in the Lord’s provision. I am focusing on enjoying and loving my family and not on my list of how things should be.
It is an amazing gift and blessing that the Lord has given me and I am singing His praises.