A Letter to the Young, Gentle Christian Mama
If we haven’t met properly, I’m Jess. I’m not a mom with all the answers, but I’m not a mom with no answers either. I’ve been a mom for nearly 15 years, which is long enough to know some things by experience. And I’m a mom to 8 kids, which is enough kids to know some things by repetition. And as a Christian for decades, I know some things by study and observation.
I’m assuming, since you’re reading this letter, that you’re a gentle mama (or you want to be a gentle mama) to one or more sweet little ones. When I think back to my early years of mothering, I remember and can identify with some of the things you’re probably feeling:
- Your little baby is so sweet, and adorable. Sometimes you feel like he/she is practically perfect in every way. There just couldn’t be a cuter baby than your wee one.
- As the mama, you feel you have greater insight into this child’s character and heart than any other human on the planet. You’re devoting your life to doing this thing *right* and you don’t want to mess it up.
- You never want this child to suffer one thing… not a cross word from you, not a bullying moment from another child, not a hint of abuse or neglect, not an angry moment from any adult, including your husband. You want to prevent pain and sorrow. Maybe the pain and sorrow you’ve experienced still rings loud and clear in your mind and you’re determined to work against it in the life of this sweet little one.
And it’s this last point where I’ve noticed that contention can happen within marriages. That’s what I want to talk with you about today.
YOUR HUSBAND SEES THINGS DIFFERENTLY, YES?
I’m betting your husband probably has some different views on things. He doesn’t like tantrums that rage on and on. His eyes roll, rather than lighting up, at your child’s antics. Maybe you feel irritated that he can’t be more “patient” with your child. He might like to nip emotional outbursts in the bud with a quick rebuke, a spanking, maybe, or a stern word. You disagree.
Or maybe he thinks the annoying thing you laugh at needs to be corrected and curbed throughout the day. But you want to keep laughing at it. You just don’t see it as he does; you think he’s being overly critical. You think maybe he just doesn’t understand child development.
My guess is… he probably doesn’t like it when your 3-year-old screams “no” at him, or when your 4-year-old rages and kicks at him, rather than hearing and submitting to his teaching and discipline. He doesn’t like that bedtime drags on and on, or that your children don’t really obey or listen to either one of you. Things like tone and the words used get under his skin more than they do yours.
He might even get angry.
And you see your husband’s anger as the problem.
And this doesn’t even touch the issues and decisions you probably see squarely within your domain as mom:
- where your child sleeps
- what your child eats
- mealtime approach (i.e., does baby need to eat X, or X amount, before being “done”, etc.)
- how your child should be disciplined for various offenses
- if your child should be disciplined for various offenses
TWO PEOPLE, SO DIFFERENT… AND YET… “ONE FLESH”
How can we be so different? How can we see things from such different angles?
Can I just encourage you, that:
- God wasn’t making a mistake when he put gentle, sweet you, with that respect-oriented, irritated daddy who sees things so differently from you.
- God knew. And yet He led you to this man. And He let the two of you have these children.
Beyond that, there are some things that sometimes we have a harder time understanding, as women. Things like authority and respect don’t tend to matter near as much to us, as they do to men. (If you question this, think about the difference between the way Ladies’ Bible studies operate, vs. the way the military operates.) Women tend to rank relationship before respect… but men typically see respect as the foundation for relationship.
But here are some enduring biblical truths that matter for us as wives and moms:
- God has an order for relationships within the home, and there is an authority structure.
- “The woman is not the head of man, but the man is head of the woman.”
- Wives are told we “must see to it” that we respect our husbands.
- Children are to obey their parents “in everything,” because this pleases God.
We do well to place ourselves squarely within God’s chain of authority, even if we don’t understand it.
It may not make sense to you now. It may not seem that important. But there are more reasons for this than your current vantage point allows you to see.
THE DAY IS COMING WHEN…
- … your precious, precocious little 5-year-old son will be your same height. His feet will stink, he will start wearing deodorant (and– worse!– forgetting to wear it) and he will feel ornery and persnickety sometimes.
- … your sweet little feisty girl who “has her own way of doing things” and doesn’t listen as well as your husband would like will be an emotional teen with hormones raging through her body.
When you get to THAT point, whether or not your child respects authority matters a great deal.
It will matter to YOU.
I can’t tell you how thankful I am, now, when my 14-year-old… who’s nearly as tall as me, and stronger… backs off and willingly gives me his respect, even though technically he doesn’t *have* to.
And sometimes… when he doesn’t… I can not EXPRESS how grateful I am to have a husband (my authority!) who moves in, takes over, and can firmly, directly, man-to-man speak to my older sons in a way that I no longer can.
I am so thankful that God made my husband and I different!
YOU NEED YOUR HUSBAND TO BE DIFFERENT FROM YOU
Mama, don’t try to turn your husband into a sweet, detestosteroned “male” version of you. He is a man. He probably will care about respect more than you, and define it differently from you. He doesn’t need to have your same exact tone in discipline.
He doesn’t need to adapt himself to you.
Actually, it’s the opposite:
Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. ~Ephesians 5:22-24, Amplified Version
You not only need your husband to be different from you, but, biblically, YOU are the one who is to adapt to HIM. He is the head, and you are the one called by God to adapt and submit yourself to your own husband– as a service to the Lord.
This is how we serve God as wives, and as mothers… to adapt our ways and approaches to the preferences of our own husband.
This is very different, I bet, from the things you read on forums… the things taught by other “gentle” mamas… the things other women are saying. But what God says about relationships and authority within the home is so much more enduring, so much more life-giving, and so much more all-encompassing, than what any human can say.
My final challenge to you, gentle mommy, is this:
- I’d like to challenge you to shut out mommy voices for a good long while. Take at least one month and commit not to read mommy blogs and forums and books (and FB fan pages, and status updates, and angry tweets, and tirades from “gentle mommies,” etc.) that put you at parenting odds with your husband.
- Commit yourself to lean in, read, and really take to heart what God’s word says about words like: authority, discipline, obedience, respect, parents. Read Hebrews 12 over and over and over and let it seep down deep into how you understand what relationship discipline and parenthood have. Look for the connection between discipline and pain. And discipline and peace. Ask God to help you prioritize and value HIS plans and thoughts about parenting more than any human’s.
- Give your husband the benefit of the doubt. Instead of seeing him as the enemy, take his words and responses in the very best possible light. Underneath whatever you’re seeing on the outside, what is it his heart is longing for, in your home? (my guesses: Peace? Respect? Honor? Obedience? Orderliness?) How can you adapt yourself to, and support, his vision?
To be clear: I’m not asking you not to be gentle as a mom.
We *should* value gentleness. Gentle care for the people around us is an indicator that God’s Spirit is alive and active in us.
Our children should be tenderly comforted, nourished, and affectionately loved by us.
But they need more than that.
They need to be taught to live within the order God has set up. They need their firm, respect-minded father. They need to feel the pain of discipline from people who love them and are committed to their long-term good. They need to learn to obey, and learn what it means to be under authority. They need a gentle mom who supports, and adapts herself to, her husband’s leadership. They need a mom who teaches her own heart, and her children’s hearts, to respect her husband’s ways.
I’m praying God will keep molding you and me into exactly that sort of mother– a gentle mom who trusts in her God and respects her husband (even in the ways that he is decidedly different from us)– so that we can raise up children in the admonition and fear of the Lord, and reap a harvest of righteous living and peace.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11
Grace and Peace,
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