Sometimes we can feel like all we have to pass to our kids is what our parents passed to us.
- “Mom yelled. So I have a problem with yelling.”
- “Dad never taught us the Bible, so I don’t have a model for parents doing that.”
- “My parents never really snuggled or showed affection; it feels awkward for me and so I don’t do it with my kids, either.”
- “My mom was an awful cook; I’m hopeless in the kitchen!”
But that’s not the whole picture.
Yes, we often pass things from one generation to another. For good and for ill. When we grow up in a particular house, our parents essentially “pack a box” for us to prepare us for life. In that box they might put, or withhold, all sorts of things:
- an awareness of who God is and who we are in relation to Him
- good, or poor, dietary habits
- financial know-how
- practical household management skills
- relational wisdom
- a measure of self-control and self-discipline
- communication abilities
- insight about sex, what it’s for, and what it’s not for
- understanding conflict resolution, forgiveness, and mutual honesty
- accurate self-awareness
- healthy orientation toward other people
- good exercise and eating habits
- encouragement in academics and extracurricular “schoolish” talents
- the ability to own up to what’s true
- how, and if, we motivate ourselves to strive for challenges
and of course there are many more things that may or may not go into our box.
But what I’m thinking about today are other factors that affect our “box.”
#1- YOU CAN PUT NEW THINGS IN YOUR BOX.
On our own part, we have more ability than perhaps any people in the history of the world to reach out and SIEZE the knowledge we desire. We can be committed to lifelong learning. We can grow in the areas of our weakness and deficiency.
We are not insurmountably limited by income level, gender, race, or other factors. Sure, we each come with a different set of challenges, but we have MORE access to MORE information and MORE people willing to help us overcome challenges and limitations, than any other people in the history of the world have done.
Don’t know how to cook? Or how to resolve conflict? How to have a healthy attitude toward sex? Or how to exercise healthily?
- do research online
- take a course
- watch educational programming
- get a book on the clearance aisle for a dollar
- ask someone you know that is strong in this area where you are weak, and then REALLY listen, and don’t get defensive
- take “Motherhood 101”
- attend free lectures at the local church or university
- find out what counseling is available to you through your church
- reserve the audiobook at the library and listen while you cook dinner
- look up an authoritative site on the internet and sign up for a free course.
There is SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE at our fingertips. It is available for the taking on virtually every topic if we learn to be discerning, ongoing, voracious learners.
#2- YOU CAN EDIT WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX
Not only that, but you‘re able to take things OUT of your box that aren’t helping you. Are you a yeller who grew up in a home of yellers? Join me and actively fight it. You’re not destined to become a yeller just because it’s in your box. Slowly, deliberately, kick it out of your box.
You grew up in a home for whom food was the primary way of connection, and now you’re struggling with obesity and feel you have no options? You do. Or maybe your parents never instilled you with self-control and wisdom in eating, and so you feel hopeless? You’re not. Perhaps you’re sitting there feeling judged… I hope not. We all have things in our boxes that we wish weren’t there. Of course, just like me with yelling (an ongoing, not one-and-done) battle, it is not going to be easy. And like you, I’ve got to fight poor eating habits too.
But my bigger point is this: there are other options besides laying down and letting it keep sitting there in your box.
#3- AS A BELIEVER, THERE ARE (ALREADY) MUCH BETTER THINGS IN YOUR BOX.
In the Spirit, we have the ability to speak the truth in love, for example, even if we did not have models for how to do that. In Christ we are able to abandon our self-focus and care for one another within the Body with great affection, even if the home we grew up in was prone to navel-gazing, narcissism, and little to no discernible commitment to a local church Body. If no one has ever taught us to have self-control in our words, God Himself gives us the ability to be self-controlled by His Spirit at work and His Word alive in us.
In the Spirit, we have all measure of:
- love (when we feel unloving, we can still choose to genuinely do good to others)
- joy (when things are rotten, we can still choose joy)
- peace (when things feel rocky, we can be at rest in our souls)
- patience (when we are drawn to anxiety, we can wait and actively trust in God)
- kindness (when we feel like being snippy, we can offer a kind word)
- goodness (when our flesh feels strong, the Spirit can overcome that and help us be drawn to do what is right)
- faithfulness (when we want to give up, or not keep our commitments, He will help us be trustworthy and faithful)
- gentleness (when we want to be harsh, unloving, hurried, unfeeling, God will soften us and enable us to interact gently)
- self-control (even if we’ve never seen it modeled, we have this available to us by the Spirit)
- and more…
Mainly I just wanted to remind you, and remind me, that we aren’t “stuck” with the box we were given.
- If you never learned how to clean, there’s still time. You can learn new things.
- If you never saw an example of affectionate parents, you’re not doomed to repeat their weaknesses.
- If you never ate anything from scratch growing up, you have the opportunity to change that for your kids.
- If you have only ever seen fear, rather than faith, in times of crisis, if you are in Christ, you aren’t destined to live life that way.
Whether your parents were amazing, or downright horrid…
Whether the box you were given was enviable, or evil…
Whether you’re pleased with where you’re at, or not…
- You can put new things in your box.
- You can edit what’s in your box.
- And God Himself puts all sorts of wonderful things in His children’s boxes.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: What was one thing you’re glad was put in the “box” you were given, and (if you’re willing to share) what’s one thing missing from your box?
4 thoughts on “You’re Not Limited to What’s In Your Box.”
This is wonderful, Jess. So full of wisdom.
I’m so glad my parents took time to snuggle with us and have “tickle time”, and travel with us.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve continued learning. I’ve taught myself to cook from scratch, sew, manage a household, how to read the classics, eat and exercise properly, amongst other skills. YouTube videos, podcasts, books and blogs have been hugely beneficial resources for me. I’m not saying I do all of these things well, but I have added some knowledge of them to “my box”.
As a mother though, I’ve also realized all of the things I wish my mother had done or taught me and all of the expectations I retrospectively place on my mom could not possibly have been accomplished. In all of these things we are still flawed, sinful humans raised by flawed, sinful humans. And we all just need to try to do the best we can with the resources we’ve been given and trust the Lord with the rest. We need to offer grace to ourselves and our parents. (I share all of this because it was a long journey I traveled: struggling with frustration that my mom worked outside of the home instead of staying home with us, that she didn’t teach me proper nutrition, that she didn’t do this or that, and it festered until I realized she did the best she could and much better than her mom did.)
Yes, wonderful points! There is no one who makes it to adulthood and says- “I have all that I need and have nothing missing by way of skills/talents/knowledge/ common sense.”
One thing my parents were great at for me and my sister was teaching us a strong work ethic. We did lots of DIY projects growing up, and since there were no brothers to help my mom & dad, we helped them. Even at 5 years old when we were digging a foundation, we have video of me carrying an ice cream bucket of dirt. Maybe nobody asked me to do that, and I just thought it would be fun, I don’t know, but that’s just the way we worked. If we were doing a project, we all did our share. Not more than we could handle, and not with perfect expectations, but helping gather supplies or holding a board or whatever it was. This carried over to our school work also and we both did well in school & worked hard, not because we felt threatened if we got bad grades, but because we just knew we needed to keep working hard. That is one thing I am so grateful for, because there are times I want to just give up and take the day off, but I know I can’t and that I will feel better if I just dig in & get some stuff done around the house.
It’s hard to throw out those things in our box we wish we didn’t get though. My parents weren’t saved people when they got married, and even though we went to a Christian school, my dad wasn’t a Christian until I was about 11. They were not good at conflict resolution, and so I do feel some of that has stuck around in my box, both as hurt feelings toward my parents, but also affecting my own relationship with my husband. I have to work at not modeling the behaviors I witnessed growing up and learning to discuss things the right way. My mom also worked full-time, so I did miss out on some of those homemaker training items also. I don’t have any daughters yet, but if we ever do have a daughter I’m hoping I’ll be able to pass on something in that department.
I think as I get older I’m a little more understanding toward them because I can see areas where they didn’t do so great, but I also realize how hard it is to do it all well, and nobody is going to succeed at everything. I keep praying and trusting God that he will do a work in my children’s lives despite anything negative I may pass on to them, and I keep praying I can grow in the areas I am weak.
Great examples. And I do agree– I think it’s easier to add things to our boxes (i.e., investment know-how) than to kick out old habits (i.e., spending too much). Both CAN be done, over time, but the latter is (for me at least) more difficult.
Thanks for sharing from your life. I love the imagery of you carrying a ice cream bucket of dirt. 🙂 Between me laying a garden path, making garden beds, and getting a chicken coop, our little boys are definitely getting their fill of DIY projects this spring. I love the idea that this could echo far out with good results for them. 🙂