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?