I spent most of my professional career living in constant anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Performance reviews filled me with fear that “this time they were finally gonna realize, I don’t even belong here!” I lived in constant dread that the gig was about to be up. But it wasn’t. I never got fired. In fact, I consistently got promoted, awarded, and advanced. This is not a carefully crafted humblebrag. I am telling you this to illustrate something you, that – if you are reading this right now – you probably already know very well: There is a rigid dichotomy between the internal and external realities of someone who suffers from impostor syndrome. You’ve felt it. Otherwise, you would not be reading this blog, right? People with impostor syndrome are driven to perform, people pleasers, and perfectionists. And they live in a constant state of fear all. the. time!
Pop Psychology has given us a lot of input on overcoming impostor syndrome, and it goes something like this:
Overcoming through achieving:
According to one South African celeb, your ability to banish impostor syndrome is directly related to your ability to achieve success. According to her, what you need is to achieve and perform your way out of that crippling self-doubt.
Convince them. Or is it you?
She continues to advise that impostor syndrome can be overcome simply by proving other people wrong. Because apparently either “they” (I don’t know who they are but I think from this article it’s men?) are trying to snuff out your light, or you are “afraid of being great”. So in other words problem is either you, or them, or maybe both? But either way, prove them wrong.
Rehearse your past achievements to boost your confidence:
Another well-known author who has sadly become popular among believers despite her wonky self-help theology and anti-gospel teachings, you need to remind yourself what you have already accomplished and convince yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to. Write a letter to yourself, from yourself, to boost confidence. Not kidding. This is the actual advice.
Have faith in yourself:
She goes on to say that all the knowledge and the truth you need is already in you. Her advice highlights what, at the core, makes the self-help gospel bogus: That you can find the answers to what is wrong with you, in you. That you can be the problem and the solution, at the same time. Apparently, you don’t need any other kind of faith other than faith in yourself. But here is what is diabolical about this advice: Asking me to have faith in myself when a lack of faith in myself and my ability is exactly the reason I have impostor syndrome makes no sense. It sounds very Nike-ad-slogan-y, but it doesn’t actually change anything.
Most of what I’ve read about impostor syndrome has been about as fulfilling as eating donuts for breakfast. It offers an impressive rush of sugar that tastes (sounds) good, but does not deliver enough for a race run well.
If my succeeding is the only thing that will prove that I am not an impostor, then surely failing will prove that I am one? If the list of victories is supposed to bolster me, then what am I supposed to do with the list of failures and losses, which are unavoidable? How am I supposed to look at them (and myself) if all of my wellbeing balances on the precipice of my successes? Is it any wonder people with Impostor Syndrome never try new things, because we are so desperately dependent on successes to keep proving us wrong about ourselves that the thought of failing at something paralyzes us so we would rather not even try!
Overcoming impostor syndrome by proving ourselves to others puts the control of how we see ourselves squarely in their hands. Our boss, our colleagues, that group of moms that hang out in the carpark at school. When my whole aim is to prove myself to others, my work, my effort, my excellence all becomes fueled by what other people think. But the opinion of another is an uncontrollable, fickle, changeable thing that can never satisfy the soul-deep craving for acceptance we all carry.
What if it’s not our impostor syndrome that drives us to crave acceptance from others and from our achievements. What if our yearning for outside affirmation and acceptance is actually at the core of the issue and impostor syndrome is only it’s manifestation? What if we keep getting the wrong prescription because we keep making the wrong diagnoses about what is at the core of our condition?
The core issue is not that we feel like a fraud, it’s that we don’t feel accepted and we are looking for that acceptance in the wrong place. All of our work and effort becomes about cultivating an image and manipulating acceptance because the fact is that we are deeply and intimately dependant on it.
The core issue is not that we don’t have enough confidence, it’s that we are hoping to gain confidence from our competence. And don’t get me wrong, we should always strive for competence and excellence in whatever we do, but if we are doing that in order to just feel ok with ourselves our striving is born of wrong motivation. Not from faithfulness with our talents and gifts, but from a desire to construct for ourselves indestructible confidence. And because we are human, because we will make mistakes, because we don’t know everything, some days our competence will fall short and then our confidence will fail, again.
The core issue is not that we are not able, the core issue is that we would rather rely on our ability over God’s. Because self-reliance is easier than faith, and control is easier than surrender. Popular advice on impostor syndrome puts us in a position where we need to boast in our strengths to have an identity when Paul says he boasts in his weakness in order to create space for God’s power (2 Cor 12 v 19). Why do you think Paul said that he counted every single accomplishment he had as a loss (Phil 3 v 4-7)? Because he knew that rehearsing our list of accomplishments as Rachel Hollis encourages us to do, will keep us from understanding where true worth is found.
The core issue is not that we don’t belong, the core issue is that we have mistaken belonging for beloved-ness and given the determining power to decide on both to other people or worse yet, to our ourselves.
Imposter syndrome is a lie relating to our truest source of acceptance. Read that again.
As a Christian suffering with impostor syndrome, here is the question that I have had to face as I started understanding what was at the core of this struggle:
Am I truly convinced by Christ? Because at the heart of impostor syndrome lies my lukewarm conviction regarding the soul-deep acceptance I actually already have in Him.
The truth is that we parade out our trite lipservice-level grasp of the gospel right next the claims of the self-help gospel that we are enough (but at the same time we need to hustle harder) and that we should not worry about what others think (but on the other hand unless others don’t confirm that I am not a fraud I will continue to believe I am one). We live life with a bit of Jesus sauce over it – saying that Jesus is enough but spending our lives trying to prove that we are. These things cannot all be true at the same time. Is it any wonder we make no headway with our overcoming impostor syndrome?
Until we get real about what we really believe about what Jesus has done for us and what that means for every part of our lives, we will never overcome impostor syndrome. The self-help gospel has found in us the fertile soil of people who are always hoping that some person, thing, some system of success, some event or fixed future point will finally settle in us the age-old question of our acceptance and worth, will finally represent to us that point of arrival where striving seizes.
“But as long as you are waiting for the mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run? This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the beloved. That is the truth of our lives. “
(Henri J. M Nouwen – Life of the Beloved)
Our beloved-ness is the message of the gospel. Christ’s declaration through His death and resurrection is that we are loved perfectly and it is out of that truth that we are called to live, work, act. Are you convinced of this? Are you convinced of it daily?
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Timothy Keller)
There is a reservoir of love at the center of our lives, streaming out of the One who calls us out of the darkness of putting our hope in other people and our achievements, into the light of a life lived as one loved perfectly and accepted fully – not because we earned it but because He paid for it, and that was enough.
This blog is aimed at Christian parents and kids who 1) find themselves on the back foot in terms of current culture and popular opinion and wish to equip their kids and themselves with both love and truth, and 2) have a deep awareness that this is only the beginning and a very real sense that the conservation of biblical truth, especially in terms of scriptural sexual ethic, will be the next battleground of Christian persecution. If this is not you, don’t bother reading this. Also, you know this is not going to be a short blog post, right?
Reading time approx: 17 minutes.
I cannot discuss every angle of this in this blog. Lots of people have written about this more and better than me, plus they are all cleverer than I am (the fact that I am not even sure if “cleverer” is a word serves to prove this point! Ha!), So here are some helpful articles if:
Someone said to you that homosexuality is not actually in the Bible, and if you have the appetite for a theology lesson: here are 2 articles that might help you further understand the revisionist/ affirming position.
I was in no mood to write this blog. A lot of my blogs start off this way. I had to write this blog for myself AND for my son, who came home from school recently after his Math teacher wanted to teach them about fractions in class by dividing up the girls and boys and one little girl refused to participate because she doesn’t “identify as either”. My son is 12. It’s already a minefield out there for our kids! We are past the time of pat answers, about God and about culture. We are as parents as always called to lay a foundation, something we can’t do if we ourselves don’t even know the truth we stand on in terms of all the cultural narratives swirling around us and our kids. So I leant in, to the point where I can now, hopefully, through this little bit of writing, at least give you a view steps of light, a few bricks for your foundation.
This is not a black and white issue. I mean, biblically it is. But socially and conversationally and relationally it calls for immense grace in the grey, it calls for huge sensitivity that I pray I can bring to this writing. You can’t always draw straight lines across a crooked world, and I am not about to try. Here is what I will try to do:
Be as tender and nuanced as possible here as I
understand that this is close to home to many, raising kids in an environment where gay or lesbian is not just the parents of a friend at school but a loved one or close family member, or a class or teammate
understand that our kids as young as 7 are having to navigate social settings with puzzling pronouns and a social contract where the rules of friendship (and everything else) seem fluid, and all values and beliefs are not always considered as equally worthy of respect, and certainly not biblical ones.
Share with you what I shared with my sons, to equip them with understanding so they can navigate relationships – NOT POLITICS. Let’s leave that to someone else.
Considering that our kids are already being confronted with the LGBTQ+ issue, from the classroom to the Disney Channel, I want my kids to
So here is what I told my kids:
It has never been more vital for all of us to understand what the Bible says, about God, about people and about sin. Any thorough reading of the whole of scripture will confirm that the premise and practice of the LGBTQ position is incompatible with the Bible. It is important for us and our kids to 1) know what the Bible says and 2) know that we can trust what the Bible says.
The way we deal with Scripture in our homes should attest to our kids that our definition of truth does not get set by the world but by the Word.
So begin by talking with your kids about God’s good design, set out for us from the beginning of scripture and why this design is good for families and communities and our world. And talk with them about sin, which is the deviations, temptations and desires that move us (yes, all of us!) away from God’s design. That is what all sin is, a departure from God’s plan. This is something we are all always tempted with, in what we do and say, how we think and reason, what we desire and long for. We can have compassion for the way in which LGBTQ people struggle with sin, because we all struggle with sin. Sin is not God’s best and it’s not His plan or intention.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written you will know that God’s word is always my jumping off point. We have a saying in our house: “Truth is God’s opinion about everything”.
In light of that, this is what I told my kids:
I read Romans 1 with them. This is a great starting point. We are all born sinners. Paul points out that we all have this 1 big problem, which lies at the root of every problem in our heads, our hearts, our bodies and our communities: that we exchange God’s truth for a lie. This is not just a problem the LGBTQ community has. This is a problem we all have. All humans everywhere. This is also a helpful starting point because often what our kids are hearing are people saying they where “born this way”, but the truth is, we were all born this way. Born into sin because of the fall of man. And we all have natural tendencies that are contrary to God’s design. One person might struggle with same sex attraction, but another might struggle more than others with greed, with selfish ambition, with lying. We all have areas in our lives where we feel tempted to sin more than someone else might struggle in that same area. It is the nature of fallen man.
We need to be clear with our kids that this is a problem we all have. Not just some people. But then we need to be clear about why the LGBTQ conversation differs in the following ways:
What God’s word calls sin is now being normalized. In fact, if you just look about what Hollywood and the media present to us, our current culture is not just trying to normalize what God has called sinful, it’s trying to promote it. In this way the world is trying to define for us what is and isn’t sin, and that definition does not line up with what God says.
Yes, we are all sinners, but the Bible tells us that sexual sin is different from other sins and here is why:
It corrupts God’s representation of his full character in the world. Both male and female represent the image of God (Gen 1 v 27).
It corrupts God’s intention: God’s model of male and female matters. God’s sexual ethic as revealed in Scripture is 2 sexes, male and female, created in God’s image, for the sake of family, for the sake of community, and ultimately for the sake of a fulfilled representation of the loving, sacrificial relationship between Him and us, His bride, the church. God is against anything that disrupts this sexual ethic because it’s a disruption of His intention, plan, and purpose with and for us. The way God creates, the way He does things, always has a purpose!
It corrupts us on every level, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It defiles more than just our bodies because we are sinning against ourselves, our nature, our design, and that is why Paul says in 1 Cor 6 v 18 that it stands apart from other sins.
Even though homosexuality is one of the most vivid representations of this breakdown, any disorder of God in our hearts leads to disorder in our lives and in our communities. We were all born sinners, with desires and longings contrary to God’s design, because of the fall of man. We all stand condemned (Ps 14 v 1 – 3). It is not about having less of a desire for what is wrong, it is about having more of a desire for God. We all have to deal with sin when we come to Christ, and not just some sin, all sin, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3 v 23). That is why the healing of someone struggling with same sex attraction is the same as the healing of any other soul, in repentant returning of God to His rightful place in our affection.
As Christians, we believe that God tells us who we are, because He created us – not the other way around. We read about how we were made in Genesis 1 v 27. Biblically, sex and gender are one and the same. What is now referred to as “Gender Identity” is not a biblical or even biological concept. Some people might tell you that gender is a social construct, meaning people came up with it. Now, of course, some ideas about how men and women “should behave” have been socially and culturally constructed over time – like for example saying all boys like the colour blue and all girls like the colour pink. But the biological categories of male and female is not a social construct. It is not a feeling. It is not fluid. People cannot claim an internal identity that trumps their external reality, that man decides himself who and what he is, is simply people playing God and that is a sign of our times. But that doesn’t mean it’s true or accurate.
Eventhough we may live in a world where, in the name of “love” anything goes, and we are expected to change our truth in line with what is popular, God doesn’t change. The first words of the Bible is “God created”. That means He is in charge of it all. That means He gets to say what is right and wrong, true and false, and what is male and female too. Read these scriptures with your kids about the unchanging nature of God: Heb 13 v 8, Malachi 3 v 6, James 1 v 17, Numbers 23 v 19, Is 40 v 8.
Many today reject biblical authority by saying that certain texts in scripture have either been misinterpreted or need to be revised. People will base these arguments on for example the fact that Leviticus forbids homosexuality (Lev 18 v 22) but it also forbids eating shellfish (Lev 11 v 9 – 12), yet, how many Christians do you know who don’t love a plate of prawns! But this view does not consider the full counsel of Scripture. , The perfect life of Christ fulfilled all the ceremonial laws (i.e intended to make us physically clean) of Moses around the sacrificial system and ritual purity, which were in place in the Old Testament to facilitate the relationship between a Holy God and a sinful man. We know from verses like Heb 10 v 16, that the moral laws (i.e to govern our spiritual, mental and emotional cleanliness) of the old testament are now written on our hearts (i.e still in force), even though Hebrews also tells us that we are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws. But the prohibitions against homosexuality is re confirmed in the new testament (Romans 1, 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1). PS, the prevalence of this message across the entire canon also puts to bed any argument that specifically the references to God’s sexual ethic, across both Old and New Testament, could have been mistranslated in Romans 1.
Lastly we must always be honest with our kids about the counter cultural nature of our faith. The ways in which our position on this and so many other issues alienate us should not be surprising to us (Matt 10 v 34 – 36), because the counter cultural way we are called to live affects everything from how we spend our money and our time, to how we vote, to what we watch on TV (and what we don’t watch!) and to what we believe is the best way for society to function. Just because there is something in the Bible that makes us feel uncomfortable or sound unpopular doesn’t mean it’s not true. This is the tension every believer is called to live in until The Day that all is set right and this is something we need to be honest about with every single person who comes to faith, including our kids. Jesus was honest about it in Matt 16 v 24.
“Forever O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” Ps 119 v 89
We need to help our kids understand both tolerance as it is required of them to live along with others, but also to understand what I believe is a higher value than tolerance, which is kindness. Because tolerance as a word, can feel a little bit loaded, right? And with the compromise of Christian beliefs in many countries including the US now being set into law (and soon with the PEPUDA act here in SA too!), where standing on what you believe and value now is something you can be prosecuted for (not to mention culturally persecuted for), what is set before believers is a difficult road that must be walked with wisdom, the kind of wisdom that most of us grown ups can scarcely manage!
Even if this is something we as adults still struggle with, here is something I think we would be wise to help our kids understand:
It is possible to love someone without agreeing with them. It is possible to disagree with someone without hating them.
Yeah! Read that again!
So in terms of tender responses, this is what I told my kids:
God calls us to look at people the way He looks at them (2 Cor 5 v 16). This is why Jesus was never mean or unkind to people. But He was firm. He was uncompromising. He could do that because He was perfect, representing both love and truth at once.
Jesus’s example of compassion towards the woman at the well should be our template for engaging with people in sexual sin of any kind. Jesus saw people through a lense of love and truth, he didn’t see her through the labels others had for her, or that she had for herself. Understanding this, and having a deep awareness that we are all sinners and image bearers at the same time, will help us be more tender with people. When we see ourselves and others as God sees us it means we can have empathy for anyone else deceived by sin, stuck in sin, struggling with sin (even if they/ society does not name it as such and rather calls it a choice or an identity) because we have been there. This is where grace comes in. It is only possible to be gracious out of the position that we are all sick and in need of healing, that we are all sinners in need of saving.
So seeing people the way God sees them means being gracious. But it also means seeing their need for Him and responding. That is truly loving. God has a missional heart and so should we. It’s what we are all called to – to share the gospel. The gospel displays the kind of love people really do need, not the watered-down lipservice kind of the World.
But we cannot share the gospel in a vacuum. The Gospel is God’s message of love, and so we cannot share it void of love for the person we are sharing it with. Otherwise the gospel becomes a weapon or a stick, something it was never meant to be. So tender compassion is the only valuable starting point. We need to be kind in our conversations, and tender in our telling of the truth, because what people need before they need to understand what the Bible says about their lifestyle choices is the gospel. We cannot lead people to God’s greatest act of love by leading with a theological argument. Before people need a lesson on doctrine, biblical literacy or the inerrancy of Scripture (ps, tell you kids what the inerrancy of scripture means!!), they need the Gospel. Not the other way around. It is a person’s relationship with Jesus that will help them see what He says in His word and start applying it. Without the gospel, none of us can change. My teenager can’t stop being disrespectful, the bully on the playground can’t stop being aggressive, that bachelor can’t stop looking at porn, that neighbor can’t stop gossiping, and someone struggling with same-sex attraction or stuck in sexual sin has no means for change without the gospel. (if you need help talking to the kids about the Gospel’s relevance to our hearts and lives, please consider getting a copy of THE MOMMY DIARIES to foster Gospel-driven change conversations with your kids!)
Always remember that how we act is as important as what we believe. We are, for Christ, both messengers and witnesses. If we want to be messengers of His truth, we have to be witnesses of His love.
God’s love doesn’t mean we accept ideologies and ideas contrary to scripture because that seems “more loving”. It’s actually the opposite. The world tells us that to be truly loving is to “love people just the way they are”. But that is not loving. God loved us so much He died so we wouldn’t be stuck “just the way we are” (Rom 5 v 6-8), relegated to a life separate from Him, His peace and His purposes.
“What separates Christianity from other faiths is found in the scandal of grace. It is when we acknowledge our brokenness and inability to live as God wants us to that we begin to experience inner transformation.”
In Jesus we saw the example of how love and truth must always go together. He showed us in the way He lived his life that they cannot be separated.
Bring truth in love, and do not sacrifice either, because only truth in love is the fullness of Christ.
And to His followers, Jesus said: “If you love me keep my commandments” – Jesus said (John 14 v 15). But truthfulness gets tricky when the LGBTQ issue or any other type of lifestyle sin hits close to home. Like when it’s someone we know and love. And we are tempted to tell our kids, when they ask why “so and so” has chosen to do “such and such”, that it’s “it’s ok for him but it’s not ok for us”. What we don’t realise is that this definition categorises truth as 100% subjective, exactly in the “your truth is your truth, my truth is mine” way the world presents it. If you’re truth is your truth and my truth is my truth then what we are talking about is not truth, but opinion. Rather say “it’s not ok for anyone, but he/ she does not believe that. That doesn’t mean we don’t love him/ her. It just means we make different choices.” In a post-truth culture, we need to be clear with our kids about understanding the nature of truth.
And one of the things we need to be the most truthful about, is love, because this is what our culture tells our kids about what love looks like:
Loving our neighbor = affirming every narrative our neighbor holds to. Every latest sitcom normalises alternative lifestyles and shows our teens that real friendship means saying “You are so brave, I support you no matter what!” But what if that is what God had done for us? What if He had said to us – “you do you! I support you no matter what!”. That is not merciful, loving or gracious. And brazen sin is not brave. And being supportive of it is not loving. We live in a world that tells us that hurting someone’s feelings is what we should truly fear, not the ultimate spiritual position and the health of their eternal souls. It is indeed a most unloving approach to love and as those set apart we have become really terrible at loving people enough to tell them the truth.
“Our culture has wrongly equated loving everyone with approving everything”
So how then do we bring the truth to conversations about love and tolerance, identity and gender, biology and feelings, choice and freedom? What will be their foundation in current culture’s arguments against truth?
This is what I told my kids:
Soulish love and spiritual love are not the same thing. Love covering all cannot be used as an excuse for the acceptance of sin. One theologian said “better bad theology with love than any theology without love” but these things cannot be mutually exclusive. It can’t be love at the price of truth or vice versa, well it can, but then we can’t call it Christlike. We can’t call it “what Jesus did”. Jesus is 100% love and 100% truth, that is the fullness of who He is (Eph 4 v 13-16). So without that what we are preaching, what we are representing, is simply not Christ.
In a world obsessed with “freedom” which means the absence of restriction, the Bible calls us to a new kind of freedom. Tim Keller puts it this way:
“A fish is designed for water. It is meant to breathe and move in water. Only in water is it free to realize all its inner potentials. But if it is not confined to the water, it cannot realize this freedom. If it is “free” from any restrictions—free to go up on land—then it will die.”
True freedom, then, is not the absence of constraints or restrictions. It is finding and complying with the right restrictions, the ones that fit the givens of our nature and being. Who better to tell us what those are than the One who called into existence our very selves? History is a wasteland of people who pursued the worldly freedom to dispose of the “yoke” of morality and Christian values, to their own destruction. Being left to ourselves has not worked out well for any of us. That is why Jesus came!
We live in a world where people believe that how you feel dictates who you are. That it’s our desires that define us. The very nature of the LGBTQ argument affirms this. But the Bible says that Jesus came to restore us from the desires that are at war within us (Gal 5 v 17). The world says those desires define us, but Jesus came to truly set us free!
We are all broken, every last one of us, even if our brokenness is expressed in different ways. Brokenness = sin. Sin = the distortion and depravity that is part of every person. Paul states so clearly in 1 Cor 6 v 9 – 11 how we are all sinners, justified only by faith (Rom 5 v 1), battling all our different genetic, hormonal, environmental, and contextual difficulties and disorders that constantly incline us towards sin. It is important for our kids to understand this because the distortion of our affection is justified everywhere around us, the loudest voices in the crowd is calling us to love ourselves first, put ourselves first and be true to ourselves first, because, according to the world, that is what freedom is and that is what is the truest truth and the highest love. But that is not the truth of Scripture.
The world and its Instavangelists tell us to just trust ourselves, to follow our hearts, but you just have to be around people for a second to realise that we don’t have to be taught to lie, cheat, steal, be selfish. Original sin is a reality, and that is what has made the heart deceitful above all things (Jer 17 v9) – certainly NOT worth following, until you can – through faith receive a new heart, and a new spirit (Heb 8 v 10). In a world where gender-confused individuals believe their desires reveal their “true self”, it really only reveals the sin nature that is true for all of us. The Bible doesn’t speak of the “true self”. It speaks only of the old self (dead to sin) and the new self (alive to Christ). So the best thing we can do is not to become more like ourselves (whatever that means in terms of feelings/ desires) but to rather become more like Jesus. Putt off the old self, and be constantly renewed (Eph 4 v 22 – 24). All of us need this.
That is why the gospel is good news for every single person.
But the Gospel is hard, that is a fact. Why? Because it represents a dying to self (Gal 5 v 24), it represents a cross to carry (Matt 16 v 24 – 26), it represents repentance of everything that is contrary to His order and ordinances. The cross will always make us choose. An old way of life, or a new one as I’ve already mentioned. And secondly, when God calls us He doesn’t just call us out of some sins. He calls us to repent of all sin. God does not call us out of these things to be a party-pooper, His biggest driver is always love. And so He calls us out of these things because He knows, they can never bring about our ultimate, eternal good and thriving.
“To carry a cross means you are walking away, and you are never coming back.” A. W. Tozer.
Especially in the teenage years and going into young adulthood, our kids are going to be confronted with these things and drawn into conversations about them, whether in person or online.
“You need a thick skin and a soft heart to stay faithful in this world”
Jackie Hill Perry
Here are some things that are good to know for them (and us) to be prepared in these conversations:
Not everyone is going to want to hear what you think about this. And that is ok. If you are a kind person, you will in your life have many opportunities to walk with people, and they may even ask for your help or guidance. Always be ready to share what you believe. Also always be ready to defend what you believe. That’s 1 Pet 3 v 13! But never confuse these 2 things. God is a relational God, and it’s not your job to go out and crusade for truth in the absence of relationship and love. Especially in this space and in these conversations, we need to have soft hearts for people who are hurting.
Our kids live in a way more volatile world than us, the internet brings aggression, anger, and hate right into our hands, our homes, our hearts. So we need to be sure they know: Yes, your convictions can be expressed, but be sure to express them with compassion. That whole sticks and stones thing is “malarkey” as my dad would say, words ignite, words explode. And we will get it wrong, all of us, all the time. Sadly, what has happened in the church around this issue is an example of this. So remember to be gracious. There is only ONE Word that is infallible, the One that became flesh (John1v14).
Walk in step with the Spirit and always practice discernment. 1 Cor 2 v 14 tells us that not everyone is open to the things of the Spirit of God, that to some, it’s foolishness. Seeds cannot be planted in soil like that.
Remember that love and compassion should not demand agreement. But, and this is a pretty big but, the rights of one group should not be used as a weapon against the beliefs of another. And that is what we now see happen in the US and it will start to happen everywhere. Disagreement is not the same as discrimination, but there are many agendas today that will try to make it seem such. We need to be aware of this and do what He told us to do when the love of many start to grow cold, which is to endure, with His help (Matt 24 v 11 – 12).
We don’t have to honor someone’s lifestyle or choices. We do have to honor their humanity because we have to honor God. We do have to love much because we have been forgiven much (Luke 7 v 47). Remember God looks at our hearts.
“Theological zeal must be subject to the test of love. Not all zeal is from God. Even when the error we oppose is clearly heresy, our aim must be to heal, not to disgrace”
If you want to engage with me on this, I would love to hear from you, so please connect with me where I am most of the time, which is here.
I will try my best to respond. Know that every single one of my readers and subscribers are in my prayers.
Why we don’t prioritize time with God and what we can do about it.
I detest blogs that sound like they want to inform me about something that would be to my benefit, but then all they do is make me feel guilty… like I fall short in some way…make me feel like there is yet another thing that I should be doing that I’m just not getting to. That’s why I often avoid parenting books (don’t we already have enough mommy guilt!) and why the one I wrote was written specifically NOT to make you feel that way, because the minute you become a parent, you become instantly and regularly familiar with all the ways you fall short, am I right? So let me assure you, this blog is not like that
Friends share the good news, the great recipes, the tidbit about that child friendly restaurant or that cheap travel deal, right? When you care about someone you want to be generous with the very best information. And that is why I wrote this blog. Not because I want to add something to your list that you already know you should be doing (you know, like finally cleaning out the garage) but just can’t get to, but because spending time in God’s word is one of the most fascinating, nourishing and deeply impactful activities I’ve ever engaged in, and I want that for you!
Here are some of the reasons I think we don’t spend time with God:
We are Saturated
I have 2 teenage boys in my house. They are never not hungry! When you are a mom of boys you are only ever busy with 3 things: Making meals, planning meals or shopping for meals. Ask anyone! My boys approach the dinner table with enthusiasm, because they are, in their words, “starving”. One of the reasons we do not prioritize time in God’s word is because we are not starving. We are saturated. We have many teachers regurgitating for us pre digested morsels. A verse of the day here, a pretty Instagram quote there, a page a day devotional or a 15 minute podcast while driving. What we are choosing to consume takes very little effort from our side, but also little discernment. Kind of like eating processed foods instead of a from-scratch-made-with-love meal. You would not keep yourself or your family fed on processed fast foods indefinitely. But many of us keep going on that kind of spirit diet. And when you are full of candy floss and cupcakes, do you know what you don’t feel like eating? Real food. And that works fine, until things get hectic. Until a trial, a race, a war erupts in our lives.
We have forgotten that we are in a race so we don’t eat like athletes. We have forgotten that we are in a war so we don’t fill up or dress up like soldiers.
And then, when it comes time for perseverance, when it comes time for testing of our faith, mostly through suffering and trial, but also through temptation, that the bible warns us is an inevitability, our tanks are empty, we’ve long ago used up the low GI fuel supplied to us by our light crudité style snacking.
Jesus wants to be our sustenance in the time of uncertainty, trial and difficulty.
He says that in John 6 v 35. He himself was in the wilderness and what sustained Him is the thing that will also sustain us. God’s word (Matt 4 v 4). God doesn’t want to give us certainty instead of our uncertainty, he wants to give us a certain grip on him. And He does that faithfully when we prioritise His word.
The Christian life thrives with the bible, just like the body thrives with good nourishment, exercise and hydration. Jesus said I am the bread of life, He said “come to me for living water”, so when we come to the word of God we are attending to the health of our soul and our spirit, we are feeding our greatest and truest hunger.
We are Intimidated
I often hear people say that they wish to hear from God. That they hope to know His will. Then I always ask them what they read that morning. Because to this day, the primary way God speaks is through His Word. And you don’t need a theology degree to hear Him. Jesus himself said that His revelation is more often hidden from the wise and revealed to the childlike and simple (Matt 11 v 15). We read a lot of things every day, without the need of translation, but for some reason when we come to God’s word our expectation of ourselves is usually too high and our expectation of God is usually too low. He promises us in His word when we draw near to Him He will draw near to us (James 4 v 8). James also tells us that when we ask for wisdom He will give it to us without reviling us (James 1 v 5 – 6) if we ask in faith. Faith is asking knowing that God wants to give us wisdom, not asking hoping that He will but fearing that maybe, just maybe, He doesn’t really want to or He won’t, which is often the attitude with which we come to the word of God. Is it any wonder we treat God’s word as something we have to “fit in”? We treat it like a chore because we think we have to work on it, we do not come with the expectation that it will work on us, which is what the Word was made to do! God himself watches over it to ensure that it will accomplish what He pleases (Is 55 v 11). You don’t have to worry about that. But what you do have to worry about is what kind of expectation you have as you approach your time in God’s word.
Often our problem is that we have forgotten that reading God’s word is an act of love not an action on a to do list, that our time with God is a relationship to build not a box to tick, that it is the daily momentum we need to move towards meaning and maturity.
We have underestimated our true state
When I feel lukewarm towards spending time with God, I always remind myself of the story in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who came to kiss Jesus’ feet and anointed Him with oil. And Jesus said those who have been forgiven much love much. The reason we don’t prioritise time with God is because we forget that we have a deep need. That, our deep need, much more than an obligation or a “should”, must be our “reason why”. Our love wanes and our devotion lapses because we lose sight of who we really are and what we really need. We are so distracted and entertained that we forget about our own spiritual state. We are so over saturated with candy floss Christianity that we forget how much we need God’s grace, God’s involvement, God’s direction in our daily lives. When we become disconnected and distracted from the essence of the gospel in our lives we quickly and easily start underestimating our need for God, because the gospel remains compelling only to someone aware of the truth of their spiritual state.
Many of us live lukewarm lives, no different from the world around us because we do not consistently connect ourselves with the transformative and victorious, which is only found in God’s Word. And just like time in God’s word will manifest as faith, joy, hope, growth, maturity, direction, focus and blessing in our lives, so lack of time in God’s word will also manifest in different ways:
Persistent struggles with fear, worry and anxiety, and having your inner peace and joy dependent on your circumstances;
Not being able to discern the truth and being ensnared by deceptive teaching and heresy which places you outside of the will of God and the blessings of righteousness;
Lack of direction, which not only has personal consequences, but it also means you are ill-equipped to equip your children for a hard and difficult world;
Lack of fruit and thriving;
Lack of victory over areas of stubborn sin;
Lack of meaning, leading us to idolatry as we try to create meaning for ourselves;
Defenseless against spiritual attacks without the Sword of the Word;
An inability to respond when people question your faith, which diminishes your witness and influence for the Kingdom.
These are just some of what we suffer when our lives are devoid of connection with God via His word and prayer. If your faith feels powerless and empty, consider how you view the Bible, which is your primary exposure to the truth
GK Chesterton said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” And it’s true. I think we live in a time where we have thought because we have Bibles and we say we love them we have truly seen what the Word can do in people, in us. But I don’t think we have.
The Bible only becomes a sword when we become it’s soldiers. The Bible only becomes a kiln when we become it’s clay, the Word only becomes our standard when we become it’s students.
If this is something you desire for yourself, for your family and for your life, why not sign up for my 5 day Biblestudy Course, called DWELL, aimed at equipping you with the basic steps and tools to truly engage with the Word of God. Sign up here – it’s free!
Now let me just confess this upfront. I’m a list maker by nature. I love the idea of ordering my thoughts and hopes and dreams into the most beautiful outline, most creative presentation, as though simply the act of putting pen to paper and making it look instapretty can provide the impetus required to push through on every lofty ideal for the new year. And when the 31st of December rolls around I am just about giddy with the”blank page, second chance, do-over” 1 January presents. But here is the problem with New Years Resolutions:
The truth is that we are all actually plagued by this one question: “How best should I live my life?” In recent years this has changed to “How do I live my best life?”… like it’s some kind of external construction that a vision board and a protein shake with kale will bring us. But deep down we know, our life flows from the inside out (Luke 6 v 45), not the other way around. Whatever we might want to change on the outside (exercise more/ spend less/ eat healthier/ be more patient) must first change on the inside (understand why I don’t exercise/ understand why I overspend/ understand why I comfort eat/ understand why I yell in the traffic), and there is only one way to change on the inside. Transformation doesn’t happen with goals or lists or plans. New Years Resolutions bring with them the allure of “This year I will “do” differently, when what we all really need is to “be” different before we can “do” differently. What we really need is an inner work. And so I have struggled and written many times about how best to approach a new year that doesn’t call us to fall into a more/more/more or a do/do/do trap that has no lasting impact.
The only thing I’ve ever seen cause true change in people’s lives is a deep and overwhelming understanding of the Gospel. And the only thing I have seen cause that change to be lasting and enduring is the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s word in the life of a believer. God’s word is penetrating (Heb 4 v 12) and more effective (2 Tim 3 v 16 – 17) than any insta slogan or vision board or hustle culture book with a relatable catchy title on the front and a lot of self-help covered in Christian-ese sauce on the inside.
And so at the start of every year, I ask God to give me a word for the year. I pray for it, and it starts to take shape during my devotional time, as I read and meditate, where a theme or word just keeps popping up or just deeply resonates and drives me in my reading. This word then serves to inspire me to live a life of faith, serves as a daily reminder of His truth and can become a prophetic marker in making decisions and moving ahead.
As you read and pray over the next few days, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you identify your word for 2021:
What area in your spiritual development has your conscience, the Holy Spirit been directing you to pay attention to?
What do you most need that only God can give that will help you take the next step in your calling?
What familiar themes are you noticing in your reading of God’s Word that seems to come up repeatedly? Remember His word is the first place He speaks. Whatever else we “hear” in the world must first line up with what we see in the Word.
If you could ask God to accomplish one thing in your heart this year, what would it be?
If you came to the end of 2021 and you looked back, what would you be praising God for accomplishing in you?
Hustle culture and its proponents have, by and large, ignored the fact that the call on the life of a believer is primarily about 2 things: Others and God’s Kingdom. Not self. In fact, to follow in Jesus’s footsteps is not merely less of self but the death of self. Not our vision for our life but His. Not our benefit but the benefit of those around us and the advancement of His Kingdom. If we say we believe the Bible we cannot separate ourselves from these truths.
So, whether you choose a word of whether you are a new years resolution or goals type girl, the best way to stay aligned with God in the way we enter into a new season is to choose goals/ words/ verses or markers that will:
Glorify God and Grow us
Give God space to move and guide us
Grounds us in His love more and more so we can be truly, deeply, internally transformed more and more.
How can we help our kids cope with COVID19? Do you also feel like at the moment we are making a gazillion dreadful decisions every day, go to work/ stay home, go to school/ school at home, eat out/ eat-in, visit/ don’t visit? All the regular things of life have been upgraded to monumental declarations of position, opinion and faith. And our kids have a front-row seat to the whole thing, to the anxiety, the struggle of work, finances, “home” school and the constant flux in context and every other impossible challenge this pandemic has thrown at us, with their own little lives, not to mention futures, currently residing under a giant question mark. These are hard days.
The undercurrent of anxiety that is now part of our homes affects all of us in different ways, even our kids. Their stress might not look like ours does, like too much coffee and too little sleep, or too many hours escaping in Netflix, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Kids become unmotivated, discouraged and younger kids even regress due to stress. Have you seen any of that happen at home? Here are some helpful focus points in shepherding our kids through this season:
Stress is most often a product of uncertainty, and so in this our kids have the same needs we have when we are stressed – predictability, security, and practical tools! These must include regular exercise, and a daily routine that takes at least some of the uncertainty out of a very uncertain time and helps them know what to expect in a time of a lot of unexpected things. One of the things that kids stress about the most is not knowing what’s going to happen next. And even if the one minute they can go to school and the next minute they can’t (which is one of many uncertainties we as parents can’t control), there is a lot of comfort in creating a little bit of predictability in their day in order to better cope with the unpredictability of life. Doing this for them (even if it doesn’t come naturally) and for ourselves is one of the best ways to deal with the stress of this season. If you are suddenly juggling work/home/school a flexible but predictable routine will be your saving grace.
Learn to Pivot
No, this point does not oppose the first one! If you’ve been around here for any length of time you will know that I believe flexibility is like a superpower. And by flexibility I don’t mean chopping and changing, I mean creating structures and routines that are more task bound than time-bound. That means our routines can adapt to changes in our circumstances, like someone getting sick or a car breaking down (or some new and unexpected news from the President’s command council let’s say). It’s about knowing what you want to get done but being flexible about the when and how. A goal-driven routine (as opposed to a time-driven one) will help you accomplish that and allow you to pivot when you need to. Keep an eye on the blog for a course on this coming soon.
In my book I used some of the many names of God to teach my kids about His character. As AW Tozer rightly says, what comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. In the face of a global tragedy, what do we tell our kids about God? Did God cause this to happen to us? What does this tragedy reveal about His character? Our faith remains the lens that we view all of life through, so we need to help our kids (and maybe even ourselves) to have the right perspective on this pandemic. Our older kids might have questions, and our younger kids are at the perfect age for us to deliberately bring biblical understanding to this confusing context. I will just briefly highlight some helpful discussion points.
God did not cause this pandemic:
Like other natural disasters and pandemics, it’s a product of living in a fallen world, where there exists natural evil and moral evil, sometimes acting separately and sometimes converging to cause disaster. The pandemic once again evidences to us that there is brokenness between us and creation and us and our Creator and in a broken world, human sin, suffering, and pain are simply inevitable. If we did not want to recognize this fact before we have to recognize it now because it cannot be ignored and it’s a wonderful waypoint to discuss the gospel with our kids and what it means for us today and into eternity. God didn’t cause this pandemic, but He can use it in the lives of people.
We live in scary times but we don’t need to be scared:
What did Jesus want us to know about being here on earth before He left? In his “farewell discourse”, in the 13th to 17th chapters of the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly displayed the truth that his death and resurrection had both temporal (for today) and prophetic (for eternity) application, and these are great words to go over with our kids. Some of His final words to us include tellings us to “take heart”, in Greek the word means to take courage. How can we be courageous? By remembering that Jesus took the sting out of death and the teeth out of suffering, both of which we will face on earth but neither of which have the final say over us. This truth means we face the realities of COVID 19 differently. It has to!
(I know sometimes the gospel/ biblical concepts can be hard to explain to kids, and as adults sometimes we understand something in our heads/ hearts but we don’t have the words for it. My book helps with this. Just saying.).
Disappointment. It’s become a staple of this season for grown-ups and kids alike. On some level, we are all mourning losses, canceled plans, even the death of loved ones, all the “could’ve been’s and shoud’ve been’s” of school tours and galas and matric dances and hopes and dreams and plans and goals.
Validate their experiences
One of the best ways to help our kids deal with their disappointment is to validate its existence. To acknowledge that it’s terrible that he won’t be going on hockey tour/ she can’t have a birthday party/ we can’t go to granny’s house. It’s sad and sore and unfair. One of the most precious things we learned as a church this year has been the value of lament (Thank you Pastor Richard!).
The examples of lament in scripture is of people allowing themselves to come before God with their heartbrokenness, their disappointments, not with complaining as the end goal, but for the sake of drawing them near to a God who hears, sees and understands. Why not use this opportunity to teach your kids to mourn and then release their disappointing experiences to God? There are almost 42 Psalms of lament that you can use to help you.
In lament, we mourn the loss of something good, and in that sense, it is also an acknowledgment of all that has been good in our lives. That we have things/ people that are worth mourning is a wonderful privilege! Is your son sad about not going on a hockey tour? Why not talk about what he would’ve enjoyed about it most? Frustrated at not being able to visit her favorite places? What makes it a place she loves and misses? In the context of loss and disappointment, we can highlight for our kids how much good we truly have in our lives, and in doing so shift the focus to what remains good instead of what is less than ideal right now.
I think we talk way more now about what we can’t do and don’t have, much more now about what we lost than what we’ve gained. But this is not the example set for us in scripture. Asaph in Psalm 77, in the context of his difficulty and disappointment, after a heartfelt lament, pivots, makes a diligent search, and comes up with a list that reflects God’s faithfulness. And then he goes one step further, he talks about it.
Lean into Prayer
I honestly don’t know how people are getting through this season without Jesus. With so many burdens and concerns, within our own homes and outside our walls, understanding the power of prayer has never been more important. Prayer is also our (and our kids’) first line of defense in helping them bear up, process and cope with so many emotionally and mentally challenging truths of this time, such as increasing poverty and fearful situations and unpredictability. This is what I taught my boys about prayer.
Protect them from the Media
TBH I use to listen to the news a lot more. One of the reasons I started writing the blogs that ended up turning into The Mommy Diaries was because my kids starting asking me about things they heard reported on in the news, such as #FeesMustFall and #metoo
But the old adage, don’t believe everything you read, remains true, especially in South Africa where we do not have a well-regulated and appropriately accountable news media. I learned first-hand this year that even the most “reputable” (and I use this word VERY loosely) news outlet will do anything for clicks and shares even if it means exploiting children and their trauma or blatantly reporting in an unbalanced way. This is what we need to know when we engage with the news: the side of the story that wins every time is the side that induces the most fear, anger and morbid fascination because that will keep us clicking. If we don’t tell our kids this they will also haplessly follow every trend or news story down the rabbit hole of half-truths and sacrifice their very peace in the process!
And now, our kids have phones and WhatsApp and they hear and see everything. And it is 100% up to us to teach them how to walk the line between being watchful and informed on what is necessary to know on one hand, and unaffected, unoffended and unafraid on the other. I don’t get this right all the time, I don’t know many people who do. But in this season where we are constantly being overloaded with information that provides no solutions and burdened by bad news we can do nothing about our discerning consumption is a vital act of safeguarding our kids and our own soul- and spirit-wellness.
This blog is focused mostly on kids between the ages of 8 and 15, but if you’re kids are younger and you are looking to spark a conversation or simply give them a tool to help them process the mixed emotions of a global pandemic, I can highly recommend you visit https://www.stronganchor.co.za for some very helpful resources. 1 New subscriber to this blog will win their books, Monster in my neighborhood and Monster in my School!
As parents, it’s up to us to equip our kids to contextualize, understand, and engage with what is happening around them on a basis of truth, compassion and hopefulness. But that’s not always easy. But in an era-defining pandemic, if we do not concern ourselves with our and our kids’ worldview, both our approach and perspective and even our faith and hope will be on shaky ground. The Mommy Diaries was written to help you with this and you can get it here!
What word would you use to describe your faith in this season? In our online prayer meeting at church a few weeks ago (yes, cause that’s a thing now), a live poll indicated that more than 70% of people felt that their faith had grown during lockdown! Yay for them, but if I am honest I know that I have struggled to stay within that 70%. I wanted to. But it felt like a fight. A fight for faith. A fight I refuse to walk away from because I know what a life apart from Christ is like and to me that is just not an option. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. Most of the time I felt like I was faltering. To be fierce means to show heartfelt and passionate intensity. I want to be a fierce woman of faith, who intently and intensely displays faith.
But what does the fight for fierce faith look like in this season? I don’t know about you but it feels like there are blows coming at me from all sorts of directions! How can we keep choosing the walk of faith when the journey is this hard? Faith is more than a spiritual position. Sometimes, no often, it’s also a response. And a response is always a choice! Job gave us that example, so did many others in the Bible. So how do we keep choosing fierce faith when we feel like we’re faltering?
We choose fierce faith when we stay fully convinced of God’s intention to perform what He promised:
If anyone needed ferocious faith it was Abraham and Sarah! Am I right? I mean talk about unlikely people in the kind of circumstances that made what they hope for flat out impossible nevermind what your God promised! But even as the years ticked by and the promise remained just a highlighted set of verses in his bible, Abraham remained fully convinced (Rom 4 v 21) that God was able to perform what He had promised. How did he remain convinced? In him and Sarah’s waiting, they continued to “judge God faithful” (Rom 11 v 11) They fixed their eyes not on the impossibility of their situation, not even on the set of highlighted verses of promise, but on the intention of God to do what He said ((Is 14 v 24). They assessed His track record and became fully convinced that yes, He is able, and in His time also ready to perform His word (Jer 1 v 12).
We choose fierce faith when we acknowledge God’s ability in the face of impossible circumstances:
If Abraham was taking our Corona Poll at Rosebank Union Church, he would have been firmly in the 70%, because rather than growing weak, his faith in God grew stronger while he waited. We read in Rom 4 v 20 that Abraham did not allow himself to waver through unbelief – he did not falter – which just blows my mind by the way! And through the act of simply holding on, his faith was strengthened. Wow, right?
Faith is not as some people might think, a denial of impossible circumstances. It’s not tattooing “with God all things are possible” on your arm and not watching the news so you are more able to maintain a “positive attitude”. Yes, I’m using inverted commas. And yes, with all the snark you’ve come to expect from yours truly. That is not faith. Faith is not a denial of the problem, it’s believing God’s word in the face of the problem. Biblical faith does not deny the problem or circumstances but holds fast that God remains greater than the problem or the circumstances. Is that the God you know? Because it’s hard to trust someone you don’t know, as I discovered in my fight for hope through the uncertainty Coronavirus.
We choose fierce faith when we choose to believe God has the final word over our circumstances:
Not our words. Not our feelings. God’s final word is yes! Because faith is taking God at His word, not taking our feelings so seriously that we can’t see past them.
We choose fierce faith when we choose what we know over what we feel:
Here is the thing that I am realizing. Pastor Dave one of our pastor’s said on Sunday during online church (cause yeah, that’s a thing now too) that our faith in suffering is really our biggest testimony. We are all, right now, becoming what we declare. How scary is that? Right now, all over the world, believers are wrestling, and it’s because our doctrine, what we truly believe about God and what we believe about the world in relation to God is never more apparent than when we are in crisis.
The fact is that our doctrine is our everyday companion, it is coming out of our mouths and our fingertips, rolling around in our thoughts and manifesting itself in our homes all the time, maybe without us even being conscious of it. What we believe about God and the world is evident in how we work, how we entertain ourselves (jip, in the TV series we pick!), how we speak and eat, and yes, in how we suffer and struggle. One of the reasons I wrote The Mommy Diaries is because of this fact, that our fundamental beliefs are not some random mental state we engage from time to time, but it actually shows itself in every action and situation. And that it’s ultimately our children’s beliefs that drive their behaviors, as is the case with us, whether we like it or not. So addressing the beliefs rather than the behaviors if you’re a parent, is critical.
All of my life is the outworking of my beliefs. If so many of us are experiencing a crisis of faith, what we should be doing is working back from that intense worry, anxiety, need for escape, emotional low to the core belief that drives it and measuring that against the doctrine we profess to subscribe to so it can reveal itself as either true, or a lie. So as we go through whatever we’re going through, I hope what we are asking ourselves more is: what do I believe – i.e what is my doctrine? About God…the world…all of this. And hopefully what we are listening to a bit less is: How do I feel? Faith is not a feeling.
Jesus calls us to do the “work of believing” (John 6 v 29). That work is this: consistently lining up your convictions and your action. And for that work to be aligned, correct, built on truth, not a house that will falter and fall when shaken, Jesus should be the plum-line, the ultimate reference point. That’s what a cornerstone is!
So how can I have this kind of faith? Paul said he could suffer while remaining full of faith because he knew WHOM he had believed and was persuaded beyond any doubt in His ability (2 Tim 1 v 12). The focus of his faith was more than just what he believed, it was in knowing WHOM he had believed. His faith was about more than merely holding on to a set of promises, it was about holding on to the Person behind the promises, so that even if the promises are not fulfilled, then he would remain convinced that even that would be, MUST be, for his good because of the character of Whom he believed, the one who works ALL for our good (Rom 8 v 28), even something that looks like a broken promise or disappointment. Fierce faith rests IN Him (1 Cor 2 v 5), abides in Him (John 15 v 4, 7) and cannot be separated from the loving personhood of God in the Lord Jesus (Rom 8 v 38, 39)
Choosing faith may not eliminate our present pain or difficulty. It probably won’t even stop the many questions we still have. It will not “explain away” our present circumstances. But it will remind us of Who is really in control and produce in us endurance (James 1 v 2 – 5), and yield in us even greater fruit (Heb 12 v 11). I know I want that, even if it’s hard!
This is all I’ve got. I know how hard it is right now. Remember I am praying for you.
Teaching kids about prayer in times of uncertainty
In this year we have faced trauma at school, family members threatened by a dire drought, and now, Covid 19, it’s effects reaching into every corner of everything we do, have, own, trust in. Never before has it been more important to be able to pray. And I was confronted through all of this with this question: Do my kids really know how to pray? Do they know why we pray? Do they truly have access to the power of prayer in times of loss, uncertainty, worry, fear and trial, or do they just know how to pray before they eat or before they sleep?
So here is what I told my kids about prayer:
We should pray because it’s a conversation with God:
Imagine living in your house with your parents and your siblings, and never talking to them. Imagine going to school and flat out ignoring your friends. That would be so weird. It would make you feel awkward and it would make your friends and family feel awkward too. Talking is one of the things we do to maintain, foster and build relationships. And prayer is talking. With God. That is why prayer must be honest, just like any conversation between you and someone you love whom you know loves you back. Just like when you talk to that person, prayer doesn’t have to be full of fancy words, not flowery or over the top. Prayer is a conversation, not a sermon, a monologue or an eisteddfod performance. And just like talking to someone who you know fully accepts and loves you, prayer can change the way you feel, the way you see things and even the way you act. And that is why prayer must go both ways and include talking AND listening, just like any conversation. Otherwise, you are just making a speech. The problem is that we are all better talkers than listeners for the most part, and that is true when we are around people we can see and hear! So listening to God, whom we can’t see and whose voice is not audible, is even harder. But it’s not impossible, and prayer can be a time of talking and listening if we do exactly what we would do if we had a friend we wanted to listen to, which is to intentionally keep quiet.
Set aside the time and create an opportunity for God to speak to you. Yes, you can pray any time and anywhere, but setting aside disciplined prayer time where you are not just venting to God means you are creating space for Him to speak to you.
We should pray because it’s a command from God:
And just like all other types of commands, God insists on them because he knows they are good for us. God through prayer wants us to keep the channel of communication open between us, because He knows that without communication, relationships don’t survive and thrive. And if prayer is a command, that means when we pray we are being obedient, right? And before you think obedience is boring, think about it this way: Another word for obedience is trust. So every time we obey God, we are also trusting Him, and when we trust someone, we share our hearts with them, everything about our lives, the good and the bad. And that is what prayer is, and act of obedience and an act of trust. And that is why prayer is so powerful
We should pray because Jesus did it:
Which shows us that it must be a very important thing. And when we start copying Jesus, the more we will become like him. And the great thing is that Jesus, in the way He himself prayed with and for His disciples, shows us exactly how we should pray
Faithfully (Rom 12 v 12)
Even for our enemies (Matt 5 v 44)
In watchfulness about what we notice and gratitude for what we have (Col 4 v 2)
With the help of the Holy Spirit (Eph 6 v 18)
We should pray because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.
We should pray because it’s powerful and releases God’s power into our lives and the lives of others:
The Bible tells us that the prayer of the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5 v 16), and thanks to Jesus dying for us, we all are “righteous” because we have Jesus’s righteousness. God uses prayer in the lives of us and of others because His desire is always for a relationship, to partner with us in bringing about His will on earth.
The Bible we read about many instances where the power of prayer overcame enemies (Ps 6 v 9 – 10), brought about healing (James 5 v 14 – 15), conquered death(2 Kings 4 v 3 – 36) and defeated the power of the demons (Mark 9 v 29). God uses prayer to bring healing and restoration, to give us wisdom and to open our eyes. It is a way to draw on the infinite resource of power that is the God of the universe!
Note to parents:
Prayer is a posture, it’s a conversation, it’s correcting and it’s a contribution to the work of the Kingdom, and in The Mommy Diaries I expound on how to journey with our kids on this and also how to teach them to pray. All orders of The Mommy Diaries during lockdown will come with an amazing free resource by Rev Leigh Robinson called “A solid foundation: Biblical Truths our children must know by heart before the age of 12”. Perfect for discipling your kids and using all the time at home to sow eternal seeds!
For blog subscribers, there is also a handy infographic with an easy rhyme that teaches kids about praying anytime about anything, some quick crib notes to help you answer those tough questions on prayer (if God knows everything why should we pray?) and how to use the ACTS acronym to teach your kids how to pray.
The sobering news about having kids is in the realization that you are not as in control as you thought you were. And few seasons in life attune us to this reality like sending our kid off to school. There our child encounters a thousand situations, relations, temptations that we will not even be present for, won’t even know about, cannot choose or control. In that, prayer is not just a comfort but a call. It is the admission, the submission, that there are things our kids need that we can’t provide, situations they will be in we can’t control and that there is a God who is God over it all. How humbling to be a parent!
But has this ever happened to you: You sit down to pray and you have nothing to say? By your conviction of the power and importance of prayer you come to pray for your children only to find you have dull words, mundane requests and circumstantial insights that don’t make a dent in the eternal, true needs of your child and do not spiritually connect you to God’s vision for them. I have felt like this many times. In these moments I have found God’s word to be a great tool to direct my prayers to be more powerful and effective.
I have written a lot about expectation, and that we, especially as moms, often have a very high expectation of ourselves and a low expectation of God. Moms are the “do-ers” in the lives of their children, and we often mistakenly get into a mode of “if I don’t it won’t” when it comes to parenting by faith. I know, I’ve been there. But what if we placed all our expectations on the promises of God instead of our own abilities in the life of our kids?
“If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith.”
Luke 18 v 1- 8 must’ve been written especially for the parents of teens! It’s the parable about the persistent widow. When prayer becomes a practice, it encourages persistence that actually guards our hearts against discouragement. And let’s face it, parenting can be discouraging at times. An attitude of persistence &perseverance in prayer springs from a heart that acknowledges that God’s love for us is a fact that exists above and often despite what we see in our circumstances. That’s faith. Our steadfastness in praying for our children declares that we know God loves them. Set an alarm of your phone if you want to, pick a day of the week, find a way to make persistent prayer a habit.
“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
Some of the most touching and beautiful prayers in the Bible where written by Paul, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed. In all his prayers for those he loved, he never requested a change in their circumstances. Now as parents we all want the same things for our kids, for them to be well adjusted, you know, not sociopaths. For them to be kind, happy and hardworking. But more than that I want them to encounter Christ in a real and relevant way, follow him with passion and perseverance, see the world through the eyes of His word so they can face their personal challenges and the challenges of their day with courage and character. That is why I wrote The Mommy Diaries. And that is why when I pray for my kids my prayers focus on these areas:
And their future.
By subscribing to the blog today, you will receive a free printable one week prayer calendar along with a template to make your own. Print it out, pop it on the fridge or in your journal or planner. It focuses on praying God’s word over these areas of your children’s lives!
I keep what I call a “Warrior woman’s book of prayers” – I know, what an ambitious name! It’s actually just a little ring bound notebook. But in it I have written down scriptures and prayers for all of my loved ones, including my kids, my family members, my friends. And as I sit down to pray for them, my heart and my prayers are guided by God’s word and that way I know they are guided by His will. I do it this way most of the time not because I’m such a clever excellent Christian, but actually because of the opposite. I am a doubtful, worrying, wondering, perpetually distracted ants-in-my-pants Christian with a desperate desire to be a faithful prayer. This way really helps me.
And let me tell you the truth, I have seen more accomplished in the lives of my loved ones through prayer than I have ever seen accomplished through my own efforts, cleverness or ability to turn situations around.
Why do I use God’s Word to help me pray?
So much of what is written in the bible match our circumstances. It gives us words when we don’t have any. Even Jesus used the Word to pray – for example when he prayed from Psalm 22 in Matt 27 and Mark 15.
It helps me focus. Often I find my worries, anxieties, my concerns and my “lists” become the highlights of my prayer time with God. They take up so much space that aligning with His will in prayer, reordering my priorities and desires to line up with scripture, praising and worshipping Him get crowded. Praying God’s word is an intentional way of making those things a more weighty part of my conversations with God.
It helps me pray with confidence – especially in situations where I don’t know what to pray. It contains God’s will, reveals his character, explicitly lays out His promises.
It instructs my heart – actually praying through the Word changes the desires of my heart as His Spirit ministers to my spirit.
It helps me fight earthly battles with heavenly weapons. God calls us to pull down strongholds (2 Cor 10 v 3 – 5) and for that, we need a spiritual arsenal. That is what the Bible is.
Praying God’s word with our kids, lays for them a foundation of understanding about what truly matters in life. God’s word is applicable to every area of challenge our kids face, from bullies, to worries, to friendships and everything in between. In the next blog I will share some insights from my book about how to talk to your kids about prayer and teach them how to pray.
Most recently we have prayed persistently for rain in the Eastern and Northern Cape. It showed my kids not only that God cares about the everyday challenges we face and is deeply invested in the lives of those He loves, but after a time, it showed them how powerful prayer can be and how amazing it is to see your prayers answered. Thank you Lord for the rain in those drought-stricken areas!
Be encouraged mom, your prayers are heard by God himself (Psalm 4 v 3), and your words of supplication move the heart of the King of the Universe (Matt 21 v 22) . Prayer connects you to the strength of God – and which mom could not use more of that! And prayer prepares us to be met by his blessing (Matt 7 v 11)
Do you need help explaining prayer to your child and teaching him/ her about it without all the “christianeze”? Check out the chapter on prayer in The Mommy Diaries – ideal for kids between age 7 and 15!
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve have written about new years resolutions a couple of times. A new year is a great time to reassess and re- envision, and so we all enjoy making a list of things we think we should do, even of things we think we should stop doing. As a working mom with a side hustle, I was recently asked to write about work-life balance. And you know what. I couldn’t. Because there is no such thing! It’s all nonsense. Work-life balance is stupid. I think it was possibly invented by men. Not because I think they are stupid, but because, for example, a man invented the turducken, another thing that sounds much better than it actually is in real life. Work-life balance is pie in the sky, and it’s a concept that makes people (especially women) feel frazzled and unhappy and that they are invariable letting someone down (can I get a heck yeah?). And here’s why:
Balance is a static state, and I don’t know what your life is like but I can tell you right now my life is THE.OPPOSITE.OF.STATIC. Schedules, realities, priorities, energy levels and people are constantly in flux, they are not fixed. That is why it’s the very idea of “balance” as an expected or desired state that is making us feel stressed out and constantly guilty about all the things we are not doing. Aiming to have it all in balance is aiming for something that is not achievable. I advise we all ad it to the list of things we need to let go of, like fitting into those white jeans we wore in our 20s. Please, I beg of you, do not make this one of your new year’s resolutions. Here’s what I think we should aim for instead:
Work from a place of peace, not towards it…
Unwittingly, we all divide up our life between work and non work – “getting through” the one to “get too” the other. All of our life is in compartments, work in the one, play in the other, toil in the one, comfort in the other. We think, and work, and believe and prioritize like our peace will be found in peaceful circumstances and surroundings. But God calls us to relate to peace as something we already have, not something we have to “get to” or “work towards” or “bring about” by controlling/ changing our circumstances. His Word tells us that Peace is a Person, Peace is a Promise, Peace is a precious Gift. So in every task we do, in everything we engage in, we are called to do so from a place of Peace, from that Source of peace, from a Position of peace, not towards it. When we see our life like this, all the strands of work and play and difficult and easy, successes and failures start forming one single tapestry. It changes our perspective and infuses all aspects of life with more meaning. Not just the bush-break/ beach-holiday parts. And peace as something we already own, as something inside us, empowers us to withstand the pressures and strain that is evident and unavoidable in every season of life. We think of peace as a place we need to arrive at where it really should be a departure point. That perspective can change everything.
Make flexibility a fitness worth mastering…
Now, let me be honest here, I love me a diary. I love a to-do list, a schedule, a planner, a nice crammed-to-the-brink-with-colorful-blocks google calendar. But nothing, and I mean nothing will give you a little productivity and planning reality check like a sick child. Or the school holidays. Or load shedding. Or a dead car battery. Sometimes things happen, things we don’t control, and when we have rigidly structured all of our time and focus because we believe that will give us balance, that will give us peace, those “life happens” moments really mess with our attitude, our perspective and our sense of accomplishment. In my dancing days, we learned that strength and flexibility are inextricably linked. For one muscle to flex, another must give and release. I used to believe white-knuckling it through my days, obliterating obstacles in the way of my sacred to-do list, was a show of strength, but sister, strength without wisdom is just brute force and it will flatten you because here’s the truth: when the wind blows, the grass must bend.
Your level of peace when calamity/ uncertainty/the unplanned strikes is directly related to where your faith lies and who (or WHO) you believe is in control. If that’s you, you will be anxious and overwhelmed. If its God you will have peace.
When we embrace flexibility, when we learn to “roll with it “ (yes, I know, the Enneagram 1 in you is literally wanting to run away right now, I feel you honey!) we are in fact surrendering our agenda to God’s plan, opening ourselves up to embrace the realization that yes, even the bumps in the road are a part of our live before God, Coram Deo. We are submitting to the One that has already called us to do everything, even the unexpected, and NOT just the things we planned to do that was on today’s list, as though we are doing it for Him (Col 3 v 23).
Flexibility helps us live from a place of surrender, not striving. If you can learn to be flexible when things don’t work out, then it’s just a “change of plan”, not a “disastrous disappointments”. And if we let them – those very disappointments can become divine appointments with God
Choose rhythm over routine…
This is the best way to practice your flexibility “fitness”. As moms, we are drilled about routine early on. It’s the holy grail of parenting when your kids are between 0 and 5. I think we are all in that mindset that if we could just be more rigid with our routine maybe we’d get more done. But it inevitably leads to disappointment when we’ve had 2 weeks of great workouts/ study times/ work or whatever and then suddenly our kids are writing exams or it’s the school holidays or Jesus help us Christmas time. Then we feel frazzled and upset because we had it all worked out and now we feel like we need to start from 0. Then even the call to respond to a person in need becomes something we have to “fit in” to our routine, which to be frank is just a terrible place from which to serve someone.
What if you chose rhythm over routine? The idea of rhythm is a flexible approach that is cognizant of the fact that you do not live in a bubble, but that your days and routines are influenced by the rhythms of your people and your context, the seasons of your journey and your city and ahem your kids. Sometimes there is intense, productive activity, sometimes there are periods where your focus must shift, and sometimes there is a need to respond to where you have an opportunity to serve others with Christ’s love.
Even Jesus’s life attested to this. When he was called on to turn water into wine, to serve and respond to a need, he wasn’t upset because he actually came to “party” and now he had to “work”. He didn’t say “hey ya’ll are interfering with my downtime here!” or “this was not on my schedule for today”. He was simply engaging with the very next thing, the very next good work that God had prepared in advance for Him to do. Rhythms help us to respond, routines keep us rigid. In a rigid routine, we sacrifice our peace and we deny that a sovereign God ordains meaning in all our moments, even the ones we didn’t plan (Psalm 139 – like all of it!)
Choose fruit over fear and meaning over more….
There is a guy who juggles at the corner of Republic and William Nicol Drive. Now, incase you didn’t know, here is the thing with juggling: every time you add a ball, you have to throw the balls you have HIGHER to give yourself more time to catch all of them. It’s almost diabolical. Doesn’t matter what type of mom you are, how many jobs you do in or outside of your home, or even how many kids you have and how many extramurals they do, we can all identify with how much the whole thing feels like juggling. Porcelain plates. Or hand grenades. And everytime we ad another goal, activity, to do or must do, another expectation, another yes, we have to throw the balls we already have higher and higher. Take more risks. Fit more in. Take more vitamins. Get up earlier and go to sleep later. But here’s the truth:
More does not equal meaning. Multitasking and doing/ adding more can never ever deliver on the meaning that you are hoping your life will have/ your kids’ lives will have. There is no fruit without focus and there is no focus if you have to do everything fast. But if you’re schedule is too full, fast is your only option. Focus is one singular thing, it cannot be divided into many things because then, ultimately, it’s not focus. Then it’s just dissipated, distracted, dividided attention that literally serves no one.
I know, I know, us moms wear many hats, we hustle that split shift of work/ wife-ing/ mothering/ all the other things like real hardcore mom bosses, but sometimes it just feels like we did a whole lot of stuff not very well. Something that helped me was to see my day as having various pivot points, each presenting an opportunity to be present. To sow focus so that those moments can bear fruit. Because if I am trying to serve my kids lunch but I keep checking the emails piling up, not only will my laptop be full of peanut butter (this is not good) but nor the emails nor my kids get my full attention. And in the end the precious time with my kids does not bear the fruit of connection it had the potential for and the work does not reflect the excellence I was aiming for and I am exhausted and I feel like a fruitless failure. This is a quote that challenged me this year and that I want to challenge you with:
“Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul”
Often we add more and more to our life and our schedule out of fear. Fear that we (or our kids) are going to fall behind, fear of not enough, but fear cannot produce anything of value. Fear is not fruitful. But faith is. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that produces anything of value in our life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
My son saw the #metoo #amInext march in Cape Town last week on the news. The conversation went like this:
“Why are they marching Mom?”
“Because violence against women in South Africa is like an epidemic my son”
“But why Mom?”
“Because there is something fundamentally wrong in our society?”
“But why Mom?”
“Because my son, there is something fundamentally wrong in our hearts.”
I stand behind that protest 100%. But a protest is like a volume button, it get’s your attention. but making something louder doesn’t make it better. It is certainly no substitute for action (Yes this is actually also something I’ve spoken to my kids about). But action by whom? As a mom raising boys, I find myself at the coalface of where I believe the change must happen. Graca Machel was right as she addressed mourners at the memorial service of tragically slain student Uyinene Mrwetyana, when she said: “it is in our families”. The correction needs to happen much closer to home than in a courtroom or a police station or via some system or law. At home is where the shaping happens, make no mistake. Your home is the frontline where mutual respect (yes, boys should respect girls and yes girls should respect boys because people should respect each other. Bottom line ) is modeled or distorted, where we either uphold or disregard, instill or destroy the fundamental truth of our shared worth, value and humanity. We don’t need governments and systems to change. We need people to change. And we are people…raising people. That is actually why I wrote The Mommy Diaries, because we are raising kids in a complex world that is only set to become more so. But there is a way to live and lead in that complexity with courage and wisdom.
The hashtags of #metoo and #amInext and #femicide is a call to a higher standard of engagement. But as parents we must call ourselves to it if we are hoping to call our kids to it. And so I believe it is above everything not a call to governments and leaders, but a call to action directed at families, a call to parents.
It’s all of our responsibility to raise the kind of kids who appreciate the uniqueness, equality, dignity and value of the opposite gender. That doesn’t just happen.
It has never been more important to engage with our kids in a new and focused way around these things and to be intentional about it. So this is what I told my boys:
The way women are treated is an atrocity:
This is not limited to South Africa or certain communities or cultures. It’s true everywhere. And women have had enough. Our breaking point has been centuries in the making and now it’s here. And I want my boys to know why. It is based on certain misinterpretations of biology and theology, that didn’t take into account a full set of facts or context. Misinterpretations (i.e the “glasses” through which people “read” these things) that have been accepted as truths, but that are in fact lies. And I have no problem in calling them lies because the idea that women are somehow “less than” has no biological, cultural or scriptural basis. These lies have informed everything from how women are treated and paid, to where they are and aren’t allowed to be/ serve/work/play and have snowballed into the utter disregard with which they are hurt, abused, spoken of and to. These lies are present in homes, in businesses, in churches and in cultures. I know this first hand.
But the problem is not in how women are treated:
The true problem lies in the way women are viewed. The problem is deeper than history, than a culture of patriarchy, than biases and blond jokes. Because all of those things find their origin in one place, in the way one person sees another person. In that sense racism, xenophobia (another evil that rocked our nation again this week) and femicide/ gender based violence is not that different. Because at their root they all find their origins in the way one person sees another person. And as is always the case, the way you see someone else is most often based on how you see yourself. If you see someone as less than, it’s because you see yourself as “more than”. If you see someone for some reason as less deserving, it’s because you see yourself as more deserving.
So yes, it’s important that we address equality, pay equity, femicide and all those good and essential things, but lets make no mistake, real change happens in a different direction.
I don’t want to raise boys who know how to behave in a way that honors, values and respects women. Having the good manners to not tell blond jokes and not hit girls is not the same as holding firm to a fundamental believe that all people are worthy of honor, value and respect.
Because ultimately if we wish to see changes in our society, in legislation, in our communities, there can be no fundamental change effected on that level if we don’t dig down a little deeper and try to affect change at a heart level.
Change will not come through laws and loudspeakers if it doesn’t first come in hearts and homes
Always fight lies with truth:
This is the definition of truth in our house: God’s opinion about EVERYTHING. And if God sees everyone the same so should we. His opinion is that we are all equal (Gen 1 v 27/ Deut 10 v 17/ Rom 2 v 11/ Gal 3 v 26 – 29) and have equal standing with Him.
In God’s eyes we are endowed with worth not because of this or that attribute but because of His likeness in us and His love for us. It is not dependent on status, race, gender or culture. This is something that is true of every human person.
God gives us a different lens through which to see the world. In fact Jesus in word and deed was an example to us in how women are to be regarded and treated in society, in defiance of the social, judicial and religious customs of His day. In all things He is the embodiment of what loving others should look like. Jesus shows us that our lens must never be culture, or history, or tradition or popular opinion. The examples that proves that there is no “less than” attitude in the bible when it comes to women are too many to mention, but I like to throw some at the boys from time to time just to make sure they know: “The first person Jesus told He was the Christ was a woman, the first person He appeared to after He rose from the dead was a woman. Oh, and just incase you were wondering what God thought about women consider this: none of you would even be here if it wasn’t for us”.
The call on all of us is to regard everyone not by what we see on the outside, but by the truth of them as spiritual beings (2 Cor 5 v 16) and image bearers. Misogyny (and yes, my kids know what misogyny is because they understand prejudice. Thank you South African Public schooling) is based on a skewed idea of worth that we can only correct by acknowledging a higher truth.
Consider carefully, don’t consumer carelessly or accept mindlessly:
When we say things like “the problem is in society or culture or whatever” what we are often trying to communicate is that something has been “normalized” over time to a point where it is accepted. If we do not pinpoint those “accepted lies” and reveal them, they will hide in our hearts forever. That is why I encourage the boys to look and think a little deeper whenever I get a chance.
At a recent school prizegiving, a Gr 7 girl in The Elder’s class received an award for taking the most wickets in a cricket match at provincial level. Even though my kids attend a wonderfully integrated and dynamic school, there was still that ripple of suprise that went through the audience, and it made me chuckle a little. But it also presented a great object lesson for the boys. Why shouldn’t a girl perform well on the cricket field, or any field? Look, I’d be the first to tell you I don’t enjoy watching women play rugby, for example! Because frankly if I wanted to watch women shoving and bumping at each other aggressively I’d much rather just go to the Woolworths Quality sale, am I right? But that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t play rugby, or go to space. I don’t want my boys to just mindlessly go along with what societal pack thing dictates as the “norm” and so I look for opportunities to challenge that thinking and to put forward this truth:
Roles, jobs, positions and participation should be based on gifting, not gender! Always. Everywhere.
Our words reveal our attitudes and so I am pretty brutal when it comes to blond jokes, the use of phrases such as “women driver” and I strongly discourage the boys from listening to music that objectifies women. As an Afrikaans speaking female I am deeply horrified at how often in my culture songs contain those types of messages, but they serve as great object lessons to explain to the boys:
Make sure that even to the level of the content you consume and the jokes you tell you are reflecting the honor and respect that you yourself would like to be on the receiving end of.
Recognize and respect:
I tell the boys to pay attention to the contributions of not only the women in their lives (there are some epic ones!) but also the women in our world. Reading female authors, watching female athletes and considering the specific strengths and traits of the girls and women in their world that they admire. Not in an “anything boys can do girls can do better” kind of way, then all we are doing is swinging the pendulum the other way. That also doesn’t reflect respect or value. But in a way that sensitizes them to recognize and respect women equally in a culture and society that is possibly not set up for that to happen naturally.
We have the power to change things.
In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so), we as boy-moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with the heart attitude that there is never a reason to be mean, that kindness is always the best response, and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our kids to shine a light in the world.
When we sensitize our boys to inherent biases I believe we are actually empowering them. It equips them with an understanding of the world that helps them make sense of things, and an understanding of themselves that helps them grow. The power for real change lies not in the pressure we can put on a government or system or institution. Because at a fundamental level it’s not society, history or culture that govern what we do and don’t to, it’s what we have accepted as true, have bought into on a belief/ heart level.
It is only change at a heart level that helps us see things differently. Only then can we do things differently.
Maybe this is one of those things that only some people struggle with. Like complaining about bad service or sending food back in a restaurant or wearing flowery patterns. But here’s the thing. I need help…to learn to ask for help! I recently embarked on the most terrifying, anwer-to-prayer passion project of my life, a project that I hope to be the first of many. And in the last 2 months as I have struggled to fit the rest of my overfull life around accomodating this big dream I realised, sadly, terrifyingly, that I needed help. I wish I needed to have a root canal. I wish I needed to have ducks tunnel into my scull with their beaks. I wish I needed to look after a spoilt 2 year old on a sugar high. I would rather have to do any of those things instead of having to ask for help. Is it just me?
So I’ve analysed it and here is what I have so far:
Normally when we don’t want to do something or struggle to bring ourselves to do something it’s because we think it’s going to be bad for us. Here is why we don’t want to ask for help:
Our story: We all have one. Maybe in yours, like in mine, you where praised for being independent and strong as child, or maybe in yours, like in mine, there where seasons where you realised that you needed to be responsible beyond your years because there was no one else to do what needed to be done. Family of origin can influence whether we see letting people in and asking for help as a part of normal life or as a sign of weakness, whether we view not needing anything from anyone as a definition of our value or whether we view needing help from others as being not at all connected to our sense of self. Or we may have been brought up to believe that asking for help is a weakness.
Being told you don’t actually need help: Sometimes when we try to ask for help, the response we get is one of a reframed perspective. Sometimes what we really need is a reframed perspective so yay! But sometimes what we need is help. Like, actual help. Sometimes the person we ask just ends up telling us why we shouldn’t see this as an actual problem, or telling us to just get over it. Sure, we all need a “put your big girl panties on” kinda talk from time to time, but if you’re anything like me, those panties are kinda the only ones you got and so when you do ask for help it’s usually not because you need to “woman up” to something, or because you need a pep talk, it’s because you do actually need help. But these ironically unhelpful responses to us reaching out for assistance can be the thing that keeps us from doing it again in the future.
Fear of being judged: We want to appear to be self reliant and independent. That is the be all and end all and shame on us if we appear to be dropping some balls am I right?
Fear of rejection: I don’t want to ask because what if they say no.
Pride: Pride is insidious and tricky to spot. My husband likes to call pride the “sin behind the sin”. It hides in all kinds of respectable and justifyable places. So let me save you some time and tell you what I figured out:
am covering up my shortcomings = pride
feel an offer of help is an insult to my capabilities and it makes me prickly and hard to serve = pride
am embarrassed and ashamed at being an inconvenience to someone when they offer to help me = pride
Needing helpforces us to admit to our shortcomings and vulnerability and exposes the lie that we have it all together – one we thought all the while everyone believed. Sure, I can call out to the Lord, He already knows I am weak and wobly. But other people don’t. I would like God on my side as my superpower behind the scenes, all the while hoping everyone thinks I am a super mom. You know like when you take all your Le Creuset dishes over to Olivia’s and they put the ready-made food right in there and you present it as your own to your dinner guests! I secretly love it when people say, I don’t know how she does it, voices tinged with awe, but mostly with envy. I know. I’m bad. But I don’t think I’m the only one!
Fear of reciprocity: I have a sibling who literally has a mortal fear of reciprocity. He can think of nothing worse than “ someone doing him a favour” and so he never asks for any. Isn’t it funny how we often measure our relationship interactions almost in an economic way. I think it’s called transactional interdependence. Also, IF we generally say yes too easily and regret it afterwards (in other words do not guard our words and motives) we are hyper aware that someone else might be similarly motivated and don’t want them to be put in that position where they can’t say no. Twisted right? And I think it’s kinda sad for us, as a human race.
Because it’s just hard ok: like I said, maybe not for everyone, but certainly for introverts. It just takes so much energy, all that explaining and answering questions, all that interacting. It seems so overwhelmingly exhausting that I’d just as soon avoid it all together.
We are all adults here, I am not trying to convince you of the benefits of kale or colonoscopies or anything, so let’s just keep this in perspective. What if I told you (and myself) that asking for help is a good thing? What if I told you what you’d be missing out on by refusing to ask for help if you need it?
Here is why it’s good to (learn to/ force yourself to) ask for help:
Because we develop courage: Vulnerability is truly brave and thanks to Brene Brown it’s also the new black. It takes allot of self-awareness and understanding to ask for help. That is not weakness ya’ll. That is courageous. It means we are aware of our strengths and our abilities and where their limits lie. That is why God said to Paul to write this down:
“My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.”
“So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak I sense more deeply the might power of Christ living in me.” (2 Cor 12 v 9 TPT)
Because we develop community: Our recognition of the boundary of our strength in asking for help also means our recognition of the skills and strengths of others. When we ask for help we give someone an opportunity to use their strengths, to collaborate and pool resources with us, resulting in a stronger whole. How often do we say we value authenticity but we are not authentic. Because are we not most authentic when we admit to areas where we need help? Could our strong sense of independence and our preference for pretence be the reason why we struggle to develop significant
community? God wired us to need connection, to need each other. Actually refusing to ask for help stifles community. If we are not good at asking for help, we are likely not great at giving it. This is because we see other people not as they really are, but as we really are, and that drives how we relate to them. If we find our own need for help as unacceptable, we will project that same orientation onto someone else, hardening ourselves against their need the way we’ve hardened ourselves against our own.
Because we all need feedback: Feedback is good. We have to let people in. In his book PEAK, K Anders Ericsson explores the process whereby people gain expertise and become excellent. He proposes that the process of deliberate practice is the key to superior performance and one of the building blocks of deliberate practice is feedback.
Because rejection won’t kill you:I’m serious. When we ask for help and the answer is no, we need to remember that the answer is a no to our question, not a no over us as people. We tend to over personalise rejection way too much, making very”no” a definition of us instead of a response to our request or the outcome of a situation. What if the person we asked didn’t have the resources, whether mental or emotional to assist us? NO is a full sentence and just as much as we need to learn to say it we need to learn to hear it and be ok with it.
Because, reality: I know you are amazing at lots of stuff, in reality you are not amazing at everything IN. THE. WORLD. None of us know everything about everything. You are not Google. And none of us possess every skill in the world. We don’t expect that from other people, why do we expect it from ourselves.
Because, progress: Progress is good. Needing help and being unable to ask for it leaves us stuck – trapped in our own heads. Sometimes that is the one thing that is the blockage to the flow towards resolution or completion, whether the help you need is with a project or a problem. The relief of realising there is help available frees you up towards progress.
I know how hard this is Momma, for me it’s almost paralyzing. But we can’t fully realise our potential in any given calling or area if we refuse to draw on the help God offers us through others, just like limbs in the body need each other. He kinda planned it that way I heard! We not only deprive ourselves, but also others of the blessing and the redemptive work that being in service to each other brings about in us.
God is always working. If God is moving you into accepting a new challenge or opportunity and preparing something in you, could He not also be preparing someone else to assist you? Don’t miss God’s goodness and help because you are relying too much on your own!
I can’t wait to talk to my sons about girls, sex, dating – said no mom ever! I know, I get it. But I once heard a parenting expert explain your child’s understanding of these type of topics as files being opened in the filing cabinet of the brain. The file will be opened, named and will start containing information gleaned from what they hear, see and their environment. By being intentional about these awkward topics, we are in essence taking the initiative to “open the file”, thereby having a chance to input shaping information that is in line with our worldview, convictions, and morality. Every other piece of information that then comes into the “file” get’s tested against the truth that we put in first. Should we remove our intention we give way to the alternative, a view on women, dating, sex, shaped by the barrage of messaging, content and images that the world is consistently producing and offering up.
I didn’t want to write this. Newsflash: Being a boy mom is not dissimilar to being a girl dad. You experience the same fierce protective streak and compulsion to grab a shotgun. However gracious and “live and let live” you may appear you still secretly harbor the conviction that no one will ever be good enough for your offspring. Even if he is currently obsessed with slouchy pants and continues to be amused by his own farts.
So you can imagine my reticence when The Elder returned from Holiday Club with a hand full of notes secretly passed (some things never change). He had an expression somewhere between bemused and confused on his face as he read me a note from one girl who asked to wear his beanie, another his jacket. When I asked “what do you think about that son?” and he said “I guess they like my clothes?” Ummm, I realized I had some work to do in helping him work out how he should respond. Because how he respond doesn’t just affect him, but as he is being shaped by this interaction so are the girls he is interacting with, all of them at an age that is forming the neural pathways and emotional understanding of those interactions for years to come. Yes, we have ticked the boxes on the body and sex conversations. But this blog is about the fuzzy stuff. The stuff I want him to keep in mind as my son, as someones’ future boyfriend, as someone’s future husband. So here is what I told The Elder about girls…so far….
Be honourable – Every night before my boys go to sleep I say to each of them: “You are my treasure”. And so I have told The Elder that he must remember that when he is interacting with a girl, she is also someone’s treasure too, her mom’s, her dad’s, and God’s. And all treasure must be seen as precious and must be handled with care. Every person we encounter is an image bearer.
Be kind – “respond to girls in a way that protects them and protects you”. My son is 11, an age where possibly there is a disconnect between the feelings he has and his ability to express them. So arming him with “scripts” that enables confident responses that are also kind is how we have chosen to help him. For example: “ I am too young to have a romantic relationship, but I would enjoy getting to know you as a friend. “ or “I am too young to have a girlfriend, but I know how to be a good friend so let’s do that instead.”
Be a gentleman – Even as a 40-year-old woman, I can still recall valentines day slights, offhand comments that I shouldn’t have heard, boys being insensitive boys, all of these things I remember from being an insecure pre-teen girl. So if I am going to be the mom of a pre-teen boy, maybe I can spare some girl having similar, shaping, sore memories. My boys don’t have sisters, but they have 3 girl cousins, and a slew of friends who are like family, so when I tell them to treat every girl like she is Lila, Isabel, Jua, Hannah, Sophia or Ava, Pia or Sienna, they get it (please Lord Jesus, I hope they get it!). I take pains to help them make sure the little girls in the class that the boys know might not get anything for Valentine’s day gets something, albeit anonymously. I (try) to keep sexist joking and name calling out of the house and discourage them (strongly) from participating in it at school.
In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so) we as boy moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with very much alive #everybodyalways #kindnessalways thinking and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our boys to shine a light in the world.
Be careful – puberty and its company of feelings and hormones are hard to manage. And in the right (and by that I mean the wrong) situation, it can be like a car rolling down a hill, i. e hard to stop. Encountering attraction and trying to understand it is tricky for boys, so sound advise for this life stage is to stay in a group. “Don’t put yourself in a compromising position!” For now we steer clear of concepts like “dating” or “going out” until a more appropriate age.
Be aware – “Not only are you as a boy going to be dealing with your own growing awareness of the opposite sex, but you will also be dealing with girls who are going through the same thing.” In every person, the outside is most often a reflection of what is going on on the inside. So I told my son than when he encounters a girl who seems like she is overly desperate for male attention (albeit via what she wears or how she acts), give her a wide birth and keep a careful but kind distance. There are possibly things going on in her heart/life that you can’t help her with and that your attention is not the answer to.
Yes, the pre-teen and adolescent path is a messy meander of navigating confusing, overwhelming thoughts and feelings. However unpopular it might be, that’s where we as parents come in.
Make peace with the fact that you are going to be the good guy in your movie and the weird guy in theirs (there will be allot of “Awww Mom ! Gross ! I don’t want to talk about this with you!”), and launch as deeply as you can and as quickly as you can into the “girls” conversation. Yes, if you are a boy mom, leave the sex convo to the father/ father figure in your boys’ life. But when it comes to the emotive stuff, remember what it was like for you when you were a girl and use that as a jump-off point to help your boy be the kind of boy your 10-13-year-old self would’ve wanted to encounter.
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