Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Pursuit of Potential: Lie # 8

" I am not a good mom."
" I am a bad mom and my child has a lot of problems because of me."
" I wasn't a good mother; I didn't live a holy life.."
" I didn't raise my children in God's Word in the deep and full manner that I should have."
"I am responsible for my child's sin and feeling unloved."

If I could come face to face with each of the women who scribbled these lies above onto their notecards, I would wrap my arms around them and give them the biggest, longest hugs ever.

Being a mom myself, I can fully relate to feeling inadequate, unequipped, and sometimes even disappointed in my abilities to be the mom I want to be.

God not only created a woman with the ability to give birth to or adopt children, but also filled her with the innate compulsion to love, nurture and raise those children with all their heart. So when child-rearing doesnt go as planned, and parenting problems arise which seem bigger than life, it is easy to get so discouraged and distraught, that we feel we have nothing else to do... except blame and condemn ourselves, and hang our heads in defeat and shame.

Just recently, I became aware that one of my children had done something that they knew we would not approve of. I was so disappointed in the decision they had made, mainly due to the peer pressure they had felt.

But in the midst of the life lecturing, reprimanding, punishment doling, and praying - I also felt guilty.

Guilty for not knowing about this indiscretion sooner. Guilty for not saying "no" to certain social requests which I already had a bad intuition about. Guilty for not teaching or preparing my child better about the issue. Guilty for being overly trusting. And so on, and so on.

In fact, I pretty much beat myself up for weeks about what had happened, what I could/should have done differently, how I could have been a better parent, decisions I should have made differently, or how I could have handled the situation better. I began to blame myself, above all else.

Unfortunately, every mom finds herself at war with guilt at one point or another. Whether the guilt comes from being a working mom and feeling like we dont spend enough time with the kids, or from being over protective or under protective as they get older, or even from thinking that our grown kids are making mistakes because we were not a good enough parent - guilt is guilt. And can choke the joy right out of our hearts.

This state of guilt, blame, self-condemnation and joylessness, is right where the enemy wants us. As we find ourselves drowning in a cesspool of guilt, getting deeper by the minute as our thoughts focus on the could-have's/should have's/would have's, satan slowly gains control over not only our thoughts, but our actions as well.

You see, if the enemy can make us feel condemned and a bad mom, then we will convince ourselves that we are unqualified, and unworthy, of trying to be a better mom going forward. I have always said discouragement is one of satans most powerful tools, and that holds true in parenting as well.

If the enemy can make us believe that we should accept full responsibility for the actions of our children, young or grown, then we will be so busy beating ourselves up everyday for what we should have done better or different, then we will be too afraid to do anything at all.

If the enemy can make us feel defeated as a person, and as a parent, then our self-confidence in our parenting abilities will be so low, that we may find ourselves backing away from our responsibilities as a parent, for fear of making a mistake.

Guilt, in any form, if left unresolved, can send us into a downward spiral of discouragement, and will gradually become a barrier in our relationship with Christ.

As parents, we have been called to raise the next generation. We have been called to minister to the children God brings into our lives and teach them the ways of the Lord. We have been called to stand up for what we believe, and not to conform to the world.

But what we seem to forget, is that in this midst of this high calling of motherhood, we were never simultaneously called to be perfect.

I think every mom secretly believes that she must meet that goal of perfection - and when we feel we fall short, because of something we did or neglected to do - or something our children did or neglected to do - then we immediately feel as if we have failed.

But God did not intend for us to live a life entangled with guilt - Christ came to set us free with forgiveness, redemption, and renewal of our minds and hearts, every day. We are reassured of this in Romans 8:1, when we are told "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."

Then in Romans 8:26, it says "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness."

The entire chapter of Romans 8 can be an encouragement to us as Christians and as moms, but these two verses above, remind us that God wants us to live guilt-free - so much so, that He sent His Son to die for it.

These verses also exemplify that even when we feel weak with guilt and regret, in any area of our life, He will be our strength, if we ask.

As much as we would all like to be a perfect parent, that is an unreasonable, and unattainable, expectation.

If perfect, mistake-free, infallible parenting is our goal - or if we believe if we can groom perfect children if we try hard enough - then we are instantly setting ourselves up for great disappointment and discouragement.

Whether our children are toddlers, teens or grown adults, we will all struggle with feelings about what we did wrong, wonder if things could have turned out differently had we been a better parent, and fight feelings of guilt about mistakes we know we made during the parenting journey.

Knowing that to be true, I believe we are each faced with a personal choice. A choice that can make us, or break us, as individuals, as parents, and as Christians.

Choice #1: Continue to believe that we are not, or were not, a good enough parent, and consent to living a life of guilt, shame and blame, while allowing satan to grab hold of our hearts, and keep our Godly thoughts and actions stifled.

Choice #2: Accept the reality that we are all sinners, and make mistakes, in parenting and all areas of life; and all the while embracing God's truth that no matter what we have done, or what our children have done, He holds it all in His hands, and His desire, is for us to lean on Him, and be acutely aware of our ongoing need for His grace and guidance.

As for me, I like choice #2 much, much better. What about you?

Prayer for today: Oh Lord, you know the guilt I hold in my heart for (xxxx). Guilt for my own sins and shortcomings, and for those of my children, which I may feel responsible for. I know that You do not desire for me to feel guilty, because You are a loving and forgiving Savior. You died for my sins, and the sins of my children. Forgive me for focusing so much on my own failures and insecurties, that I neglect to focus on You. Forgive me for allowing condemnation, fear and discouragement to keep me in spiritual and emotional bondage.

If I am responsible for some of the bad choices that my children have made, please help me to focus on Your forgiveness, and to forgive myself. Reveal to me how I can help my children to see You in me, to learn to love you more, and to understand the need for You in their lives, even if I have failed at doing that in the past. Lord, help me to forget the past, and throw out all guilt, so that I can look to the future and excitedly await to see Your activity in the lives of me and my family. Encourage and inspire my spirit to be the Mom you called me to be. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Pursuit of Potential: Lie # 8SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Pursuit of Potential: Lie #7, Continued

Last week, we began talking about the disease of being a praise junkie, and how an unhealthy desire for human praise and recognition, can become a stumbling block in our walk with Christ.

If you realize you struggle with the need for approval for others, the first step to recovery that we discussed yesterday was to pray with all your heart, and to do some "remembering". Here are those points to remember once again:

* Remembering that we are serving a God who does not need us, but allows us the privilege of being a part of His work, can quickly help us to embrace humility and thankfulness.

* Remembering that God is for us, and does not rate our existence in terms of worldly success, nor expect us to achieve perfection, removes the pressure of trying to impress or please others.

* Remembering that God loves us unconditionally, regardless of what other people think, and with or without the praise of others, eliminates our fear of failing, and allows us to serve God with a heart full of gratitude and love.

Prayer most certainly gives us the power to tackle any lie that we have entangled in our hearts, and after talking with God about it, there is another positive step we can take.

This next step would be to do a self-assessment, and think about what is really motivating you to continue serving God, or what is the motivating factor to do anything in your daily life.

First, ask God to reveal to you any areas that need reshaping, any insecuriteis that you struggle with, and for the strength to look deep into your heart and be honest with yourself. Then, you could ask yourself some questions, such as:

...through my acts of service and working with others, do I choose to be guided, or seek authority to control?

... in my job/community service/church work/family, do I feel a sense of failure if someone does not recognize me for my contributions or accomplishments? my ministry work, do I choose to seek the spotlight, or do I willingly seek opportunities to serve in the shadows as God calls? my thoughts, if I feel unappreciated or unrecognized in my efforts to serve God, do I get angry and resentful, or do I trust that God has a better plan? my daily life, do I choose to serve others in small ways whenever I see a need, or do I seek to be recognized in the church pulpit for my sacrifices and hard work? my heart, do I choose to hide my scars, or seek to live transparently for Christ, so that others can be impacted through His love in me?

These questions might be hard, and reveal a lot about our motivations, and needs for approval. But take heart - God knows what we struggle with, and in Him, there is no shame or condemnation - only love, and the desire to help us be more like Him.

These questions can also help us jump start our need, and our desire, to refocus our motivation to serve based on how Christ defines success, and can also cause us to think about what type of legacy we are building for ourselves.

A legacy is something that is passed down from generation to generation. When we think of someones legacy, we do not typically review their accomplishments, but instead, we consider their hearts and positive attributes. Their character.

What they accomplished unselfishly. How they portrayed Jesus, by being His hands feet. How they made a difference in the lives of others.

How their attitude was like His.

If we discover that we want our legacy to be different than what we are currently building because our priorities are askew, then through prayer and commitment, God can begin to transform our hearts and help us to reshape our legacy, through Him, and for Him.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Today's Prayer: Dear Lord, if I am guilty of seeking human praise and recognition over Your approval, and have become addicted to the feeling of acceptance and success, please forgive me. You know the real me, and you know my heart longs to serve You, for all the right reasons. Reveal to me any areas of my life where I feel a need to be recognized, instead of seeking Your approval alone. Help me to push past fears of failure or criticism, and embrace what You have called me to do.

If I am in check with my emotional needs for praise, give me the strength to continue to rely on You for acceptance, and to praise You for blessing me with the gifts and abilities to serve You. Help me to stay focused on cultivating a true servants heart, and not be negatively influenced by how our world defines acceptance and importance. In Jesus name, Amen.

** I just love Nicole Nordeman's song, Leave A Legacy, you can watch the video here or below for a little spiritual boost today on focusing on your own legacy.

The Pursuit of Potential: Lie #7, ContinuedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Pursuit of Potential: Lie # 7

"You need to feel recognized. You need to make sure that other people think you are good, and that you do things great."

We want people to see us at our best. We want others to recognize our hard work. We want to be appreciated for the things that we do, and we want others to think what we are doing matters.

And those basic human needs for acceptance are okay - as long as we keep our desire to be appreciated and acknowledged in balance with humility and focus.

However, the minute we begin thriving on the compliments from others, needing the thrill of recognition to keep us motivated, and longing to be in control of things, then the enemy can begin to do his best work.

Sometimes being a praise junkie is not even our fault, but instead, a by-product of the world we live in. Our culture promotes success, achievement, fame and recognition as one of the most important things in life.

That philosophy is so far removed from what God says is important. In the Old Testament the key definition of success or being blessed, is to have a solid relationship with God and obey His instructions. In the New Testament Jesus tells us that His view of success is when our lives are transformed through our love for Him.

But due to the fallen world we live in, we sometimes forget Gods view of success, and inadvertently allow circumstances of life, and the culturally-bred hunger for recognition, to become an addiction.

For example, if someone grew up in an environment where their parents made them feel more loved and accepted if they succeeded in everything from sports to grades, then that person would be more likely to be addicted to praise.

If someone works in a competitive environment, where the only way to get ahead is to do whatever it takes to stand out from the crowd and solicit recognition as much as possible, then that person is more likely to be addicted to praise.

For a serious competitive athlete, who knew they always had to try to be the best to get ahead, they may have become addicted to praise.

Even something as normal as motherhood, where we long for our children to be the cutest, best-behaved and most successfull offspring around, can cause us to have an unhealthy obsession with recognition or praise.

All of us want to savor a compliment - it just feels good!!

However if/when we realize that we may have a physical or emotional need for praise in order to feel good about ourselves, just like the brave woman who confided to me that she held today's lie in her heart, God may be convicting us to refocus as well.

Unfortunately if we do not act on that conviction, our innate or culturally groomed need for recognition can eventually roll over into our spiritual service and our personal faith.

The enemy works hard to take our focus off of God, and onto ourselves, in any way he can - in our personal and work lives, but even in our service to Christ.

Philippians 2:5 in the New Living Translation says "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."

Simply put, this verse is gently imploring us to have a servants heart. A heart that is not only willing to serve, but willing to do it anonymously, or without recognition. A heart that desires to serve God in whatever way He calls us to do, even if our service goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

A servants heart that is focused on glorifying God because of who He is, and not because of who we are or what we think we have to offer.

A heart that knows that todays lie - is simply that - a lie, from the enemy who longs to watch us lose focus, and stumble in our faith.

A heart that longs to leave a legacy of Christ, not a resume of service for others to marvel over.

You see, when we think of our servanthood in terms of our legacy, it helps to give us a new perspective about why we are serving, and Who we are serving. It also prompts us to do some remembering....

Remembering that we are serving a God who does not need us, but allows us the privilege of being a part of His work, can quickly help us to embrace humility and thankfulness.

Remembering that God is for us, and does not rate our existence in terms of worldly success, nor expect us to acheive perfection, removes the pressure of trying to impress or please others.

Remembering that God loves us unconditionally, regardless of what other people think, and with or without the praise of others, eliminates our fear of failing, and allows us to serve God with a heart full of gratitude and love.

For anyone struggling with being a praise junkie, remembering these truths, and praying over them, is vital in beginning the process of refocusing our hearts.

On Monday, I will share a possible next step for pushing past the emotional need that we all have for worldly praise, and how to begin allowing God to fill that tender place with the true love and acceptance that only He can give.

Until then, let's focus on cultivating a servants heart, by starting with a lot of "remembering". Smiles.

The Pursuit of Potential: Lie # 7SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend