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Your Mother-Daughter Relationship: Imperfect Makes Perfect

  • Nicole Whitacre Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 09, 2008
Your Mother-Daughter Relationship: Imperfect Makes Perfect

Don’t ever try to talk to my mom while she is on the telephone. She firmly believes in doing one thing at a time and doing it well. I, on the other hand, have mastered the art of doing three things at once — all poorly. Mom, she drinks her coffee black. Me, I add more sugar than is put in your average cotton candy. My mom is graceful, poised, and calm. I’m expressive, sporadic, clumsy, and (according to my sisters) a little crazy. When Mom talks, everyone listens. I talk so much that people often tune me out like elevator music. Mom’s favorite meal is roast beef, green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, and strawberry shortcake. She’s a southern gal. But give me a plate of sushi with extra wasabi and a cup of hot green tea. I’m a suburban girl.

I’m sure we’re related; people sometimes say we look alike. I know I will never be as pretty as she is, but I tell them, "If only I could be godly like her, then I’d be happy."

With all our differences, I didn’t always understand my mom. I suspect she didn’t always know what to make of me either. Really, it’s a miracle we’re such good friends today.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you and your mother are as different as, well, roast beef and sushi. Maybe you have no common interests or style of communication; so you just don’t talk much. Or maybe your differences go deeper than silly preferences. So when you do try to talk, conflict inevitably flares up. You’ve allowed real disagreements to wedge between you, and they are slowly but steadily pushing you apart.

Perhaps a little question occasionally rings the doorbell of your mind: "How did you end up being related to her?" The answer: God set it up that way.

God Doesn't Make Mistakes

He has created your mother-daughter relationship. He doesn’t just put mothers and daughters together like a guy in a deli slapping meat and cheese on bread. God has placed us in the exact mother-daughter relationship that He desires. Psalm 139 informs us of this: "In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them" (v. 16).

Now we don’t usually apply this verse to the family God has arranged for us. But think about it — if all your days were ordained, including the day you were born, then whom you were born to (or, moms, who was born to you) is no accident.

This fact is confirmed in Acts 17:26 (NIV): "From one man he made every nation of men . . . and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."

God doesn’t make mistakes. As my sister Janelle likes to quip, "There wasn’t a mix-up in the children’s department in heaven. An angel did not inform the Lord, ‘Ah, Lord, we messed up, and Nicole, she was supposed to be a part of the Smith family, but she accidentally got put in the Mahaney family.’" Not so!

The exact family we were placed in — the exact mother and the exact daughter we have received — were prearranged by God before the first day of creation. And if you are adopted or have a stepmother, God was equally sovereign in His choice for you. He specially selected the woman who is now your mother with precise detail and matchless love.

Not only has He made these selections, but God in His love granted us unique abilities, gifts, talents, and strengths that benefit each other. Moms, your daughters are a heritage, a reward from God (Ps. 127:3). They are not a bother, a burden, or a problem — but a reward! Your daughter (and not so and so’s daughter) is the perfect girl for you. And, daughter, this works two ways: Your mother is also the perfect mom for you. I don’t mean that she is perfect. None of us is. Only God is perfect. But because He doesn’t make mistakes, I can confidently assert that your mom’s the right mom for you. Whether you realize it or not, God has given you a good gift.

But What If Things Have Gone Terribly Wrong...

I must pause here, for some of you may have trouble swallowing the truth that God’s goodness was at work in arranging your mother-daughter relationship. Perhaps you have a mother who is not a Christian or, worse, whose behavior causes you great heartache and trouble. She may be an alcoholic, verbally berating, or physically abusive (for those of you in this situation, please seek counsel from your pastor and, if necessary, protection by the authorities). Your mom may have abandoned you, leaving you desperately confused, alone, and shouldering heavy responsibilities. The one person you would expect to love you best has hurt you most.

Or maybe you are a mother whose daughter’s rebellion has caused deep pain and sorrow. She has turned her back on you and on God; she is angry, rebellious, and unkind. Your attempts to show love have only invited further insults and greater hatred. Her lifestyle is wreaking havoc in your family, and you don’t know where it will end. Maybe, in the quiet moments, you wish you’d never had a daughter.

So how could a loving God have chosen your mother or daughter? You are at a loss to understand.

While I can’t begin to comprehend your suffering, there is a story in the Bible that can help you gain understanding. You may recall the account of Joseph found in the book of Genesis. As a young man he experienced great harm from his family — in fact, his brothers sold him into slavery. But Joseph understood that God’s sovereign love was at work for good even through the malicious actions of his brothers.

From slavery, and by way of prison, Joseph eventually became powerful in the land of Egypt and saved his people from famine. He later told his brothers, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive" (Gen. 50:20).

Whether or not your mother or daughter intends her actions for evil against you, she cannot thwart God’s intentions. God has a plan, a gracious plan, for your mother-daughter relationship. Just as He used Joseph’s sufferings to save a nation, He is more than able to bring forth astonishing good from your trials. So may I urge you to put your trust in our sovereign God? Even now His purposes are at work in your mother-daughter relationship.

God's Plan for All Mothers and Daughters

For all of us, the guarantee that God has ordained our mother-daughter relationship for good provides the hope we need to resolve any conflict and surmount any challenge. There is no problem in our relationship that causes God to rethink whether or not He got it right by putting us together. So neither should we question it.

God actually uses each other’s limitations, flaws, and peculiarities to help us grow in godliness. The habits that annoy or embarrass us, the sins that tempt us to anger or resentment, and the views and opinions we don’t understand about one another — all these were custom designed to help us grow in biblical womanhood. I love what Mr. Knightly says in the matchmaking comedy Emma: "Maybe it is our imperfections which make us so perfect for one another!"1

My mom and I have experienced this dynamic in our relationship. One thing you need to know about Mom is that she loves peace, order, and structure. She would say that she tends to love it too much. By contrast, I didn’t always appreciate my mom’s love for order. Thus my disorderly, haphazard way of living was a source of tension at times when I lived at home.

But things have changed since I have gotten married. Now that I have a family of my own, I love an orderly schedule and a clean house — almost as much as Mom. I’m always calling her for useful tips to simplify my life. I appreciate this strength of her character like never before. But she would also say that God used her daughters (and primarily me) to help her overcome an excessive concern with a clean and organized house. We’ve both grown in godly character, thanks to our God-ordained differences.

God didn’t design the mother-daughter relationship primarily so we could feel comfortable, like each other, and get along. He has a much higher purpose in mind. He intends for us to display and pass along biblical womanhood so that we can bring honor to the gospel.

If you grasp this truth — that God has handpicked your mother or your daughter — it can revolutionize your relationship. It settles any doubts about its validity, provides hope amidst mother-daughter conflict, and gives confidence to accomplish God’s grand purpose together, by His grace.

So the next time that pesky little question, "Why her?" casts doubt on the origin of your mother-daughter relationship, slam the door in its face. God has ordained this relationship. You are the perfect combination for passing on the language of biblical womanhood.

*Originally posted September 15, 2005. This column is part of an ongoing series on Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood.

Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, and Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. During her more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one twelve-year-old son, Chad.

Nicole Mahaney Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk. Nicole and her husband, Steve, have one son, Jack.

Carolyn and her three daughters keep a 
weblog for women in all seasons of life, also entitled "Girl Talk."

This column was adapted for Crosswalk from Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood (Crossway 2005) by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre © 2005 (Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,