You dreamt of the day you would be a parent. When you would have the privilege of having children who would grow up and follow God. You would love them, take care of their needs and raise them to be responsible adults.
But no one ever told you what to do if your needs weren’t met. Or how to give your kids love you weren’t given. So, I turned to God for the answers. After all, God is love.
Affection shows love
Even if our homes were not full of love, we know from scripture that God loves us. Both John 15:13 and Romans 5:8 illustrate how God demonstrates his love; he doesn't just talk about it. And people need to feel our love--to know we will love them just as they are. God has to help us with this one because God is the one who loves us unconditionally.
Though my mom was not a very affectionate person outwardly, we still knew she loved us. But I still had a need for an outward expression. So I decided I would hug my kids often. I wanted them to feel secure. And I didn’t want them to have any question of how I felt about them. Sometimes we learn by what is modeled for us. Other times we learn by what was missing. I did for my kids what I needed as a child. We still hug.
And having lost a lot of people in my life, hugs have become very important. You never know if the hug you give will be the last one. And if I want a hug, I’ve given myself permission to ask for one, instead of feeling bad if no one is in a “huggy” mood.
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Self-control shows love
Self-control is necessary in disciplining our children. When I grew up, rage lived in our home. We never knew when it would rear its ugly head. All of us scattered as my dad would come after us with his belt. And afterwards, we were not assured of his love-- we were told to get away from him. As a result, as a child, instead of feeling guilty for a behavior, what I felt was shame. Guilt says, I did something bad. Shame says, I am bad.
I knew when I had children, I would not beat them. Sometimes we model what we see. Sometimes we model something better. I made it clear when I disciplined my children that it was their behavior that was not acceptable, but I still loved them.
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Thankfulness shows love
Read Psalm 127:3. Children aren’t something we are entitled to; they are a gift. And we need to see them as such, remembering the one who gave them to us. Gifts are meant to be cherished.
So many people dream of having a child, but don’t get that dream fulfilled. Others have children and sometimes have lost a child. Having had two miscarriages, I feel empathy for those who have miscarried. It has made me even more grateful for the two children I have.
A child who is loved will more likely become a loving parent. For years, I wanted to be a mother. To have children I could share my life with and help raise to know God. And though parenting can have its challenges, I have never regretted being a mom. And now that I am also a grandma, it’s wonderful seeing the world through little eyes again. An added bonus is how the memories I had of being a mom rush back at any moment I am with these little ones.
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Respect shows love
When you love someone, you show them respect. They feel valued, important. And that means when they speak, you wait to hear what they have to say. Their words matter. Respect cannot be demanded. That is compliance, not respect.
In our house growing up, we were not allowed to give our opinions. Our mom would listen, but if it was an interaction with our dad, he was the only one talking and we had better listen. When we give children an opportunity to voice their feelings, we are letting them know we value them.
When you respect someone you do your best to look them in the eye, not standing above them, but face to face. And with little children, they will respond more favorably if you get down on their level. When we respect our children, they will be more inclined to give respect in return.
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Patience shows love
Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. God paints a picture of what love is. And while we are human, God can empower us to love others the way he loves us. One of the attributes of love is patience. While we want to train our children to one day navigate this world successfully, we want to do it with patience.
I am a stubborn person, although I like to think of it as being tenacious. God has worked in my life helping me to bend when I want to remain stubborn. God has been so patient with me. And any needs I had, God has met them. Read Philippians 4:19. Not some of my needs, all of them. Not because I deserved it, but because he is a loving Father who takes care of his children. According to his riches in glory means his supply is unending.
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Gentleness shows love
I wish I would have been treated with gentleness. I am a very sensitive person. If I had been treated with gentleness, I believe I would have been more confident with less fears. And yet, God was there to help me as I grew up. As I learned more about God I learned about his character and that is what I wanted to emulate.
The longer I walked with God, the more he worked in my life showing me what needed to be changed. And from the time I accepted Jesus as my Savior God began a work in my heart. Read Philippians 1:6. God is still at work in me.
One day, not long ago, someone told me, “You are so gentle.” It moved me to tears. I knew it was God working in my life. God also helped me as a mom, to create a home where my kids felt accepted and loved. As I watch my son with his children, my heart is full seeing he learned how to love well.
It’s true that we don’t have control over many circumstances in our lives. We didn’t get to pick the day we were born, or our parents. But even though we didn’t have a say in those decisions, God was there. And if we grew up feeling unloved, God can give us the love we needed. Maybe some of you grew up without a parent, or eventually you lost both.
When my parents died, I remember the day I saw the verse, Psalm 27:10. I felt alone till God assured me, he was still there.
God became the dad I never knew I always needed.
As we walk with God and learn about his character, he will keep working in our hearts. And one day, we’ll look like our Heavenly Dad.
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. She is a poet, speaker and published author of 14 books. She is also the author of over 42 published articles/Bible studies with Christianity Today. If you’d like to see more of Anne’s writing you can go to her website, www.annepeterson.comor follow her on her Facebook page. You can also sign up for her newsletter on her websiteand receive a free eBook.
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