Last week Anna and I popped into Walmart to grab a couple of things. I, of course, had to pep talk and bribe her with m&m’s to make sure she knew today was a day she was riding in the cart, not walking. When we walked through the door, I seen a mom, close to my age, wrangling two boys. The oldest of the two boys was having a melt down because he wanted a toy from the quarter machine. Before I could even process what was happening, I jokingly said, ‘Oh you are such a mean mom’ in that old lady tone that so many of us know so well and have gotten 100 times from strangers at the grocery store. I felt like an idiot and tried to avoid her as I was walking through the store because I could not believe those words came out of my mouth. Yes I was joking and I said it in a funny joking tone but in that moment, she did not need or want to hear my petty judgmental two sense. To many they might not seem hurtful but the look on her face told me, ‘listen lady, I don’t need to hear it from you too’.
Sometimes hurtful words come out and are said on accident. I will bet you a million dollars there isn’t a person on the planet alive today who hasn’t regretted even a simple slip of the tongue. And sometimes hurtful words are said on purpose and those are the ones that do some serious damage.
A few weeks ago, instead of regretting my outburst, I have spent a few days regretting my choice to keep my mouth shut. A daughter, around the age of 8 and her mother were parting ways. In a matter of 30 seconds the mom had deeply insulted her daughter 5 times and I could see the crushed and defeated look on this young girls face. If anyone would have been watching my face as I looked on at this conversation, you would have seen my jaw hit the floor. Now I know raising kids is tough and I also know there is a whole host of things that could have happened leading up to that morning which caused the mom to speak to her daughter that way but in my gut, I could tell this was a regular thing. I wanted to run to the little girl, cup her face in my hands and tell her how valuable and loved she is. I really wanted to give her my phone number and tell her she always has warm meal and pillow at my home but she didn’t know me and I didn’t know her. I probably would have scared her and sent her into stranger danger mode. My heart still hurts for her. I hope she knows Gods love is so rich.
One night, months ago, while putting Cole to bed, I asked him, ‘Do you think I love you less when you’re bad?’. His answer was yes. Ugh, talk about a stab in my heart. I told him that my love for him was unconditional and I loved him just as much on his bad days as I did his good days. The next night as I was laying with Marie, I asked her the same question, ‘Do you think I love you less when you’re bad?’. Her answer was yes.
This is where God always gets it right and we as humans often get it wrong. As parents, just like God, we have unconditional love for our children. On their worst days, we still fight tooth and nail for their love and affection. But as humans we are told by the world that there are strings attached to our love and that God’s love has strings attached too. We certainly cannot and do not deserve to be loved when we mess up. We do not deserve to be loved when we make a mistake. As humans we put strings and red tape on love, we put up walls and boundaries because we think that is how we protect our heart. To a degree, yes, boundaries can and should happen, but in an ordinary relationship, it is a waste of time and energy.
Those nights I spent putting the kids to bed, I let them know that my love for them did not have red tape and that it was and always will be unconditional during their mess ups and their celebrations. If you haven’t had this conversation with your kids yet, it is a must! It is never too late to let them know your love for them does not have strings attached. God feels the same way, there is a whole book filled with scripture and confirmation of the same thing over and over again. If you, as an adult, do not feel that God loves you, read the Bible. It is black and white that he loves the crap out of you! There is NOTHING (read it if you don’t believe me) you can do, to make Him not love you. If you are raising a child and they don’t know that God loves them unconditionally, read the Bible with them, it is in black and white that he loves them deeply on their good days and their bad days.
Here is what I know, I will mess up. I will get angry or say a word I didn’t mean. I will get angry and not step in when I should have. I will mess up. You will too. But if our kids don’t know where our hearts are, those spoken or unspoken words will speak louder than any praise you can give. You also need to give them God and the opportunity to have salvation in Jesus because He can’t screw up. Never has, never will, EVER. God’s Word and love are the anchor our kids can use when we screw up because they are going to need it.
**added extra – This is a tough topic to navigate through. If you need help in this area please do not hesitate to reach out to me and talk it out.