I took a break from here to focus on meeting some immediate needs of my family and for a time of reflection on who I am as a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife. What does my role look like? Am I investing in the right areas? Am I taking care of myself at the same time? Where do I get my confirmation of that?
This summer, 2 themes have been rolling around in my brain and I think they are connected not only to each other but also to what God is teaching me during this time of reflection. I hope they spur you on to reflection as well.
(Pictures are from our summer so far)
1st Theme- Working from approval instead of for approval
At the beginning of the summer, I was having a conversation with a friend whose parenting style I have previously gleaned a lot of wisdom from. She made a statement about her child that really got me thinking. She said, “I can see that he is working for approval instead of from approval.”
Working for approval instead of from approval? I wondered what does that look like? What mistakes do you make as a parent that creates that scenario? Do my kids do that?
When I was growing up, there was one relationship where I never felt like I got it right. With each interaction, I was informed that my socks didn’t match, I needed a haircut, I needed to wash my face more, my clothes were out of season, etc. For a decade, I had anxiety about seeing that person because our relationship had become such that I was working for approval. Since then we have both matured and I now relate to them from approval and I can say that it has completely changed the dynamic and health of our interaction.
In order to raise kids who work from approval, my parenting must be grace-filled. That happens first as a paradigm shift in how I view them. When I walk into my 13 year old's bedroom, do I see that he has made his bed or that he has clothes on the floor? I must view my children through the lens of grace. I have always understood the practical definition of grace to be represented as help, forgiveness, and unmerited favor.
If I as a Christian walk in relationship with Christ by Grace through Faith (Col 2:6) then my parenting must also be grace-filled (consisting of help, forgiveness, and unmerited favor). Only then will I raise children who work from approval that mirrors the approval we already have in Christ.
2nd Theme- Saying thank you or finding fault
Last month, Trent and I were putting the finishing touches on a set of talks we were preparing for a marriage retreat. Trent came across some material by John Gottman where he predicted the long-term success or failure of a marriage. (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/)
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. “It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”
This really hit home because I know as a spouse, I have been guilty of scanning my marital environment for the wrong things. This also got me thinking about my parenting because I think this goes hand in hand with raising kids who work from approval and relating to others with grace. I don’t think Gottman calls it being grace-filled in your marriage, but that is exactly what it is.
If I want to avoid contempt in my relationships and raise kids who work from approval instead of for approval, I have to scan their environment and look for opportunities to offer a grace-filled thank you instead of criticism. I am confident there is more to it than just that, but man that sure is a good start.
As a pastor’s wife, I have spent the last 9 years working for approval. Now some in my church might say, “I sure can’t tell” and that would be because when I think I can’t gain your approval, I disengage completely. I have had experiences in different areas of the church where I didn’t measure up and my response was to take that area out of my list of ministries where I saw myself to be useful.
I see this in my social relationships with friends and family too. I try to dance correctly enough to not rock the boat or hack anyone off or I disengage completely. It is emotionally exhausting. This time of reflection has helped me to meditate on the approval I already have in Christ. He is the one who calls me and He is the ultimate voice to say, “well done my good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). He is the one who extends grace to me for all that He calls me to. He is my help, my forgiveness, and my source of unmerited favor.
I can go on from that truth to live from approval instead of for approval. I can go on from that truth to have grace-filled relationships with those around me as I scan the environment for opportunities to say thank you instead of opportunities to criticize. Can you?
Here are a few more pics for you dad. :)