When our kids were toddler and preschool ages, before they each fell asleep each night, as I tucked them in and would ask them, “How much does Momma love you?” They would each reply with one these phrases:
- “Momma loves me to the moon and back.”
- “Momma loves me to Jesus and back.”
- “Momma loves me forever and always.”
- “Momma loves me with her whole heart.”
As we rehearsed these reminders, I could see the tension of the day melt off their little bodies while a content smile spread across their faces. When you know you are loved, no matter what you face during the day, you can rest peacefully, knowing at the end of the day you are treasured.
Now that the kids are getting older, most of the time, I only rehearse these reminders with our youngest child. However after listening to Andy and Sandra Stanley’s podcast with Proverbs 31 Ministries about their new book Parenting: Getting It Right, I see the value of bringing back these reminders to all of our children in maybe a little different way.
On this podcast episode, Andy and Sandra talked about the “it” in “getting it right” for them was cultivating loving relationships with their children. Their desire as parents was that even after their children launched into adulthood that they would long to continue spending time together. The central guiding focus for their parenting was preserving and cultivating strong relationships with one another.
As they created their rhythms of family life, every decision came back to the question: will this strengthen or harm our relationships? At the heart of our parenting, if our children believe in the deepest parts of their souls that they are loved, to the Stanley family, that’s getting “it” right. Just like those four simple reminders of “how much Momma loves them,” even as our children mature, they still need these reminders that deep down the thing that we want most for them is to have strong relationships with us as their parents and with each other as siblings.
As I think through this philosophy, it reminds me how Jesus loved His disciples deeply and completely. Even when He had to speak tough truths, He did so from a place of love. He preserved and cultivated relationships with those around Him. His love transformed His relationships and the people He did life with daily.
When our identity is shaped by love, our outlook on life changes. Before Jesus changed John’s life, the apostle John and his brother James were known in their community as “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). This title as “sons of thunder” meant John and James were fiercely passionate about their beliefs. Sometimes their righteous anger got the best of them.
In one instance, they wanted the Lord to bring harsh consequences such as raining down fire from Heaven when people didn’t treat Jesus the way they thought they thought He should be treated (Luke 9:54). If you ever get a chance to see the Jesus production at Sight and Sound Theatre or The Chosen series, the writers and cast members did a phenomenal job of portraying the fierce passion of James and John before Jesus changed their lives.
One of the beautiful things about spending more time with Jesus is that He changes our character and temperament in life-giving ways. He takes what is already present inside of us and transforms it into traits that draw others closer to Him. As one of Jesus’ closest followers, John witnessed the way Jesus sacrificially loved others and experienced Jesus’ extravagant love himself. Jesus’ love completely transformed John’s life. Instead of being known for wishing harsh consequences on those who didn’t believe Jesus, John became the gospel writer known for seeing the world through God’s loving eyes. His life’s work was to inspire others to experience God’s love and share His love extravagantly with those around them.
In the well known Bible verse John 3:16, John writes “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” Out of all of a plethora of ways John could describe God, he chooses to characterize God by His extravagant love. God’s love for us motivated Him to sacrifice His only Son. How many of us could or would love that extravagantly? If I’m honest, I don’t think I could make this sacrifice. One time I read that “being a parent is like having your heart taken out of your body and walking around the world outside of you.” I cannot fathom the depth of God’s love for us that He could make this sacrifice with His Son to show us the vastness of His love.
Additionally John writes passionately to let us know that those around us will “know we are Christians by our love” (John 13:35). Receiving God’s love compels us to extend love to our children. Loving our children well isn’t just a good idea; it’s God’s idea.
What might be like if our interactions with children were characterized by our love, more than any other character trait? What if we took the “long game” perspective on parenting and teaching and valued loving relationships as the center of all we think, say, and do? For John, Jesus’ love changed his identity from being a “son of thunder” to the “disciple Jesus loved.” I wonder how Jesus’ love might transform how our children see themselves, too?
Friend, what might our day look like today if we chose love to be the undercurrent of our interactions with the children in our lives? I wonder how this might re-prioritize the moments we get to spend with our children? In a world with constant distractions, what if loving our children well was our guiding force? May we live out today cultivating loving relationships and watching the Lord transform our children through love.
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