By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
I still remember the day they placed my son in my arms. He made me a mother. Like some of you, I was filled with joy that God would entrust this little one to me and my husband. And then the challenge began. What would I share with this gift God had given me?
Thankfully, I became a Christ follower before I became a mom, so I knew God would help me as my husband and I raised Nathan. But the images of the house I grew up in cast dark shadows for me. I did not feel safe growing up. And I did not feel loved. Sometimes we learn what to do from our parents, and sometimes we learn by what they didn’t do. And since my mom had died when I was a teenager, I did not even see a mother/son relationship close up. I needed God’s help in raising a son, that was certain.
A prayer for moms raising children
God, I pray for anyone reading this article, mother or father. Lord, you gave us gifts when you gave us our children. We need your wisdom and you have told us that whoever lacks wisdom can come to you. So give us your wisdom, Lord. So that our words and actions line up with what you want us to do with these precious gifts. Father, a mother/son relationship is special. Help us to form a healthy bond so that our sons grow up to be confident young men who will one day grow into strong leaders. Help us with this awesome responsibility. We pray this in your Son’s Holy name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“I love you”
Every child needs to know they are loved. And they need to hear the words as well. We see this in our relationship with our heavenly Father. Love originated with God. Read 1 John 4:19. And while God tells us in his Word that he loves us, John 3:16, he also showed us. Read Romans 5:8. While we were sinners. Not when we just did something wonderful for God, or on one of our best days.
It would be like telling our son we love him after he really blew it. All sons need to hear they are loved, and they need to hear it often. And if we struggle to tell them that, God can show us how.
I asked my grandson, Charlie, who is 10, “What do you think a son needs to hear his mom tell him?” Charlie had two answers.
“I’ll give you another chance”
Without even knowing it, Charlie gave a great illustration of mercy. It’s when we know we don’t deserve to get away with some wrong we’ve done, but are shown mercy. How wonderful if we were willing to illustrate mercy to our sons.
I did not see this modeled in my home growing up. It was more like, “You do what I say.” One day I came home and asked what a certain word meant. I didn’t know it was a swear word till I saw my mom’s face.
“Now you’ve done it. I was going to take you shopping, but now you won’t be going.”
There was no room for questions at all when I was young. But God helped me as a parent, to learn what mercy looked like and to demonstrate it. People who are given another chance often grow up to be people who give others another chance. Read Luke 6:36. Our Father is full of mercy. He shows us how to be like him. And then we pass that on to others. This world needs to see mercy demonstrated. It’s a hard world filled with hurting people. Everyone needs mercy.
“You can have another scoop of ice cream”
With this answer from Charlie, he showed his little heart. God is gracious to us. Moms can be gracious too. Moms know when something is good for us. Mercy withholds punishment when we deserve it, grace gives us more than we deserve. Read Ephesians 3:20.
I’ve often heard stories of God’s provision. One day, God decided to show me what abundance looked like. An organization which helps veterans called us. They asked what our needs were. Since they had already replaced our garage roof, their call surprised me. I mentioned that our windows were in bad shape and if they could be painted, it would be wonderful. Never did I expect what happened a couple days later. A television crew showed up along with a window company. All our windows on our first floor were replaced. Tears of joy were shed that day. It was exceedingly abundantly above what I could ask or imagine. It was God. I was excited to share with our son how God had provided for us. The world wants men to be self-reliant and independent. But we as mothers can share how men who trust God possess courage.
“You matter to me”
Knowing I had this article to write, while at the gym, I decided to ask an older gentleman for some input. “Did your mom ever tell you anything that you think all sons should hear?”
I watched as he scanned his mind for a memory. And then seconds later he said, “No. I can’t think of one thing.”
I smiled, but my heart went out to him. Every person matters. Sons need to know they matter, even to their moms. Scripture tells us how much God cares for us. He talks about the birds he created. Read Matthew 10:29-31. Not one little sparrow will fall to the ground without our Father knowing about it. Yet, God says the very hairs on our heads are numbered. On a walk outside the other day, I saw a baby sparrow that had fallen out of its nest. I knew God had seen that little one fall. Every person needs to know they have value and they matter. To us, and to their heavenly Father.
“I made a mistake”
I asked my grandson, Jude, who is 12, the same question. He responded, “A mom should say things that aren’t good, because a mom is not perfect, and a son needs to know that.”
“So, you think it’s important to admit when we make a mistake?” I asked.
And he nodded. We need to be willing to tell our sons when we make a mistake. As a young mother, I didn’t always do that. I felt like everything I did had to be perfect. And if it wasn’t, maybe my kids wouldn’t turn out as they should. Years later, I got to the place where I admitted to my son that I’ve made mistakes. It was hard to admit, but it really helped our relationship. Not only did he see I was human, but it gave him the right to be human as well. Trying to live perfectly puts undue pressure on our children. They start feeling if something isn’t perfect, it doesn’t count.
Admitting our humanness helps people understand the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt tells us that we made a mistake. But shame lies and tells us we are a mistake. Read Romans 8:1. Jesus died on the cross a cursed death. Because Jesus took our sin, he took the condemnation. God does not condemn us. Satan tries to condemn us, but God never does.
"Will you forgive me?"
When we can admit our mistakes, it gives others the right to also be human. We need to take it a step further and ask for forgiveness if we want our sons to be able to do that. When I come before my family and admit I blew it, asking for forgiveness, I find them very open. But I also know I must give them time to process their feelings. Asking for forgiveness needs to be in their time frame, not mine.
When I’ve asked for forgiveness, I felt loved by the person who forgives me. God’s message is all about forgiveness. What a privilege to be able to help our sons understand forgiveness. Read Ephesians 4:32. God instructs us to forgive one another. When you love someone you forgive them when they hurt you. There’s no better way to teach this than by example.
“I accept you, just as you are”
Years ago, when I attended a group therapy, I met a young man I’ll call John. John shared that he never felt accepted by his mom. He admitted he was a terrible math student. Unfortunately, that caused a problem with his mother who taught math. She ridiculed John because he was an embarrassment to her. John became insecure. Tears rolled down his face as he shared his pain of never feeling accepted.
Religion tells us to clean ourselves up and then go to God, but the Bible teaches that God accepts us just as we are, blemishes and all. Telling our sons that we accept them gives them confidence. They will be more likely to come to us with their struggles, knowing it won’t affect our relationship with them. How can we not accept our sons, when our heavenly Father totally accepts us? A mother has the privilege of being one of the first people in her son’s life to accept him. Acceptance strengthens the bond between them.
In his book, Day by Day by Charles Swindoll, he says this about raising children:
“They’re learning even when you don't think they're watching. And those little guys and gals are plenty smart. They hear tone as well as terms. They read looks as well as books. They figure out motives, even those you think you can hide. They are not fooled, not in the long haul…Time and touch. Listen to your boys and girls, look them in the eye, put your arms around them, hug them close, tell them how valuable they are. Don't hold back. Take the time to do it. Reach. Touch.”Those are wise words indeed.
In Psalm 127:3, it tells us children are a gift from the Lord. When we communicate God’s truth to our sons, we are acknowledging that they are God’s gifts to us. When a son knows he’s loved, has tasted mercy and grace, knows that he matters, is accepted as he is, and understands forgiveness. This is a person who will grow up to understand the God who made him. And that is our goal as mothers. To train our children to know and follow God. It’s the best way we can show God just how much we cherish his gifts.
And it’s the best way to start working on the bond you will have throughout your life with your sons. And some day, they may visit with a little bundle in their arms.
I remember dancing with my son at his wedding. I don’t mind sharing I was quite nervous. At one point, he said, “Mom, loosen your grip.” I smile now as I acknowledge that after being in a dysfunctional home growing up, there may have been times I did have a grip on him. And yet, God helped us each step of our journey. Through the years, God has strengthened the bond I had with my son. I’ll never forget one day he and I had a serious conversation and he said, “Mom, you more than anyone in my life have shown me what commitment looks like.” I thank God for giving me wisdom in raising someone I greatly respect. Someone I am proud to call my son.
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 14 books, including her memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. But Anne’s favorite titles are: mother and grandmother. Sign up for anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.comand receive a free eBook. Or connect on Facebook.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash-Xavier-Mouton