I’ve had quite a few opportunities to sneak some writing this week. Longer than usual nights… longer than usual naps. I guess that’s a lose-win. But I’ll take it.
The following is a little piece I wrote for my MOPs newsletter. I took the plunge today and lead a discussion group at MOPs and I can’t wait to see the change God enacts in the hearts of these ladies over the year.
However, I want you to know that being in charge of anything sort of overwhelms me in a number of ways. Did I do enough? Was I too much? Did I hurt someone’s feelings when I teased them about separating them? Did we do the important work of digging into relationships?
I just know this is a position that God has called me to during this season. So I’ll just hang on to his hand and see where he leads. And maybe just take my own advice….
I needed to wring the sweat out of my shirt when I walked back to the car. If you’d seen me, you’d have thought I had just finished a marathon. Yet all I had done was ask an acquaintance at my table to go to the zoo with me. She’d volunteered to take anyone who wanted to go on her free pass nearly a month before. A month I spent working up the courage to ask her on a “mom date” to the zoo. I agonized through the next 4 days before our date about what it would be like. Would she question or judge my parenting decisions? Would she like me? Would she ever talk to me again?
Nearly two years later I can look back and laugh at myself. That woman is now counted among my closest friends. Yet those feelings of fear still plague me daily in all of my relationships. Will my husband, my kids, my friends, my parents, or whoever still like me after I share my heart? I feel relationally-paralyzed by fear of inadequacy. I have a feeling this fear isn’t unique to me.
In my journey to overcome this fear, I stumble on this truth. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whomever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) I inhale sharply. Am I afraid of relationships because I have an identity crisis? Who am I after all? Perhaps I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe I should ask: Whose am I?
I am the beloved daughter of the most high King. And if I am loved by the One who took the punishment that I deserved for my inadequacy, then what can I fear?
As we plunge into the next year at MOPS, let’s all do a few things to help each other overcome our fear-based relational paralysis.
1. Let us remind each other (and ourselves) who we are in Christ. We are loved beyond reason no matter what we do or don’t do. Preach that truth to everyone who expresses anxiety, or hurt, or pain, or fear, or doubt. Christ’s perfect love is the only thing that can keep us diving into the uncharted places with confident hope.
2. Let your words be a safe harbor rather than a rocky shore. Seek to understand more than you seek to share your views. Early mothering is filled with strong opinions about what is “right”: co-sleeping vs. cry-it-out, breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, physical discipline vs. time-out… the list just goes on and on! It’s okay to have an opinion, but it’s not okay to preach your opinion as if it’s the only right way. This type of conversation breeds guilt or a feeling of failure in the listener. Ask questions to understand, use your words to build up, and share your strong opinions gently.
3. Let love cover a multitude of sins. So often we hurt each other unintentionally with a careless word. That hurt festers into a bitterness that can tear down the relationship (I think most marriages fail from this in a snowball effect). Assume that your friend didn’t mean to hurt you, but go one step further and share your hurt with your friend. Being free to say “When you said… I felt hurt because….” brings a relationship to a whole new level. Acknowledging our grievances with our friends frees us from the chains of bitterness and shows our friends that we value the relationship enough to share our deepest places of hurt.
Plunging into the uncharted waters of relationships isn’t easy to do without fear, but if we anchor ourselves on our identity in Christ and love deeply the risk is far less than the rewards.