Well, it isn't quite confession time, but it feels near to it. I was mulling over how we mirror God to our children and then I thought to myself, "And they return the favor by mirroring us back to ourselves as they become pre-teens and teens."
I have a twelve year old son who is amazing. I love him up to the moon. But, I cut my teeth on him as I was learning to parent. I didn't have a lot of positive modeling to draw from in my own childhood experiences and I still had a ton of pain (suppressed) and fears and perfectionism in me when he was born. So, I learned and grew on his dime. It was often good and sometimes not so good and sometimes just yucky. I was impatient with him at times, though it killed me to be that way. I found myself living out the truth spoken by Paul in the New Testament, "The good I want to do, I don't do and the bad I don't want to do, I find myself doing." I would raise my voice, expect too much and give him consequences when he needed compassion. I cared way too much about what others thought of me (and I didn't even know that was true). All that added up to some of the kinks we've had to work through as I have grown and healed as a person. Thank God for grace and for seasons of healing and the restoration and rebuilding we have experienced.
And, to add to that whole ball of wax, I was sometimes disrespectful to my husband. I would belittle his attempts to get our son to listen to him because in his tender-hearted and easy-going approach, I felt our son wasn't going to learn his lessons. I would occasionally say something sarcastic to my husband instead of coming alongside him and in desperate moments I would tell him what I thought he was doing wrong right in front of our son.
I said it wasn't confession time. I guess I was wrong. Anyway, all this to say, that this mirror of ours -- my now twelve year old son -- saw me disrespect my husband when I was irritable or impatient and though that wasn't the overall spirit of our marriage, it sent a message and planted seeds in his heart. Now he is entering his pre-teen years and he is going through the natural stage of questioning what we have taught him. He has to road-test his own thoughts and discern what is his and what doesn't sit right with him. That's his developmental task at this age. He feels free to call out discrepancies between what we have said and how we are living it out. Whew! If you ever wondered if you were a hypocrite, just ask a teen! I'm actually pretty clean when it comes to congruity between my words and actions, but he still gets me on some things here and there and it is eye-opening.
Back to the modeling. I was disrespectful to my husband because I needed so much from him. I had needs the size of the Grand Canyon and I wanted him to fill them all (no pressure!) I needed him to be this amazing dad (and he IS one! He just wasn't doing it my way and that made me nervous). He prefers to engage in relationship and try to win his sons' hearts rather than forcing them into outward compliance immediately. Truly, I've come to appreciate that quality in him so much these days. In the meantime, my oldest son had this modeling of me acting in a less than respectful way to his dad and now while he is experiencing differentiation and normal questioning and self-expression, he can come off with some things that have the eerie echo of my old ways. I just shiver. I thankfully really don't talk that way anymore (woot! woot!) but when my son comes up with this stuff, it is so awful.
But, I believe in redemption and I know God is using each inch of this for all of our good. For one thing, nothing solidifies my resolve to show my husband respect like seeing my son slip into some of my old ways. For another, we are here with our son, coming alongside him to help him see the detriment in what he is doing and to help him learn new ways -- the buck will stop here and this sin won't go on one more generation. My husband is working through stating his need for respect and actually expecting it from our son. This is huge! My husband will tell you himself that I am a loving and caring wife and have grown in showing him respect and handling concerns in positive ways. Oh, thank God!
So, why all this gut-spilling? I just had this hunch that a few of you might have struggled with this same issue. There are proponents of certain marriage theories out there that say men need respect and women need love -- as if women don't need respect and men don't need love. I can't go there with those people, but I can say this. My husband deserves my respect - especially when he is parenting our children. I'm more convinced than ever that I need to stand with him and take concerns to him (with respect) at times when our children are not present. It's one thing to know all this and another to live it out day-to-day in your own home.
How about you? Have you wrestled with issues of respect in your marriage? I would love to hear what God is doing to help you grow. Change doesn't come easily and it usually doesn't come overnight. Please let me know here or on Facebook how I can pray for you in this area.
Photo of Mirror courtesy of VictorianReplicas.com; Photo of Seed by KariPatterson.com