Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 16: Saying I'm Sorry ... Sharing the Load

Welcome  to Day 16 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him. 
Today’s Parenting Pointer

Saying “I’m Sorry”

I’m not sure if it was her generation or if it was a personal thing or just the fact that she grew up with her own world of hurt, but my mother was not really good at saying, “I’m sorry.”  The first memory I have of any real attempt at an apology was well into my adulthood when she said, “I’m sorry for all the things I did that hurt you growing up.”  It was a teaspoon of water on a raging fire, but you know what, I’ll take it.  She was sorry and under that apology I could feel the depth of hurt she must still carry in order to be unable to say something more concrete. 

I do love my mother, so I am sharing this downfall only to let you know the history of apology skills in my family.  This is pioneer territory for me as a mom.  I’m not building on years of generational modeling.  I’m striking new soil here. 

Somehow God is the Great Gap-Filler.  Before I had children, I was given a gift of hanging around people who regularly talked about looking at our own side of the street and taking responsibility when we mess up and hurt others.  It was through this culture of self-reflection that I was rewired to be more appropriately apologetic and to even make amends when it was possible.  I thank God for that foundation because as a mom I’ve had plenty of opportunities to say, “I’m sorry.”  Daily. 

Like you, my kids can push my buttons and sometimes I snap like a dry twig in fall and get edgy with them instead of responding in my calm and loving tone.  I can see the hurt on their face right away.  I wish there were a vacuum to suck up mistakes and rewind time just to the point where I hurt the sweet child I love.  Instead, I have to do what is hard.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.” 

Sometimes I am preoccupied with all it takes to run a home, a part-time job, be a somewhat decent wife and friend and home educate.  My son will want to share something and I realize I’m not giving him the attention he deserves because my mind is elsewhere.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.” 

I can find things undone which I asked one of my sons to do and make an assumption about how they didn’t listen.  In my hurry I say something a little blaming only to find out I am completely off base.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.” 

Then there are the times one of them hooks me into a power struggle.  We grapple over an issue even though I know better.  When we enter these kinds of tug-of-wars, no one wins.  I have to say, “I’m sorry.”

What I’ve learned over the years of practicing I’m sorry is that it helps to say what I am sorry about.  “I’m sorry I didn’t do a good job listening to you right then.  I’m really overwhelmed with a to-do list right now, but what you are saying really matters to me.  Could we talk about it in ten minutes when I can sit and give you my full attention?”  Then it helps to listen while they tell me how I hurt them.  “Do you want to tell me how that hurt you?”  Oh yeah.  They often do.  “Mommy, that hurt my feelings when you didn’t listen to me because I was saying something important.”  Ouch.  No wonder my mom wasn’t into this.  But then I can say, “I know.  I am sure that did hurt.  It probably felt like I was saying YOU weren’t important and it isn’t that at all.  You are so important to me.  I just have too much on my mind, but that’s about me, so let me get finished so I can show you just how important you really are to me.”  Finally I can hug them if they need it or offer, “Is there something I can do to make it up to you?”  Usually they say, “No,” or sometimes they say, “Yes, you can listen to me when I talk.”  Such goodness. 

I’m teaching my kids skills – skills I never had as a child.  I’m teaching them to apologize specifically and take ownership when they hurt others.  I’m teaching them to listen to how they hurt others.  I’m teaching them to offer restitution or some comfort. 
What I’m not doing is teaching them to ask for forgiveness.  You may notice that.  I think forgiveness is a gift we receive.  When I have already harmed someone, I don’t need to ask them for a gift, I need to give them a gift – the gift of my truly repentant heart, the gift of my listening ear and the gift of my willingness to make it up to them if I am able.  When my boys apologize to me, I do offer them forgiveness and it is through that example that I teach forgiveness. 

We don’t do perfect over here.  We mess up.  We say “I’m sorry” and we reconnect.  I am so grateful I had support to learn a new way and that our family is living out the healthier way of saying the hard and wonderful words:

“I’m sorry.”   

Be Refreshed

Sharing the Load

God invites us to cast our cares on Him and to take His easy yoke.  He is the strong tower where we can run when we are hurting or fearful.  God knows we will need His shoulder to lean on.  Throughout the years I have heard Christians say, “God never gives you more than you can handle,” as if they were quoting a line from the book of Romans.  I have found the opposite to be true.  God often gives us way more than we can handle.  He allows life to overwhelm us to the point that we have to reach upward to Him and outward to others.  He intends us to depend upon Him and often allows circumstances to remind us of our need for His help and our need for others around us.  In the letter to the Galatians He says:

Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

He gives us one another.  He says we belong to one another and He calls us to love one another.  How do we love?  One way is bearing one another’s burdens. 

This goes two ways.  When you look around at people you know, can you see their burdens?  Invisible, yet heavy, some are weighed down with anxiety, a full-plate, conflict in their marriage, self-hatred or a spirit of jealousy and competition.  Can you come alongside these sisters of yours and shoulder their cares with Jesus? 

Beyond that, and sometimes this is the harder thing to do, we need to invite others into our burdens.  How can they share the load if we never reveal our need?  I’m one of those “get-er-done” girls who likes to keep all ten of my plates spinning on my own {thank you very much}.  I got that way honestly.  I was praised for achievement while failure wasn’t welcomed.  I learned that helping others was a good thing to do and I found that when I was needed I didn’t have to be too vulnerable.  Thankfully, God has reached into that brokenness and allowed me to show my weakness and to learn to help others from an entirely different motive.  In the meantime He’s been walking me into learning to receive. 

When we let others carry our load with us, we are giving them something beautiful.  It is blessed to give.  I am way less than perfect, but for years I didn’t want to let that be known.  I did everything in my power to make others think I had it packed up and wrapped with a bow.  Portraying perfection keeps people at arm’s length.  Intimacy is strengthened when we show our weaknesses and needs to others.  The more I have shared the real ups and downs of my life with others, the more they have been drawn to me.  God has blessed my open weakness with His strength and the gift of people who care. 

Can you think of a few people who are near to you whom you could call this week and take the risk of asking them to share the load you carry?  Can you share something that is on your heart?  Can you ask them to do you a favor? 

This is the law of Christ: that we bear one another’s burdens in love.  Carry them for others, but allow them to do the same in return. 

I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery.  If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here.  Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher.  And, as always, I do love hearing from you.  Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you.

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