But it didn’t take long, maybe 30 minutes from birth after the initial oohing and ahhing, when I realized parenting was going to be an adventure, both the best and hardest I could ever face. I have learned so much about myself, my sin tendencies, my children’s own struggles with sin; and most importantly, I have learned so much about God. Here are just four things God has taught me about Himself through being a mother to my precious girls.
Parenting has given me a better understanding of God's love for me
As soon as the doctor introduced me to each of my babies, I felt this overwhelming love for her. It’s a love that compares to nothing else I have ever felt. Immediately, I knew I would give up my life for them. As they were growing up, that love just grew, too. Whenever they got hurt, I wanted to ease their pain and comfort them. I prepared the best food, provided them the most comfortable home, protected them from harm, as much as I could.
As they started to show the selfish “me” attitude and anger towards me because I said no to something they wanted so badly, I may have gotten frustrated or angry, but I still loved them. In fact, even in my imperfect, flawed way, I cannot think of any reason how I could ever stop loving them.
This intense love that I have for them is just a glimpse of God’s love for His children. Unlike mine, His love for me never fails and is perfect. No matter how much I sin against Him, He is always ready to forgive. How often have I offended Him, yet He still sees Christ’s righteousness in me, so He will never stop loving me. Because I’ve learned what it’s like to love my children unconditionally, I have a better understanding how much God perfectly loves me.
1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
Parenting has taught me how much Jesus' death has cost God
Because I cherish my kids more than any other in this world and love them more than my own life, it would be impossible for me to ever give any of them up for any reason. I think one of the most selfless acts any mother could ever do is to give up for adoption the child she can’t provide for. When my kids were babies, I would check on them when they were napping, first to make sure they’re ok, but really because I missed them already. I’m going to be a mess this fall when our oldest will move to California for college. I don’t even want to think about what it will be like not having her home all the time. It’s just a natural thing to feel as a parent, to want to be with your children and to keep them safe.
Now, imagine what God the Father did. He did not give up a child for someone else to cherish, like the mom who gives up her child for adoption. God gave up His Son Jesus, not to be loved and cared for, but to be killed. Jesus became human and died a horrifying death. But even more, it was God the Father who put Him there. It was my sin that made His death necessary, but it was God who “laid my sins on Him.”
Isaiah 53:4-6 says, Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I cannot imagine what intense pain the Father felt when He gave up His beloved Son to be humiliated, to suffer, to be rejected and scorned, and for what? For undeserving people like us so that we could be reconciled to God in Christ’s perfect righteousness. Our sin has separated us from God and He wants us to be reconciled to Him. But reconciliation will never happen as long as we are tainted by sin. This is where Jesus comes in. God values holiness so much that He gave up His Son to make it possible for sinful people to be holy, but only through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
Parenting has made me realize how much my identity in God matters
Before we had kids, my husband and I observed many young parents and how their kids behaved. We decided from the beginning that there were certain things that we would work hard on. One of these was observing table manners. We trained our girls to treat meal times as meal times, not play times. We made them eat their food with little mess, even if it meant I would help direct their little hands from the plate to their mouths until they were able to do it on their own. Dinners are not the time for exploration, but nourishment.
Over the years, our family rules have grown in number. Often, our kids just did them because it’s the way it’s been done for years. Sometimes, though, they would complain, "Why so and so family doesn’t have to do that, but we do?" And our answer is always the same, “We are the Brackett family and we follow the Brackett family rules.”
In the same way, if you are a follower of Christ, there are certain things that you just do because you belong to Him. Sometimes we look at the world and reason to ourselves, "Why can’t I do that, too?" The answer is the same - because God’s family pursues the will of the Father. We may not agree, but our job is to obey. But whether we obey or not, our family status does not change. My kids could decide to make a mess at the table, but they still are my kids. No amount of rebellion could change their identity as a Brackett. They will always be part of our family, no matter what.
The sense of belonging doesn’t apply only to rules, but also to benefits. As a member of our family, our kids also get to reap the wonderful things that come with being a Brackett. Hundreds of people from all over the world love, care and pray for our kids because they’re Bracketts. They get to travel to different countries with mom and dad. They get to live in Croatia with us and grow up bilingual.
In the same way, there are countless blessings that only Christians could enjoy. The world may seem like they’re having fun, but only believers could truly enjoy lasting joy, unwavering hope and lingering peace, despite the troubles of the world. We get to enjoy these benefits simply because we belong to God.
Another way our identity in Christ matters is the fact that it is the most important thing about us and the only thing that will last for eternity. We are called to do different things, have various identities in our marital status, our jobs, and our roles in the community. When you look at everyone’s profile description on social media, you see many titles that reflect who they are. On my craft instagram account, I describe myself as a Christ-follower, paper crafter, amateur watercolorist, handlettering novice, reader, wife and mother. Those are all true, but the one thing I need to emphasize more than any calling is that I am in Christ.
When we face challenges as a young mom, or as an overworked teacher, or as a neglected friend, we need to remind ourselves that we are a child of God, our identity is in Christ, even if we feel like a failure. And failure you will certainly feel as a mom. I’m speaking from experience. I cannot tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had because I’d felt like I was a horrible mom, wife, friend, daughter. I behaved badly, reacted in sin or spoke harsh words to people I love the most. There were times when I felt like what I had done would have irreversible damage to my relationships with them.
That feeling of failure could overwhelm me, make me depressed, make me give up. But Christ is not finished with me yet. He is the perfecter of my faith. If I focus on myself, I will find only failure because I am still a sinner. But if my focus is in Christ, I will find His righteousness in me. Of course, I will strive to be better in all that I am called to do. I will work hard to improve my attitude, overcome my sins, reach out to those I’ve hurt. But I know I will mess up again. However, I cannot let failure be my main identity. I am in the process of Christlikeness, and it is only through Christ that I can do anything good, so I need to cling to that truth, not my failures.
In the same way, if things are going well in our jobs, or our kids behave like perfect little angels, or the community looks up to us, we have to remember that even in our success, our identity in Christ is still the most important thing about us. Good or bad, we are in Christ. We cannot let failures or success muddle our minds. Don’t let failure or success change our focus from Christ to self. Christ is the King of our life. Don’t let circumstance dethrone Him. No adoring husband, behaving kids, successful career, community respect could make God love us more. Therefore, we can be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. We are complete in Christ, with or without a successful job, a good marriage, a wonderful family. For this reason, we can always rejoice in hope that we are in Christ.
1 John 1:3-2 says See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
1 Peter 2:9-10 says But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Colossians 3:1-2 says, If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Parenting has taught me how much obedience to God and trusting Him make the most sense in every circumstance
As I mentioned above, over the years, my husband and I have set rules that are important to our family. These are not random rules we just made up. There is a reason behind each rule. We emphasized table manners because we knew we would be in other people’s homes often as missionaries and did not want to have to struggle with our kids each meal time. We wanted our visits with our supporters to be pleasant and not a stressful mess.
Our kids also suffered from allergies, especially as babies, so I limited their sugar and juice intake from the beginning. I remember the first time our oldest realized other kids were allowed to eat more than one cookie and it was the biggest shock of her life. She didn’t understand how they were allowed but she wasn’t.
As teenagers, our girls are not allowed to do many things their friends do all the time. We teach them to have discernment in what kinds of things they put in their minds, with what they watch, what they read, what they spend their time on. In each of these rules, our girls didn’t always understand, nor agree, with us. There have been many times when we have had to deal with rebellion, disobedience and defiance from them. Those are difficult times, but as parents we need to stay consistent. They questioned our decisions. They fought us over them.
Even when we explained why we have those rules, they didn’t care because they wanted to do what they weren’t allowed to do. Their desire for that one thing is more important than obeying mom and dad. It didn’t matter to them that we have their best in mind. And when they choose to disobey, it is hard for us as parents to watch them get hurt, fail, and suffer the consequences of their sins. Our rules are there to protect them from danger, illness, and other things they are not quite ready yet to face. Our rules are there to teach them discernment so they can decide wisely someday when we will no longer be around. But they don’t always see that our reasons are reasonable enough.
In the same way, God has certain parameters we need to abide by as His children. Sometimes, we don’t understand why, and we fight Him; we question. But we know that He is a good God and will do what is best for us. We may not always understand His rules, but we can be sure that it is for our good. He is far wiser than we are.
We see only a small portion of what’s going on, but He knows the big picture. He knows what will happen. He is perfectly wise, good and in control. But often, we are like the 2-year-old who resists his mom when she insists on holding his hand as they cross the street. We rebel and want to do what we want to do, even though it is not good for us. So parenting has taught me how important trusting and obeying God is. I cannot always foresee the future, or the bad things lurking in the corner, or even how my own sins will hurt me. I have to trust in God who does and knows and wants the best for me. Rest in Him. Hope in His promises. He will never fail us.
Psalm 22:4-6 says, In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Psalm 84:11 says, For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Let me close by asking you a question. Where do you stand before God? All these benefits of being a child of God does not apply to everyone. Remember God is a holy God and unless you have been made holy through Christ, you cannot belong to Him. Your good works, your sacraments, your penance will not make you a child of God because none of those will make you holy enough to come before a holy God. Only Christ’s perfect righteousness can make you holy.
These good things I’ve listed above come only to those who belong to Him, to those who have trusted in Him as their Savior, to those who have repented of their sins and come to the cross for the forgiveness of their sins, once and for all. My prayer is that you will put your trust in Christ as the one who alone can save you. I hope you will understand and enjoy fully the tremendous blessings of being a child of God. Life with Christ is not always easy; in fact, God promised it will be hard on this earth, but it will be worth it. The benefits will outweigh the hardships because we have Christ who is all sufficient for us, here and in the life to come.