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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Gift of Grace and Gentleness

I'm participating in Courtney's Gentleness Challenge, which started last week.  We're now into week two and I'm re-posting excerpts from an article I did when we were studying Sally Clarkson's "The Ministry of Motherhood" last summer.

I have had to dig deep to figure out why its not easy for me to hold my tongue, be patient and extend grace. When I was doing this book study I was brought so low by the reality of how "ungentle" I really can be in my motherhood. I wrote this piece after such reflection and I can honestly say I could use the refresher course right now! When life gets so busy and we slip back into our old skins, its such a help to have the inspiration and accountability that people like Courtney give...thank you Courtney!

I am a product of my upbringing. As Sally points out in this poignant and thought-provoking video, some of us have 'harsh' upbringings. I am one of those. My own parents were the product of their upbringing and an even harsher style of parenting.

 I remember constantly feeling that I couldn't do anything to please my father. He was always uptight, always quarreling about something. I thought he was an ogre and that he must have hated me to pick on me so much. As Sally said, no allowances were made for us being clumsy (we were punished if we broke something by accident), tired or little. Bottom line, I grew up feeling unloved and unlovable, unaccepted and as a teenager, unworthy of trust, stifled and resentful.

Years later I discovered that he had suffered with bad nerves all his life, having had a nervous breakdown as a young man. He did not trust easily, having been betrayed in his early life. He had also cut God from his life, even though he was raised in a Catholic home and his mother was devoted to the faith.  I guess He was angry at God for the things that had happened to him in his younger life. He didn't stop my mother or us children from going to church, though he didn't want us to become involved in anything there.

I discovered that my father wasn't a bad man. Just a man who had never learned to lean on God in his brokenness. It wasn't me he didn't trust, it was the world outside that had taught him it was an evil place. His over-protectiveness was actually born of love and not because he didn't care about my happiness. When I learned all this it became easier to forgive him for his harshness, I could understand his reactions and behavior better and forgiveness came.

Unfortunately,  I learned it as a grown woman and I had already taken into my marriage and parenthood the scars and patterns of behavior that I had been raised on. It wasn't easy to show love and affection to my children, to give them patience. I found that my own nerves became frazzled easily as I seemed to have inherited his nervous condition. I found myself drifting into 'becoming my father'. Reacting with intolerance, impatience, anger. Raising my voice, threatening, dishing out corporal punishment at times.

It took years for God to temper me and His work is not yet done. I still have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do on myself to become the person God intended me to be. Extending grace to others, especially to my children does not come naturally. I can only do it through the Grace He extends to me.

I am happy to say that my father found love and life in Christ before he died. We got a glimpse of what he would have been like with his new heart and mind, but it came at the end of his life. He succumbed to cancer shortly after his transformation and we were left with only the bittersweet joy of knowing that he would one day reach Heaven. Thanks to the Grace of God, years of prayers were answered, not in our time but in His.. perfect as always.

One of the biblical passages that we studied  is 1 Peter 4:8 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins"  This is such a beautiful verse and one that speaks truth to me. I can attest to how loving truly as God desires us to love brings forgiveness and healing.

We cannot love truly and deeply unless we are taught to do so by our relationship with God. The beauty in loving this way is that God somehow expands your capacity to love as you open yourself to Him. As you extend the grace of forgiveness to those who trespass against you, He extends Grace to your own heart, building new heights for you to climb.

I thank God for His Grace, a grace that is merciful to me, a sinner. I thank God that  He gives me strength and grace to forgive as well. I pray that I can give my own children this precious gift.

 I pray that I can continue to work on myself and to let God's light shine on all  my dark areas, shadows of my own upbringing, the things that come naturally to me, so that I can be the mother he calls me to be.

I also pray that my children's love for me and mine for them will be so deep that it will cover over my multitude of sins towards them as I have journeyed in this, my own ministry of motherhood and that I can rise to this Gentleness Challenge.

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