When my daughter was a little girl she idolized me, which secretly made my heart soar. Well, maybe it wasn’t such a secret, but I tried to downplay it for the sake of my husband. He was often devastated when she would stiff-arm him and say “No! Mama!”
When she became a teenager, though, everything changed. Suddenly, I went from being the person she idolized to being someone that she avoided. It seemed I was constantly bothering her. She would tolerate my presence but obviously didn’t want it. Eventually, the sound of my voice became a trigger for the eye-roll, which did nothing for my self-esteem.
My little girl, who once looked up to me and tried to emulate me, was now trying her hardest to be anything but me. I had been demoted from first place and replaced by her friends (along with all 467 of her Insta-followers). This caused me to question everything I said to her. I longed to be close to her and know all that was going on in her life. The rejection hurt. Even more importantly, I didn’t like the influence that other people were having on her. I was watching my sweet little baby girl turn into this person I didn’t know anymore and, quite honestly, wasn’t so sure I liked. She was becoming a stranger to me, but I didn’t know how to get beyond it.
I realized why she was struggling. She had grown up in church and heard all of the “Christianese” her whole life. She knew all the “rules” of being a Christian. She knew we talked about this guy named Jesus pretty regularly but she had not decided if He was for her or against her. She thought she couldn’t live up to what we expected of her, much less what God expected of her. She was beginning to believe, based on what she was seeing in her friends, that maybe there was another way to happiness. Maybe there was a better, easier way. The more she pursued alternative means of peace, the more confused and anxious she became. I felt her slipping away, which terrified me.
I knew something had to change. What I was doing was not working, but God revealed to me what would. What she really needed from me, as her mother, was to see my own need for Jesus.
She needed to see that I am not perfect. I was trying to teach her how to be a woman of God by only showing her the successes in my spiritual life. I was not showing her how I struggled daily with my own sin and selfishness and was still learning to put His will before my own ideas and plans. This had to change. I had to allow her to see the truth.
Science tells us daughters emulate their mothers. Girls learn how to be girls from other girls. So, if we only show them part of ourselves, the “perfect” side of us, aren’t we setting them up for failure? Covering up our own battles sets an unrealistic example for them. The weight of that expectation is too great and they will either rebel against it or simply realize that perfection is unattainable and give up. They become more susceptible to believe the lies that tell them:
“You can’t be perfect like she wants you to be, so why even try?”
“You’ll never make her happy.”
“She’s never going to be proud of you.”
“You are a disappointment to her”.
Tragically they will believe these things because we have not allowed them to really know us. All they know is the image we have presented to them.
When I began to open up to her about my own shortcomings, she was suspicious but my transparency got her attention. She would listen without responding. Eventually, she began to throw things into the conversation that she was thinking and that’s when the real work began. I had to learn not to react, no matter how crazy the comments she made sounded to me! Inside I was screaming What the heck are you talking about? On the outside, though, I stayed calm. In a feat of heroic proportions, I responded with, “Really? That’s interesting.” Sometimes I would ask questions such as, “How does that make you feel?” or, “And you think that way because...?” I constantly prayed for wisdom as we talked and she received very little reaction from me.
When I remembered the importance of providing a safe space for her, I was better able to help her navigate the things that were being thrust upon her on a daily basis. As she recognized my own weaknesses and failures, she began to feel freer when talking to me. I often reminded her that my love for her was unconditional and she finally began to believe it. She recognized I was not judging her but was sincerely offering my love and understanding. Eventually, she allowed me to show her what the Bible said about the things she was struggling with. Because she felt safe with me, she heard me. Jesus used these moments to chip away at her facade and reveal the soft heart He had placed within her.
At last, I had the honor of praying with her when she surrendered her life to Christ. I watched her become a new creation before my very eyes. Witnessing the transformation of my daughter as the heaviness of her struggle lifted and she took on the joyful countenance of God was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.