Changing Kids’ Hearts, Love and Spirit. (pt 3 of Focus on Progress Rather Than Destination)

Parents I get it. Letting go of the traditional meaning of discipline and choosing to focus on progress is scary enough.

But….when you add the thought of having only one rule, to Love One Another with hormone crazed adolescents, it takes it to an entirely different level of faith to get there. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Do we believe in the heart changing power of the Holy Spirit? I have found that this is often the turning point for Christian parents. Can we step out in faith and leverage the Spirit’s ability to:

  • Guide
  • Teach
  • Remind
  • Convict

Both us and our kids?

Do we experience the Spirit’s:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Gentleness
  • Kindness

in the reality of our lives and family?

Being Hard On Ourselves Gets In The Way

I have found that experiencing the Spirit’s fruit becomes difficult if we have high standards for ourselves or are hard on ourselves. When this is our reality we tend to convict ourselves and work hard to make changes on the surface but our hearts never seem to come along for the ride. We often achieve a higher level of performance than those around us, but over time this becomes frustrating, exhausting and even disillusioning. Why don’t I sense God’s love? Why isn’t he blessing me? It feels like God is not close to us in spite of our efforts. This subtly alters the way we view God, ourselves, and those around us.

I know because I have been hard on myself since I was a kid. I also found how dangerous this path can be to our ability to experience God’s love, compassion and grace. When we have a hard time understanding, allowing and or experiencing God’s love compassion and grace, we may try even harder which locks us into a subtle but ensnaring performance mindset that invades our relationships, especially the relationship with our kids.

If this is ringing true or the Spirit is pressing on your heart related to this topic, you need to ask yourself, why am I this way and how does this change in me? Go back and reread parts one and two of this series. This time apply it to yourself rather than your kids. Ask yourself:

  • Do I look at the destination I desire for myself and strive for it?
  • Do I look to the Spirit for the next step and celebrate my incremental progress?
  • Do I have a long list of expectations for myself or believe God has a long list for me?
  • Do I believe Jesus’ only command for His disciples was to love one another?
  • Do I experience God’s love, grace and the fact that I am forgiven for my past, present and future sins?
  • Do I sense God’s love regularly and find joy and peace in the midst of issues?

As you reread these blog posts do it with the intent of searching your own heart.

This will not be easy if we truly examine our hearts. Why? Because often our performance is what we cling to to validate ourselves and help us believe we are doing well. We want to avoid the deeper issues and pain that lurk hidden by denial that we all can fall prey to in our lives. I am not an exception. There have been three times when God brought me to the point of needing to face my own denial. They all have been profound in their own way and one occurred quite recently. Our subtle performance and I am doing alright mindset can keep us from digging more deeply into our hearts where the pain we tend to avoid resides.

Digging Into My Heart Has Been The Most Singularly Freeing Experience Of My Life

Recently, I found a deep source of pain that I had avoided and stuffed for many years. While it seemed like I had it together, God brought me to a point where I had to turn and face this reality. I had to come to grips with the damage it caused in relationships which moved me to seek healing. It was incredibly painful but it resulted in several episodes of deep crying and calling out to the Lord to forgive me, change me and heal me. It has been the most singularly freeing experience of my life.

I have not felt this good, hopeful or free since I was a child. I discovered that the way these stuffed wounds flowed into my life made it difficult to experience the love and peace God provides through his Spirit. It was why I worked so hard to feel close to God. If you would like to discuss digging deeply, please contact me through our site with this link.

When we struggle to dig deeply into our own lives, we focus on the surface to validate ourselves which causes us to focus on those around us, especially our kids. This makes it appear impossible to target the deeper issues in our kids’ lives because we have not experienced the power of inside out change ourselves. If we have not seen God’s love and grace along with the Spirit’s circumcision of our hearts lead to a sense of security, freedom and some lasting change, it is far more difficult to believe the Spirit will lead, guide and transform our kids.

Jesus’ unconditional love of mankind and focus on modeling this love to the disciples changed their lives. Crowds of 5,000 chased Jesus around the lake because they sensed His genuine love and lack of condemnation for their weaknesses and failings. Yet the disciples were still vulnerable as seen when they deserted Jesus when he was arrested. This is why Jesus said to the disciples, it is better if I go and promised the Spirit to replace Him in their lives.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” — John 14:16-18

As Jesus prepared to leave the disciples, He pointed them to the Spirit who would be in and with them to guide, convict, remind, empower and sanctify them.

Love And The Spirit Work Together To Empower Change

Love and the Sprint are intertwined in the New Testament. Jesus offered an amazing unconditional love to the crowds and His disciples that grabbed their hearts and moved them to follow him and want to change. Jesus modeled this amazing sacrificial love to the disciples for three years, teaching them to love the unlovable. Yet, they still lacked in themselves the love needed to lay down their lives, which is why they scattered and deserted Jesus when He was arrested. Of course Jesus knew this would be the case. This is why in His last teaching time with the disciples He taught them about love and the Spirit.

At that time Jesus gave His disciples the singular command to love one another. True love would be demonstrated by the one who would lay down his life for a friend. Then he went on to talk about the roles the Spirit would play in their lives. Later he would tell them to wait until the Spirit came. Jesus knew that the Spirit would pour love into their hearts (Romans 5:5). He knew the disciples needed this inexplicable love from he Spirit to follow through on the love He had modeled and taught them. Such love would enable them to lay down their lives for broken, sinful people as He had done for them and a multitude of others.

Unconditional Love Creates A Safe Place That Opens Hearts

The unconditional love of Jesus is needed in our homes. My research found that a vast majority of kids feared being open and honest with heir parents about their feelings, failings and unresolved issues with their parents. These created an emotional wall between kids and their parents that parents often did not perceive or understand.

Unconditional love creates an environment in our homes and relationships that deepens the relationships and opens hearts. It creates a safe place for our family members that removes fear and the need to self protect or be defensive. When our kids no longer fear our reaction, our disappointment and our ability to inflict consequences because God forgives all past present and future sin, they are so much more open with their parents and themselves.

When we are unconditionally loved, we feel secure in the relationship and are more able to face our own issues and the pain within that contributes to those issues. When we are fearful of responses and pain due to our family culture, it is far more difficult to deal with hard things and reflect upon our weaknesses which is what leads us to stuff our issues and hurts and thus become more likely to slip into denial.

When we are in relationships that add to our internal feelings that we are a failure, not good enough or being judged, we will naturally become resistant to things that make us feel or look bad. We will self protect and become defensive which parents often perceive as lying, manipulation or lack of respect.

The only way to counteract this is to follow Jesus’ model and one rule, that of love. Following His command to love one another breaks down the walls between parents and kids and opens the family to reflect, grow and heal.

The Spirit Thrives In The Environment Of Safety

Unconditional love provides an environment of safety that opens people’s hearts and allows them to relax and stop self protecting. I believe one of the reasons God grants us forgiveness for past, present and future sins, is so that we do not fear His response to our wayward ways. He wants us to feel safe and secure in his love and forgiveness. In this place we can be more positive towards our weaknesses which makes us emotionally stronger and able to face things as the Spirit sends them our way. Our failures no longer take us down, but offer an opportunity for the Spirit to work in our hearts and lives. By contrast when we are hard on ourselves, we resort to convicting ourselves often much more strictly than the Spirit would. He knows sanctification is a lifelong process.

When we are in a negative mindset, it can extend to our families. It creates a negative family culture where eventually everyone ends up seeking to convict one another. Emotional connections fade, hurt grows and gradually our hearts shut down as we seek to avoid the difficult emotions of negativity, self doubt and pain. This dulls our ability to experience the Spirit’s guidance, conviction and peace as the Spirit resides in our hearts.

As parents it is easy to slip into the mindset that we need to point out our kids’ weaknesses and failures often unwittingly convicting them. But is this our place and our role? I cannot find a passage in the Bible that says we are to convict our brother or sister of their sins. Instead I find that our role is “to encourage one another on to love and good deeds.”

Conviction is the Spirit’s job in our and our kids’ lives. Jesus taught His disciples that the Spirit would “convict the world of sin and righteousness.” We can rest as parents in this promise. The Spirit can and will convict our kids when we will allow Him to take on that role in our home, but it will be in His timing not ours. This is why faith and prayer are essential to becoming an Influential Parent in our kids’ lives.

Leveraging The Spirit In An Environment Of Love

In the last blog we addressed handling issues through love and loving one another. The Implementation Process for Influential Parenting is designed to help us reconnect with our kids at a heart level. Part of this is bringing about understanding of our kids’ perspective and frustration. Understanding leads to compassion. When compassion is restored in a home, love returns and becomes the basis upon which our influence in our kids’ lives grows.

The Spirit is essential to keep our homes a loving, patient catalyst for change in all of our lives. As parents we must lean into the Spirit and find peace and love in our hearts which is clearly a role He plays in our lives. Prayer and letting go of our past so that it does not define our present and future brings freedom and peace within. When we rest in God’s gradual sanctification process for us, it helps us relax with our kids and trust the Spirit rather than ourselves to work in our their lives.

What does this look like? Much like with love the Spirit enables us to step back and take an exploratory approach to issues in our kids’ lives. I will never forget the day my son refused to take a test at school and then again refused to take the test with his resource teacher or the day that my daughter was caught cheating on a test at school, or the day my other son was caught lying to me. In each of these cases handling issues through love and leveraging the Spirit brought about understanding, realizations and change that did not put distance between us but brought us closer together.

Let’s consider combining the principles from the practical example in the last blog with leveraging the Spirit by adding an additional question or two when addressing an issue in our kids’ lives.

Example: one of your kids was caught lying and you work your way through the issue using the love approach. You can tell it is not getting through. It’s time to switch gears and see how the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin and righteousness can help. Here is how that can work with our kids.

Practical Example

Sara I love you so much. You now that don’t you?

Yeah.

Can I ask you a question?

Okay.

When you try to cover things up, make things up or lie, how do you feel inside?

What do you mean?

Do you feel good about yourself and positive inside or is there some other feeling?

Um, I don’t know.

Well let’s stop and reflect. I know when I make a mistake and try to cover it up I have this uncomfortable feeling inside and if I do not respond to it, I end up feeling worse about myself.

How do you feel inside about this situation?

Bad?

What do you mean?

I don’t know. It does not feel good.

Do you feel guilty?

Yeah!

Do you know where that comes from?

I don’t know.

It is the Spirit’s conviction of right and wrong. He resides in our hearts and his still quiet voice is nagging at your heart about this situation.

Do you know how to deal with your guilt? Do you know how to get rid of the feeling and start feeling positive about yourself again?

No.

It’s simply admitting your failure to God and asking him to change your heart so that you do not make the same mistake again. It’s also and knowing that He has forgiven you. We can do that through a short little prayer.

Would you like to pray that prayer?

Sure.

Then model a prayer of confession from your own life and help them pray a prayer that says God I need your help in this area of my life and I want to change. Please change my heart and help me become the person you created me to be. I am grateful for your forgiveness and ask you to help me in this area of my life.

Then watch your kid’s countenance change.

Sometimes after a failure like cheating on a test, you can simply start by asking how do you feel about that and if they are feeling safe and loved. They will probably answer like my daughter did, horrible! You are then off to talking about the Spirit, guilt and the freedom of confession which frees us and changes our hearts and lives.

I will never forget the mom at Seattle Christian High School who said this will never work with my daughter. After they did the implementation process their daughter was caught in a lie and she asked her a series of three questions.

  • How do you feel when you lie?
  • Do you feel better or worse about yourself?
  • How are you feeling about yourself?

Her daughter broke down in tears and opened up and they had an amazing conversation about how she was doing and why she was lying to make herself look better.

We do not need to be the change agent in our kids’ lives. God provided the Spirit to convict, guide and change their hearts. We simply need to let go of the belief that we can control and change our kids. We need to adopt the one command of Jesus, to love, and put it into action in our homes. Jesus’ love was amazing and life changing. Remember how He risked His life by stepping in between a group of men with stones and the adulterous woman. They had the law on their sides but Jesus protected her from the consequence of her sin and the law. He made her feel loved, protected and safe, maybe for the first time in her life. Her life changed.

Jesus also knew that this love would be hard for imperfect humans so He sent the Spirit to pour love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). He had the power to give us peace and patience from God and would lead, convict and circumcise our hearts (Romans 3:3-5). We do not need to change ourselves or our kids but we do need to turn and face the pain of circumcision. Circumcision is a very painful procedure and that is why it is done to infants who will not remember.

As parents sometimes we need to turn and look within and allow God to circumcise our hearts so we can find a place of rest and peace in His gradual life long process of change. This helps us believe that Love and the Spirit will work in our kids’ lives. Armed with this we can stop focusing on the destination and trying to change them. Instead we can enjoy the journey of seeing our kids gradually grow, change, fail and respond as the Spirit convicts, guides and changes their hearts. We can focus on the progress and celebrate it with them, encouraging them on to love and good deeds, because the Spirit is convicting them and we are not. We can step back and enjoy the relationship. We can come alongside our kids as they go through the ups and downs of growing up in a crazy, sinful world.

It is my hope that the amazing truth of God’s word will help you embrace Influential Parenting and the implementation process. It does not take that long to reconnect with our kids and see their hearts open to us if we will pray and seek to become the Good Shepherd in their lives. They love us, need us and want to please us. Dive into the deep waters of God’s love and the power of the Spirit to bring change to yourself, your family and your kids.

If you have any questions, please use the contact form on our site and I will be happy to answer them. If you have not already signed up for our free Influential Parenting Academy, sign up now.

Blessings on the journey,

Jeff

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