Columnists > Voices

To a young mother

Don't try to change him; look instead to Him

Issue: "No way out," May 13, 2006

Let me guess: Ten years ago, you never expected to be where you are today. If you could have looked down the corridors of time and seen yourself with a thoughtless husband and screaming kids and a mortgage on a house filled with days too much alike-well, you might have croaked in your youthful bloom. But that's not the point. Where you are at age 29 depends mostly on circumstance. Where you are at 39 depends mostly on character.

Think about it: From birth to 18 or thereabouts, you're someone else's problem, namely your parents'. Then you slip the loop and become your own problem. From what I remember, the 20s are when things happen, often too fast: While you're making choices, the choices are also making you. Who is this I married? What am I good at? Who are these little beings that I gave birth to?

By the 30s, you know. All those choices, once so multi-sided, have hit the ground and flattened into their true shape. What now? A few ideas:

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1. Don't waste time trying to change people, especially that man. Your husband. If you haven't wrought a transformation in him by now, it's not happening. I suggest that you not even ask the Lord to change him, because that prayer too often means, "Make him more acceptable to me." Instead ask the Lord to save him, and change you.

2. Allow no root of bitterness to spring up in you. So he's careless, lazy, dismissive and/or demanding? Has he mutated since courtship days, or merely allowed his less-attractive qualities to rise to the top and stay there? It was you who chose him, remember. Was that because you were heedless, hasty, possessive and/or needy? And does that side of you show more often now than your more admirable qualities?

3. Don't weaken him by disparaging words, which spring from disparaging thoughts. He is the head of your house, however well or poorly he performs. You need him; your children need him. "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands [and her own unrestrained tongue] tears it down" (Proverbs 14:1). Don't dismantle your own roof! Part of being a helpmeet is to think as generously of him as you can; to put the best possible interpretation on his words and actions. Think of him better than he deserves, because that is how your heavenly Father thinks of you.

4. Don't identify so completely with your children that you make the same excuses for their behavior as you once did for yours. Sin is crouching at their door (Genesis 4:7); do not fail to warn them.

But what about me? you may be crying out inside. How long can I give and give and give with no return? Who takes care of my needs? Well, that's simple: "My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Are you suppressing an impulse to roll your eyes, thinking this is no time for platitudes?

It's no platitude; it's a promise from Almighty God. He will supply your needs, not (primarily) your wants, and what you need most is sanctification. The letter to the Philippians is such a treasure trove for praise choruses and inspirational greeting cards that we forget it was written in prison, by a man in chains. It's all about rejoicing in spite of circumstances, not because of them. That daily grinding you feel is God's sandpaper. Why are we surprised that it's so hard to sanctify stubborn, cross-grained knobs like us?

A truism, no less true: Character is always forged in adversity. Always. Adversity. As someone who's well beyond 30, I know what I'm talking about. Not that I've arrived: The relationship struggles are mostly over, but old age is coming, I can feel it in my bones. The "evil days" described in Ecclesiastes 12 are yet to come, when I go hand-to-hand with my failing flesh. But I do not fear, having remembered my Creator in the days of my youth, and learned to trust Him.

Oh child, learn to trust Him. That's what He's teaching you. Stop looking back with regret or looking around with discontent. Look ahead to where you'll be in 10 years, and set your course: dry and embittered, or a fruitful vine within your house?

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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