By Blythe Daniel and Dr. Helen McIntosh, Crosswalk.com
Old photos tell a story, don't they? When you look at old pictures of your mother and you when you were younger, several thoughts can surface, such as "I want to be like my mom" (though you probably have some exceptions). Or maybe it's "I don't want to have anything to do with my mom." Two very different sentiments you may have expressed to a spouse, sibling, or child or said under your breath.
It's expected that at several points in life (and maybe a lot more frequently), a person looks back at how they grew up, their experience with their mom, and how a mother's love affects her children. Whether you grew up in a loving home or a home where you never heard that you were loved, you probably have said on some level, "I want my child to experience love differently than I did from my mother."
In my (Helen) experience as a counselor, children living under unconditional love and regard by their mother have a distinct advantage, psychologically. They are more likely to have fewer personal conflicts, worries, and anxieties. There is a deep assurance of well-being. These children will more quickly grasp the love of God as well.
Libraries are full of books telling stories through the ages about the relationship between mothers and their children. These stories are told in counseling offices everywhere, at retreats, in private settings, and in public spaces. As friends start to become closer, one of the main topics of conversation is someone's relationship with their family members. Your mother may be the most visited topic! The categories seem to be "Very Loved by Mom," "Sort of Loved," "Not Loved," and "I Hurt."
Every child is affected by their mom. Too much of mom's ways and influences on a continuum to not enough of your mom affects us. Our relationship with our mom affects our decisions, mental health, way of relating to others, sense of security, hopes and dreams, and even our perception of God.
One of the most painful issues I've noted over the years seems to be unfinished issues with a mother. Either the mother was deceased, and there were unresolved conflicts that can never be resolved now that the mother is gone, or the emotional distance is seemingly so significant that both mother and child don't know where to start. We addressed both of these scenarios in our book Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters because those two issues continue to surface. Our relationship with our mom is so very important and related to our mental and emotional health. We pass along to our children the good or bad patterns that were a part of our history.
That certainly includes mom's sayings, recipes (the kind in the kitchen and the ones for disaster), and advice. For the lucky ones, they will pass along the ways they were comforted and nurtured by their mom. Sadly, fewer and fewer generations have experienced this comfort that God designed. Our culture has not been conducive to bringing families closer. We have been distanced by the pandemic, shortages, financial strains, dark themes looming through social media, and many distractions. Even comedy shows have made fun of traditional families. You can add many other things to this start of a list. But watch the mom role. Let's help protect her! She is so important to our own families and the very fabric of our culture.
When I (Blythe) was growing up, I noticed how my grandmother's love (or sometimes lack of love) affected my mom. And I noticed my mom's intentionality not to pass on the words her mother used with her to me. Mom was a stop-gap, not letting what she experienced with her mother become my experience and affect me.
I learned that each person makes their own choices, and a mother's words and actions can hurt for a season, but God can heal our hearts on a very deep level. When human words fail us, His words speak to us powerfully. I like writing verses that really mean a lot to me in journals. You might want to start declaring some words over yourself that God says to you (even if your mother did not) or make a journal of your favorite verses.
These could include:
"For, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:16 (NIV)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:1 (NKJV)
A mother's love can draw a child closer to her, but if genuine love and care are not there or she is no longer in your life, you can rest assured that God's love covers you in ways that you will not go without the love and nurturing that you need. He lavishes his love on you, and it's an eternal, for-sure love you will never outgrow.
Romans 8:38-39 (NLT) is a key life principle to remember and to be able to pass on to your children for the days you are with them and beyond: "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Even if you've been separated from your mother's love, you will not be separated from God's love. You have the opportunity to make a deep impression on your children with the love you gain from God to share with them.
How will your love affect your children over their lifetime? You may want to ask them how they have received your love and how they want you to offer love to them in the future!
Related Resource: The Famous at Home Podcast
The Famous at Home podcast with Josh and Christi Straub helps you stay emotionally engaged and connected to your biggest fans - the people in your homes. In this episode, we talk about how to make screen changes that make sense for your family. Click the play button below to listen!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/LuckyBusiness
Blythe Daniel is a literary agent, author, and marketer. Her agency markets books through podcasts, blogs, and launch teams and represents books to publishers. Blythe was the publicity director for Thomas Nelson Publishers and has been a literary agent for the past 16 years. Blythe has written for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ann Voskamp, Focus on the Family, CCM Magazine, Christian Retailing, and others. Blythe and her mother have co-authored two books: Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters (Harvest House) and I Love You Mom: Cherished Word Gifts from My Heart to Yours (Tyndale). She is married and lives in Colorado with her family.
Dr. Helen McIntosh (EdD, Counseling Psychology) is a counselor, educator and author. She is the author of Messages to Myself Overcoming a Distorted Self Image (Beacon Hill Press). Her work has appeared in Guideposts, ParentLife, and HomeLife magazines. She resides in Georgia with her husband Jim. They have two children and five grandchildren. She and her daughter Blythe Daniel have written Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters (Harvest House) and I Love You, Mom! Cherished Word Gifts from My Heart to Yours (Tyndale).