Have you heard the saying “Know better, do better”? It’s being thrown around like confetti wherever I look. “See this homemade foaming hand soap? It doesn’t use the following terrible ingredients. You should use it. Know better, do better.” Now, to be fair, I like learning about better-for-you products. The problem is that we often use this saying to shame people rather than to encourage them. If they know better (because we told them so) but don’t actually do better, shame on them!
This saying does have some merit, but it needs to be used correctly with the right motivation. If I know that speaking words of slander destroys relationships, why in the world would I do it? And if I know passive-aggressive comments hurt the people I love, why would I keep muttering them under my breath? Probably the same reason I keep using products that I know are not the best for me. I make the conscious decision to stay comfortable where I’m at. Change would cause discomfort and possibly mean I was wrong.
But if I don’t do better once I know better, my words will have the same effect as a demolition project. If I wanted to demolish a building, the obvious way would be to bring in a wrecking ball and knock it over in a few fell swoops. But there’s another way. I could stand at the back of the building and throw rocks and bricks at it. It might not look like much, but over time, slowly but surely I would tear down that building. One broken window here, another hole in the wall there. It would take months, maybe a year, before people began to see areas that had been slowly chipped away. This is how destructive our words can be. Once we know that, we must make a change.
Thank goodness for redemption and a God who paid the ultimate price so that you and I could be forgiven for our sins. We’re covered by His grace and love in a way that doesn’t leave us where we are but, instead, says, “Go and sin no more”—just as Jesus said to the woman everyone wanted to stone. Remember her? You can find the story in John 8:1-11, but here’s the gist: the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus, so they brought a woman to him and said, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
Jesus knew the Pharisees’ wicked hearts and motivations. He responded, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (verse 7). Can you imagine? Not a single person threw a stone. They all walked away, leaving only Jesus and the woman. And his instructions to her were straightforward: “Go and sin no more” (verse 11).
If that story isn’t the simplest picture of redemption and grace wrapped up in God’s love, I don’t know what is. But you know what else I find interesting here? Many times, we forget those last five words of the story. It’s easy to focus on how Jesus stood up for the woman and put everyone else in their place. If we stop short of these five words, though, we lose the heart of Jesus completely. Without those five words, forgiveness becomes flippant and something we can just expect over and over because, no matter how many times we do wrong, grace and forgiveness will follow, right? But that last part—“go and sin no more”—encourages the heart change needed to do better and keep doing it in a way that honors the Lord. We can have all the forgiveness in the world and still stay stuck. It’s the redemptive nature of God—paired with His forgiveness—that allows us to see a way out of our sin instead of staying stuck in it. Once we’re redeemed, God wants us to move forward, away from sin—and this redemption is part of the process.
Aren’t you glad our God isn’t one-dimensional? His heart is not solely defensive (although he is our defender). Nor is His heart only on the offense (although He does move on our behalf and go before us). God is both of those things—He is all things—but even more than that, His heart for His people, for us, is that our hearts would change. And God’s ways don’t require us to be loud or talk more at other people. He asks us to look inward and allow Him to prune the areas that aren’t producing good fruit and to nourish the areas that are.
In our house, we love to play card games. One of them is a favorite for everyone: Uno. It’s the perfect beginning card game. Bright colors, simple numbers, basic rules. But you know what happens when we teach our boys to play? They make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes they play the wrong color at the wrong time. Sometimes they mistake the 6 for the 9. Sometimes they even lay down a card only to change their minds and ask if they can play a different one. (GASP. I know. A travesty.)
But as their mom, when they make a mistake, you know what I do as I’m teaching them? I give them a second chance. Lots of second chances, in fact. Because I love them, I want them to learn to play correctly. I don’t want them to always play like beginners. Sometimes I have to remind them of the rules over and over, but one day, it clicks!
You know what else I do? When they make a mistake or ask for a do-over, I don’t just tell them to try again and watch as they stumble to guess the right move. I show them the correct way to play. I demonstrate it. And then I make sure they understand what I said. I don’t let them stay stuck, doing it wrong over and over. I want them to move forward. I give them the tools to learn and sit beside them as they play. I want them to feel equipped to do it right.
I love my children, want the best for them, and am willing to teach and equip them, and there is a God who feels the exact same way about us. About me. About you! Because we are His children. I think we sometimes forget that as we are busy doing all the adult things in life. When we come to know God—whether at age five, fifteen, fifty, or seventy-five—we surely don’t come knowing it all. But as we open our hearts to what God has for us, He begins to take us from that young child just learning to someone who begins to know and understand our purpose in Him. Someone who’s able to know and do better.
Adapted from Well Said: Choosing Words that Speak Life, Give Grace, and Strengthen Your Faith and Family by Sarah Molitor. Copyright© 2023. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
I remember the moment clearly. I was eight years old, crying under a pinball machine in my friend Kayla’s basement. As I heard her coming down the stairs to find me, I did my best to stop the tears.
We’d spent the day playing hide-and-seek, braiding our hair, dressing in matching outfits, and playing the way free-spirited young girls do. But as I wiped my tears under the pinball machine, my little spirit didn’t feel so free anymore.
A few minutes earlier, we’d skipped outside in matching black spandex shorts and T-shirts tied with scrunchies to show my friend’s parents how cute we looked as twins. While we stood in front of them awaiting their “oohs” and “aahs,” her dad turned to her mom and said, “Wow, look how much skinnier Kayla’s legs are than Robin’s.”
In that moment, my heart sank.
At eight years old, I was just beginning to notice the ways my body was different from my friends’ bodies and how my thighs were bigger and rounder than those of the girls with stick-straight legs. That comment from my friend’s dad pierced my heart and confirmed an emerging belief in my young mind: my body was bigger, and bigger was bad. My body was on display, and people were watching.
Decades later, here I am remembering that one tiny moment and still recovering from years of hating (and hiding) my thighs.
Of course, this wasn’t the sole event that led to years of struggle with my body image. There have been other piercing moments that confirmed my insecurities. Like when I was trying on costumes for a dance performance, and my calves were too big to fit in the go-go boots. The other girls easily slipped their feet in while the choreographer got onto her hands and knees to force my legs in, squeezing my calves and stretching the fabric to get the zipper up. Or when I was walking down the hallway of my college dormitory and I overheard a guy I was dating say I had a chin like Jay Leno’s. While these were not life-defining moments, they stung, and they formed an inner narrative that affirmed my insecurities for years.
I’m willing to bet you’ve had similar moments in your life, even if the specifics of your story are different from mine. While working with thousands of women as a Pilates instructor and as the founder of Lindywell, a global Pilates, health, and wellness company, I’ve discovered that somewhere along the way, we’ve all internalized false messages about our bodies, ourselves, and our worth that stick with us throughout the years.
I’m lucky to have grown up in a loving, supportive home where my parents didn’t put significant pressure on me to look a certain way or be a certain size. (Thank you, Mom and Dad!) And yet for most of my life, I struggled with body image and my relationship with food and exercise. I find this fascinating (and deeply concerning, as a mom of four young kids). My home was full of love and confidence-boosting messages, and my body shape was not far from the cultural “ideal,” yet I still spent an unreasonable amount of time and energy wishing I looked different. I spent many years restricting my food intake through fad diets, exercising to work off what I ate, and comparing my body to other women’s bodies as a measure of my success, worth, and value. And if I’m not careful, I’m still tempted to do that today.
So if this pressure to look a certain way wasn’t coming from my home and my family of origin, where did it come from?
The answer: everywhere else.
From a young age, women are taught to believe that our worth is measured by the size and shape of our bodies. Ads portray how happy we’ll be when we lose weight, reduce cellulite, or finally get that lean, toned bikini body. Back in the day, magazines sucked us in with messages about how much celebrities ate in a day or how they “bounced back” after pregnancy. Now we are bombarded by online articles and social media images that try to convince us that if we would just eat and exercise a certain way, we would achieve the ideal look and lifestyle. We spend hours each day peeking at the highlight reels of other people’s lives, all through the lens of filters and body-altering editing apps that have a subtle yet powerful impact on our self-image.
Movies and media depict beauty as a singular body type—a type that doesn’t represent the many sizes and shapes of actual women.
From a young age, we’re surrounded by comments like these:
“Oh, I shouldn’t eat that.”
“I really need to lose that baby weight.”
“I’m never going to be ready for swimsuit season.”
From a young age, we hear women complimenting one another on their physical appearance, with a frequent focus on the size and shape of their bodies. We’re taught that we need to change what we see in the mirror in order to be successful, fulfilled, relevant, and accepted. We think we have to punish our bodies with grueling exercise and harshly restrict our diets in order to reach an idealized size. We believe that if we just work hard enough, muster up more willpower, and hit some elusive “goal weight,” we’ll finally be healthier. And happier.
But what if the “rules” we’ve been sold by the diet and fitness industry don’t actually work? What if happiness, health, and vitality aren’t always found on the other side of losing ten pounds or slimming the size of your thighs?
Over the past thirteen years as a Pilates instructor and as the CEO of a wellness company with the mission of helping every woman live life to the fullest, I’ve come to realize just how common the struggle is to care for our health. And this is a struggle I know all too well. I’ve weathered years of putting my health on the back burner, restricting my food intake, carrying multiple pregnancies, navigating grief and pregnancy loss, trying every exercise plan imaginable, struggling with anxiety, and trying (and failing at) more diets than I can even count. After years of struggle, I made it my mission to find a better way—and I now spend my days helping other women do the same.
It’s time to shift the conversation away from rules, fads, and trends that leave us feeling lost and confused and toward what it truly means to be well in body, mind, and soul.
True wellness doesn’t come from a number on a scale, the size of your waist, or the absence of cellulite. True wellness is found when you live out your purpose, enjoy all that life has to offer, and break free from the mental prison of stressing about what you’re eating, how much you’re exercising, or how much weight you need to lose in order to really start living.
The goal is to feel good—not just in your body, but in your whole being. The next generation of girls deserves to be surrounded by and led by women who change the narrative so many of us grew up with. The tides are turning, and when we embrace a holistic approach to health and wellness, there’s hope for the future. As our individual lives change, this shift will create lasting ripple effects for our families and our communities.
It starts with us. It starts with you.
Adapted from Well to the Core: A Realistic, Guilt-Free Approach to Getting Fit and Feeling Good for a Lifetime by Robin Long. Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
The first time I went to my accountant to do my taxes, he said, “Congratulations! You qualify for the poverty tax credit.”
“What is that?” I asked. He said we were living in poverty and for that, we got a tax break.
“Poverty? Really? Who says so?” He told me the federal government said so. Cool . . . I Think.
On my way home, I called Tami on our cell phone from the front seat of one of our two cars. She answered the phone in the three-bedroom home we were renting, where she was watching one of our two televisions.
“Did you know we were impoverished?” I asked.
“Who told you that?” she said. Honestly, I can say I didn’t feel very poor. As a matter of fact, Aaron had asked me once if we were poor. I corrected him and said, “No, we are broke.” Apparently, I had been misinformed.
There was a time when Tami and I really were flat broke. I’m talking zero money to pay the bills, and nothing in the cupboard except saltines, peanut butter, and a box of mac and cheese.
But strangely enough, I wasn’t panicking. A few years earlier, I would have been slamming doors and yelling at my sons for no reason or brooding in front of the television, but now I had peace even with an empty checking account. We knew God would provide. We didn’t know how, but our job was to pray and trust while He did his part.
Not long after that, Tami also came home with a smile on her face.
“Guess what I have?” She said it with an impish grin, so I knew I had no chance of guessing. And I didn’t really feel like playing the guessing game while we were still bouncing off the bottom of our bank account. Without a word, she handed me a check made out to her—for five thousand dollars.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked. It was nothing short of manna from heaven. Well, not actually Heaven—it was Atlanta, and it was Tami’s canine expertise that brought in the money. One of her wealthy friends wanted to put a Boxer back on the winner’s list at the Westminster Kennel Dog Show. He intended to start a corporation and hired Tami as a consultant.
Then I signed with a manager in Nashville. I had known Lenny Sisselman longer than I had known Tami. He had run a Nashville club where I performed twice a year, and we played a lot of golf together. He had witnessed me at my worst, even remembering how I would go up on stage with dried blood around my nostrils from the cocaine. When Tami and I got to Nashville in 1997, Lenny noticed the profound changes in me.
Shortly afterward, he left the club to pursue artist management, and my new management company hired him. Without even thinking about it, God had brought me a business man to handle my business; all I had to do was tell jokes. Finally. We’ve now been together over twenty-five years. Tami calls Lenny my other wife.
Too many things aligned that never would have if God had not been orchestrating them.
Over and over, all I could say was, “Thank You, God, thank You.”
All the promises I kept reading in Scripture were coming true, being affirmed as reality in our lives. “Do not worry about your life,” Jesus said, and then He got specific: “What you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). Was he reading our minds?
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25–27)
Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount to describe how God takes care of the flowers and the trees. Everything in creation trusts in His provision, and that meant I could, too. The more I saw Him provide, the less I worried, and the more faithful my prayer life became. “Just show me what I need to do, God, because I have to pay these bills one way or another.”
We were learning to refocus our lives to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). We certainly knew from our years of misery that “each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Let Them See the Light
Not only were the “God things” showing up in my career, but the difference Christ was making in my character also was drawing people’s attention to me and opening more doors. I was getting invited to some of the biggest comedy festivals in the world—the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival and HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival, to name a couple. (Name a famous comedian, and I guarantee you that at some point they performed at those two festivals.)
From those showcases, I picked up an agent in Los Angeles who “shopped” me around LA looking for a development deal. From that, I was invited to a showcase of about two dozen comedians at the famous Improv club in Melrose, performing for studio execs who were looking for talent to possibly develop into a sitcom.
Every top comedian has done these, from Tim Allen to Roseanne Barr. They are not pleasant for the performer, if for no other reason than that the audience really doesn’t want to be there. Most of those execs were forced to attend by their bosses.
I did the show and flew back to Nashville. A few weeks later, I got a call saying I had a meeting with a studio head, which is a rare opportunity. But I tried to downplay it when Lenny and I walked into the man’s office in LA.
“So, I’m just curious,” I asked nonchalantly, “why am I here?”
“I was at that showcase you did at the Improv the other night,” he said. “But I don’t even remember if you were funny or not.”
“I know I wasn’t,” I replied. “That’s why I’m curious.” In fact, I had bombed.
“I don’t remember what number you were,” the chief stated. “All I remember is that you were the only one smiling. I asked my assistant, ‘Remember when comedians used to be relatively happy? What happened to that?’”
I didn’t even have a show idea to pitch at that point, but that meeting turned into my first development deal. It really stood out to me that this studio head could see a difference in me—not just in my jokes, but in the person I had become. Thanks to my relationship with Christ, I actually enjoyed my comedy—and all of life. My prayer before I go on stage, both then and now is, “Lord, let Your light shine through. Let them see not the darkness in me, but the light in You.”
In the course of that development deal, Lenny and I went to different studios to pitch my idea for a sitcom about comedy in the midst of family life. At one point, we met with a guy from HBO.
“I’ve saw your comedy years ago in New York,” he told me. Then he asked, “I just remember you were so angry!”
You know a guy has anger issues if HBO says that to him. But now a studio chief was remembering me for being happy.
Dr. Rick Hanson, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkley, argues that resilience training for your brain is like muscle building for your body. Strength is developed through lots of little efforts that add up over time. Little efforts throughout your day can result in real physical changes for a better brain.
But the activation and integration of these practices are two different things. Hanson also says that there’s some work to do between knowing how to be resilient and being resilient. Activating grit and resilience is temporary—it’s possible to get gritty during one specific challenge and then revert to your old ways. But installing that habit into our brains— through consistent practice (put in those reps!)— will allow us to persevere for the long haul.
According to Dr. Hanson, you can teach your brain to be more resilient by working on these three practices to train your brain: self-compassion, mindfulness, and gratitude.
My best friend, Melanie, repeats a phrase anytime she hears me speak negatively about myself, and it stops me in my tracks: “Stop talking about my best friend like that!” It’s a sobering reminder that if I heard anyone talking about her that way, I would probably need to throw hands. And if I heard anyone else talking to me that way, we would, at the very least, not be friends. Yet I am harshly judgmental and lack the compassion for myself that I would dole out by the gallon to literally anyone else. Melanie’s reframing allows me to see my own troubles and mistakes as part of being human.
As followers of Jesus, we know compassion should be extended to others. But do we extend compassion to ourselves? Instead of critical judgment, self-compassion is acknowledging our mistakes and faults and responding with kindness. Would you speak to a friend with the same harshness you speak to yourself?
There is a balance to this that must delicately lay between acceptance and improvement. Instead of highlighting mistakes or hiding in shame when failure hits, hold the tension between giving yourself and others grace, while acknowledging how things could improve. Kristin Neff, PhD, a pioneer in self- compassion research, identifies three main components of compassion:
- Self-kindness: Remove the inner critic creeping in your mind and silence the negative self- talk with a kinder, more compassionate voice.
- Common humanity: No one is perfect. We all fail and make mistakes. It’s part of being human.
- Mindfulness: Don’t just take note of your negative emotions. Feel them, but don’t react to them. Experience the feelings, but don’t let the feelings rule you.
Mindfulness is a trendy word used from hip yoga instructors to TikTokers who teach breathing techniques to help center the mind. Though it might sound esoteric, it’s really just being aware of what’s happening as it’s happening. In short, it’s paying attention in the present moment. As followers of Jesus, our present moment is made fuller and secure by knowing that God is present with us. Being mindful is being aware of what God’s doing now and removes our attention to and preoccupation with later.
So train your brain! By consistently following healthy patterns of thought, over time, your brain physically changes. Through the process of neuroplasticity, the brain forms new neuronal pathways to support this kind of thinking, even when you’re not aware or trying to engage in mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness calms your brain and changes its default mode of operation.
The best way I’ve found to incorporate this practice is whenever I use social media. In the last couple of years, I’ve experienced such division, hatred, and misunderstanding on apps that are supposed to be social. Whether I’ve been the target or someone else was a target for mean and caustic words online, I close the apps and do the following:
- Pause and breathe. Sometimes I just need to inhale and exhale to remind my amygdala that even though I might be experiencing fear or anxiety, I’m actually not being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and a burglar isn’t at my door. Breathe. Focusing on your breath is an immediate path to mindful-ness because it exists only in the present moment. There is no breath in a past regret and none in a future anxiety. Get present and breathe. Even thirty seconds of focused breathing can make a big difference.
- Turn on awareness. Judge if you want to, but I talk to myself and I’m not afraid to admit it. This practice has helped me become more aware of my reality. You don’t have to talk aloud if that’s not your thing, but get into the discipline of labeling the truth of your situation. State reassuring, logical facts— I am safe; I am loved; I am kind. This will wake up your prefrontal cortex.
- Feel the feeling. In a moment when my brain is hijacked and my neurons are going haywire, I give myself grace and compassion to feel the feelings. I’m sad and feel lonely. Or I’m afraid I’ll be taken advantage of again. Or I want to quit because I have failed at it so many times things will never change. I give myself time to feel what I’m feeling. To really feel our feelings, we must be able to identify what’s truly behind them.
- Are you sure that you are feeling angry? Or is the emotion behind the rage simply sadness?
- Are you sure you are feeling frustration? Or is the emotion behind the exhaustion really fear?
- Are you sure you are feeling hungry? Or is the emotion behind the heaviness actually emptiness?
And once you get down to the most elemental pieces of what you’re feeling, feel it. It’s okay to acknowledge your sadness, disappointment, or whatever else is going on—in fact, it’s necessary.
- State the truth. No matter what we’re feeling, there is always more to the story. When we are going down a path of wanting to give up and walk away, we need to take a holistic and balanced view of our situation.
- I’m sad and feel lonely, but I can call a friend or visit a family member because it will help me build community.
- I’m afraid I’ll be taken advantage of again, but this time I’m wiser and know better.
- I want to quit because success hasn’t come yet, but with each failure I will learn something new that brings me closer to my goal.
As a person of faith, I am privileged with a library of truths in God’s Word. When I don’t know what to think or I can’t seem to identify a comforting truth, I lean on the teaching of my spiritual forefathers and foremothers and dig into Scripture. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or depressed, wanting to walk away and wither like a leaf, I remember God’s Word, and His truth gives me strength.
Mindfulness is a practice. It takes time and intentionality. But it has been proven— anecdotally by me, and scientifically by countless scholars— to help us live happier and more balanced lives.
Step Three: Gratitude
All that mindfulness and Scripture is great, but I knew that to make it stay rooted, I needed to balance those facts and feelings with gratitude. I wish I could say I am a naturally grateful person, but I’m not. I work at it. Part of my daily discipline is journaling, so the day after my pink-satin-top incident, I pulled out my journal and filled an entire page with a prayer of gratitude about my body.
- Thank You for my health.
- Thank You that I can hold a ninety- two second plank.
- Thank You that I can do twenty- six push- ups without stopping.
- Thank You that I can cycle eighteen miles in an hour.
- Thank You that my yoga practice is increasing my flexibility, both physically and mentally.
- Thank You that I sprinted in my HIIT class today for longer than I ever have before.
You get the point.
I made myself fill out the entire page because I wanted to really integrate this sense of gratitude into my life. I wanted to fight to find all the reasons that I’m grateful for the body God has given me. Now this where the rubber meets the road. The question I ask myself when I’m wanting to change something— a character trait, a habit, a pattern— is, Am I interested or am I committed? Do I want to build resistance or am I simply interested in one day, possibly, maybe getting around to building resistance? If we want to change, it begins with training our brains.
Taken from “Grit Don’t Quit” by Bianca Juarez Olthoff. Copyright 2023 by Bianca Juarez Olthoff. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.
Bianca Juarez Olthoff is a bible-teaching, word-slanging MexiRican who is passionate about raising up a generation of people passionate about Jesus Christ. As an author and speaker, she knows the power of words and wields them wisely. As a church planter and leader, she is committed to proclaiming the gospel domestically and internationally.
In my thirty-plus years of counseling, I’ve never seen parents feel as much pressure or as much like failures as they do today. I’ve never had as many parents in tears in my office. And I’ve certainly never seen as many parents who live in a perpetual state of worry.
How would you say worry affects you, as a parent? I certainly believe, after sitting with parents day in and day out in my office, that not only do you worry more because you are a parent, but those worries affect you differently as well. I list five ways anxiety affects parents in my new book, The Worry-Free Parent, but here I want to highlight two major ways anxiety impacts the parent.
1. Anxiety distracts us.
One of the things I hear parents say most often is how distracting anxiety is. In fact, I’ve learned through my work with kids and parents that anxiety and ADHD, particularly the inattentive kind, are almost identical symptomatically. Both cause restlessness, a lack of focus, difficulty regulating emotions, and even sleep impairment. Do any of those sound familiar? Even more specifically, have you ever found yourself
- not listening to your child because you’re worried about what’s happening next on your schedule?
- unable to remember the conversation you had with your daughter before the birthday party because you were concerned about how she would do once she got to the party?
- unable to laugh and play with your kids, simply because of all that’s pressing in on you?
There are a million ways worry distracts us on a daily basis. But maybe one of the saddest is that it robs us of time connecting with the kids we love—really connecting in hear-their-words and look-them-in-the-eyes ways. That connection is foundational not only to building but to maintaining your relationship over the long haul. And the long haul really isn’t long enough. We want to be present for these long days and short years. We want to be able to let go of our worries in a way that keeps us in the moment, instead of imagining the future years based more on our anxious distortions than on reality.
2. Anxiety makes us attach future meaning to present problems.
In my counseling practice with kids and teens, I hear the same refrain from parents every day:
“I don’t think I’m preparing my child well for the future.”
“I haven’t had him in travel sports, and now he’ll never be able to keep up at a high school level.”
“I haven’t had her in enough Kumon classes or tutoring, and now she won’t be able to get into the right school that will help her get into the right college.”
“She didn’t start cheerleading at four, and now we’ve lost our chance for her to ever make a competitive team.”
Do you hear the familiar thread? The parent fears something not done today will negatively impact their child’s tomorrow.
The worries can be over what we believe we haven’t offered them. The sports or academics or lessons or learning opportunities we believe we’ve missed that will hinder our child’s future in some life-altering way. Or the characteristics we haven’t taught. The things we feel “all the other parents” have been doing that we haven’t been able to get done. We haven’t started chores. We haven’t been saying our grateful lists at the dinner table.
We’re not keeping up, which means our children won’t be able to keep up—or measure up—in all the ways that will lead to their success, our anxiety tells us. But it’s simply not true.
The worries can also be over skills or traits our kids currently lack.
“Because he can’t sit still in kindergarten means he’ll never make it in grade school, and there’s no way he’ll be able to hold a job when he’s older.”
“How will she ever be able to function as an adult when she doesn’t keep her room clean now?”
“If he’s not responsible enough to remember to take out the trash at thirteen, why would I ever believe he’d be responsible enough to drive a car?”
“She thinks about herself all the time as a middle schooler. I’m not sure how she’ll ever be able to have a healthy, caring relationship with another person.”
The list goes on and on. In our worry, we become fortune tellers for our kids. We decide what’s happening now will be happening five, ten, even twenty years from now. Or what’s not happening now—either what we missed or the characteristics we believe they’re missing—will handicap them for the rest of their lives.
Kids are developing people. Their job is to learn under our roof while they’re still home with us and we can help them learn. Our job is to eventually raise healthy, well-functioning adults. Eventually is the key word. They are not those adults yet.
In terms of brain development, the last portions of our brains to develop are the frontal lobes, which house the executive functioning part of our brains. The frontal lobes help develop our working memories, dictate impulse control, help us think logically, manage our emotions, and plan for the future. In the last twenty years, neuroimaging research has taught us those frontal lobes may not be fully developed until approximately age twenty-five.i Your eight-year-old isn’t capable of managing her emotions in the same way she will be at eighteen. Your twelve-year-old doesn’t yet have the skills to carry the same responsibilities he will be able to at twenty. Your fourteen-year-old is somewhat narcissistic. It’s a normal and even an important stopover on the journey of development and individuation for all kids. The narcissism will fade. He will get there. And so will she.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the kids we love, our worries take over and cause our shortsightedness to become long reaching. We decide, based on their own developmental immaturity, that something is wrong. They already should be able to _____________ (fill in the blank). Rather than seeing the gap as a normal part of their development, we believe it’s a character flaw. And worse still, one that will mark their lives, both personally and professionally, forever.
What is one way you’ve been fortune-telling about your child’s life? What’s a future, problematic meaning you’ve attached to an area in which they’re still growing?
Your child is growing into who God has created him or her to be. It is a journey and one that takes many unexpected and messy twists and turns along the way. Think back on your own becoming. What were some of your missteps, and how have they impacted your adulthood? What were some of the clumsier, less mature moments, and how have those contributed to who you are? My guess is that all of them have folded into the strengths, the character, and the wisdom that now mark not only your life but your parenthood. The same will be true for your kids. Trust the process. Trust your child. And trust that there is Someone in charge who is a much better predictor of the future than you or I.
Excerpted from The Worry-Free Parent by Sissy Goff. Copyright © August 2023 by Bethany Publishing House. Used by permission. www.RaisingBoysandGirls.com
Sissy Goff, LPC-MHSP, has worked as the director of child and adolescent counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries since 1993. She speaks to parents and children’s ministers across the country and is a frequent guest on media outlets such as Southern Living, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, Focus on the Family, That Sounds Fun, Family Life Today, Fox News, and many more. Sissy Goff is the author of 13 books including her latest, The Worry-Free Parent. She co-hosts the chart-topping Raising Boys and Girls podcast, with fellow Daystar Counselor David Thomas. The podcast just celebrated more than 5 million downloads to date. www.RaisingBoysandGirls.com @RaisingBoysandGirls
There is so much God is willing to receive from us that He does not require from us. He designed us to live in intimate communion with Him, but He does not force it; He longs for it.
We see this in the story of Luke 7, where two vastly different accounts of responses to the Lord are outlined at the dinner party of Simon. I want us to see this metaphorically as believers and as churches.
First, think about Simon for a second. He sincerely wanted to meet with Jesus, spend time with Him, and honorably host Him. His approach to the Lord was the approach we all would most likely employ—friends, food, and a table for conversation and connection. I believe he had an earnest desire to personally know Jesus.
Similarly, every Sunday, in any given city, hundreds of believers will gather desiring to meet with the Lord. Jesus is always willing and ready to come meet with us, so what does He do? He comes. Jesus shows up where He is invited. I truly believe Jesus has anticipation for every weekly church service, excited to come and be with His bride. He loves to commune with His people and desires for us to know Him more intimately.
In this story, we see someone else who had the same desire as Simon, but took a drastically different approach. This woman broke all social codes and completely crashed a private party. It is amazing that she did not speak one word, however, she was by far the loudest guest. She took center stage and we can see Jesus was completely comfortable with her approaching Him in the dramatic manner she did.
Her response to Jesus, though different from anyone else in the room, affected everyone present and is really important for us to study. She wets His feet with her tears, kisses His feet with her lips, and anoints Him with perfume.
Jesus gives Simon, and us, the readers, insight into His personal experience. Jesus looks at the woman, but addresses Simon, “Simon, do you see this woman?” It’s an obvious question that He did not need to ask. Everyone saw this woman, but not everyone saw what Jesus saw when He looked at her. Jesus compares Simon’s reception of Him to the woman’s reception.
“I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume.”
He essentially says, I received no tears, no kisses, and no oil from you upon entering your home. Yet, I received all of those things from her. I believe Jesus is implying, “I was ready and willing to receive all of these things from you, but you did not offer them to me.” I was longing to receive your hurt, pain, affection, gifts, and offerings. But you did not give me these things.
THE LORD DESIRES OUR PAIN, AFFECTION, AND GIFTS
This account gives us great insight into the Lord’s desires. Jesus was willing to receive the pain (tears), affections (kisses), and gifts (oil) of everyone in the room. He anticipated it. He was open. Yet, they were not.
The humility demonstrated in Jesus is astounding. He did not force them to give something that they were not willing to give. He honored their preparations, agenda, and response to Him. He was not mad, nor upset, but humble and present. He honored their reception to Him, but He was also not willing to forbid this woman to have a different response to Him.
There is a bride emerging that is interrupting everything in our day by their intimate and extravagant offerings in response to the Lord’s presence and love. The presence of Jesus is the most transformative power on earth today. Therefore, any protocols, plans, and programs we adopt should be unto this end—His transformative power touching earth. It is not that what we are doing is wrong or not enough. But I would argue that our dinner parties need to be interrupted. Our personal and corporate agendas need to be hijacked because we allow His presence to consume and lead us into an intimate, relational and healing encounter with our dynamic, living God.
I know we could define loving God in a number of ways with various expressions, but Jesus describes this woman’s response to Him as “loving much”—and I imagine that means He felt loved much. Her example serves as a prescriptive exhortation to us on how Jesus likes to be received, and how we can rightly respond in vulnerable, intimate love to Him.
The woman’s response to Jesus broke through the formalities I imagine most of us are more comfortable with in our relationship with Jesus. Her extravagant offering and display moved Jesus, as well as challenged the others present. As He received her pain, affections, and gifts, she revealed His readiness to receive any offering in any manner.
All three things she gave the Lord are significant for us to understand as we grow in more intimately loving the Lord. First, she offered Him her tears. Tears represent the pain and, at times, even despair. Throughout scripture, we see the desperate bringing their tears to the Lord as an offering, and our tears are treasured by Him. Psalm 56:8 says that God puts our tears in His bottle. He collects them and accounts for them. Psalm 126:5 says that those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. Our tears are seeds we sow, which will return a harvest of joy when we give Him all our pain and despair. Your tears are a powerful offering of love and trust to the Lord, and He will hold and treasure the brokenhearted. He receives your surrendered pain as an offering of worship. Do not think that worship is only singing happy songs; your tears anoint Him as Lord when you bring them to Him.
Second, the woman offered her affections. Her kisses represent her deepest emotions and desires. Emotions are so crucial for us to bring to the Lord. Many in the western church are afraid to allow environments where emotions are a trusted and honored offering to the Lord. I have heard criticism of communities being too emotional or promoting emotionalism.
We must get over this hesitation. I don’t trust my emotions to lead me, but I can allow my emotions to serve and worship Him when I give them to Him and ask Him to be Lord over them. Our emotions are expressions of our reaction to people and circumstances. Depression produces emotions. Love produces emotions. Sports produce emotions. Concerts and artists produce emotions. Emotions communicate one’s beliefs and values, and are healthy expressions of our passions, fears, and desires. That said, we will offer our emotions somewhere to someone; as believers, we must offer our emotions to the Lord.
We don’t judge people who are emotional at weddings, funerals, sporting events, or the birth of a baby. Yet, for some reason, religion has wrongly relegated emotions as unacceptable and untrustworthy in the place of worship. The psalms give us example after example of those who bring offerings of joy, peace, love, and pain to the Lord—emotions. Worship the Lord by giving Him your emotions.
Lastly, we see that she brought the Lord an alabaster jar of perfume. This was an extravagant and sacrificial offering that she poured on the feet of Jesus. This was not a small or rational offering to the Lord; she wanted to give something significant and valuable. This gift is representative of her value and worth. In John 12, when Mary offers the same type of offering to the Lord, Judas remarks that the offering was a waste. It could have been sold and used to feed the poor. It was foolish and bad stewardship from an earthly perspective. Yet, this extravagant offering had eternal significance to the Lord—it was oil that would anoint His body for burial. I can only imagine how deeply it impacted the Lord’s heart. These acts of extravagant gifts and offerings can only be made in faith, and out of a revelation of God as an abundant giver.
Scripture speaks of God loving a cheerful giver. He does! And like our love, He does not demand our giving, so when it is offered willingly, He loves it. Gifts are given from the heart, and He is open to receiving whatever we desire to cheerfully give to Him.
How does this story of the courageous woman in Luke 7 impact you? Where can you relate to Simon or to her? How are you receiving His presence in your life, and what are you offering Him when He shows up?
Michael Freeland Miller is the founding and Senior Leader of UPPERROOM, and author of His House, His Presence: Calling the Church Back to God’s Original Design.