As April looked intently into the foggy mirror above the bathroom sink; she could not imagine how God could possibly love the woman whose image she saw in the reflection. The replay button of her mind seemed stuck in the on position; constantly reminding her of failures as a wife, a mother and a woman. Even the praise of others did little to help; all she could see was a worthless human being, with little hope of change. “If only I could begin again, things would be different” she thought.

If a do-over were possible, would things really change for April? To answer that question you must first understand the image that had been painted on the canvas of her heart. April grew up in a family and a home that most would envy. To accuse her mother and father of being poor parents would be a gross injustice. They were wonderful people who always had the best interest of April in mind.

Her home had been a peaceful place but just below that peace was a subtle underlying current of expectation that neither she or her siblings could fulfill. Behavior and performance were everything. Look right, talk right, and act right; be the best you can be. That could have been the family mantra, but it was never spoken in those terms. It came more in the form of condemnation, criticism and complaint. Not every day, not all the time, but often enough and usually at the very moment she most needed to hear words of comfort and blessing.

In Proverbs 18:21 we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” And in James 3:10, “Out of the same moth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things out not to be so.”

The words of a parent are powerful and with those words we either bless or curse. “I would never curse my children”, you say, but all of us have done it more often than we would like to admit. For example, to a child who steels, we might say, “you little thief you;”or to a child who tells a lie, “you’re a little liar;”or to the one who continue to make the same mistake, “can’t you get anything right.” It is so important to separate identify from behavior. Our identity is in Christ, our behavior is of the flesh.

There are no idle words, and the ones that parents speak to their children have power. Words of condemnation create strongholds of self-judgment and guilt. Words of criticism destroy initiative and creativity forming strongholds of failure. Complaining teaches children to magnify the problem and look for someone else to blame, avoiding personal responsibility. And who among us parents has never condemned, criticized or complained to their children. But in April’s case it was much more the norm than the exception and it built within her a deep sense of inadequacy that she would carry into her marriage.

As parents, we need to speak the blessings of God over our children which reflect the divine favor of God in their lives. With every word we are painting an image on the canvas of their heart that will remain with them for years to come as they did with April. It is an image of who God is and who they are in relationship to him. It is an image of worth, value, and destiny.

Here’s the good news, for April and all the rest of us. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” And in Matthew 13 we read that the word of God is like a seed that is sown in the hearts of men and women and will in time produce fruit.

Later in April’s life, she began to seek answers in the Word where she found a seed that could be planted in her heart. It was a seed of God’s unconditional love and grace. That seed began to take root and grow, eventually producing fruit in her life. It was as though the fog on the mirror had cleared and she no longer saw herself according to the flesh but according to the spirit. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…”

Looking past the flesh, April began to see a new reflection of herself in the mirror of God’s Word and a new image began to form in her heart. Self-judgment and condemnation slowing faded as the knowledge of God’s unconditional love became clear. Not only did this revelation change her but the resulting change in her attitude and countenance affected her husband and children as well.

Would an opportunity at a do-over really have changed anything? Not at all, only a change of heart could have changed the inevitable outcome of a self-image based on the flesh. And only the Word, the divine favor of God in our lives, has the power to change the heart.

Perhaps as a parent, you may be thinking of the times you have spoken something less than a blessing over your children and wish you could take back those words. If you are, remember what Paul said in Philippians 3:13 “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,” Don’t waste a minute judging or condemning yourself for past mistakes and failures. There are no perfect parents and we all make mistakes along the way. Just continue on and remember that Love never fails.

God bless you
Jim Ertel

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