Throughout the Gospels, there seems to be a growing awareness, astonishment, and even discouragement in the disciples about how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God:
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” -Matthew 19:25ff
I’m the mother of four young adult children—more recently a grandma—and I’ve been working in youth and women’s ministry for the past 32 years. I’ve had some similar conversations with Jesus about the seemingly impossible mission, especially in the current culture, of raising confident, healthy girls who know and love Him. But every time I read Jesus’ response to his disciples (and to us), I am reminded of an essential truth:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus’ words remind me that there are no foolproof methods for raising children, but that our confidence and trust is in the Lord alone. There is, however, wisdom that has helped me as a mom and mentor of young girls.
God’s Heart for Our Daughters
Often when we are amid struggles with our daughters, especially as they get older, we need new eyes to see some important realities about who they are and what they are facing. As much as we love our daughters, God’s love for His daughters is unconditional, unfading, and unrelenting. Whether they are succeeding or struggling, obedient or combative, He looks at them with the eyes of perfect love and sees everything that is good in them because He created them in His image and likeness. During times of conflict and difficulty with my daughters I have often prayed, “Lord help me to see what you see, and to love what you love.”
I distinctly remember some of the scarier “first times” when my eldest child ventured out on her own: preschool, walking home from the bus stop alone, driving as a teen, making the trek back from college, and spending a semester abroad. All I could think about was getting her home safe and sound.
Our heavenly Father has one central goal: to get His beloved daughters safely home to Heaven to live with Him for eternity. Nothing else is more important and God will use everything in their lives and ours to accomplish that purpose. It’s easy to lose sight of this overarching goal, especially in the frantic pace of life that places so much emphasis on success.
Investing in Our Daughters
It’s important to ask ourselves: do we invest our time, money, and energy in things that will mostly help our daughters be smarter, more talented, popular, and successful, or do we value and support the activities, environments, and relationships that can help them get to Heaven?
It helps to check our own motivations so we can think clearly about what’s best for our daughters—not just for this year, or this school or activity, but most importantly, for all of eternity.
- Am I afraid to say no to her or correct her because I don’t want to deal with the conflict or the drama?
- Is it more important for her to respect me or to like me?
- Am I trying to live vicariously through her activities and achievements?
- Am I envious of her and view her as my competitor?
- Do I place too much importance on her successes (or failures) because of how they reflect on me?
- Do my own insecurities or fears cause me to take her negative attitudes or the conflicts between us way too personally? Or am I able to maintain the proper emotional distance that allows me to keep loving her even when it’s difficult?
What’s Going on Inside Her Mind and Heart?
Every woman, young or old, desperately desires to know that she is loved and valued, beautiful, and wanted. She wants to know that she is good enough. In a culture that is predominantly image-driven, our daughters’ identities and self-perceptions are easily shaped by what or who they see in false images that are doctored, in celebrity lifestyles that are unattainable, and in peer relationships that are shallow, fickle, and even cruel.
Obviously, keeping our girls away from the internet, social media, and various apps is a very helpful defensive strategy. But we can go on the offensive with them at an early age. My five-year-old granddaughter hears from her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, that she is a beautiful, beloved daughter of God. She hears that she is loving and strong, and that she is enough.
Battling for Our Daughters’ Hearts, Minds, and Souls
The battle for our daughters’ time, attention, and money is a spiritual battle for their hearts, minds, and souls. At an increasingly younger age, our daughters hear and often believe the whispers of lies and self-accusations. “I’m ugly, fat, stupid, disgusting. I’m too tall, too short, too loud, too quiet. I’m unlovable, unworthy, invisible, and alone. I’m not smart enough, popular enough, holy enough, funny enough, rich enough, or good enough. I am invisible. No one really cares about me. It wouldn’t matter if I lived or died…”
Although shocking and disheartening, as adults we need to help them identify that these lies come from the pit of hell. We should teach them how to fight for themselves and for one other. The intensification of the battle is evident in the confusion about identity, in bullying, in eating disorders, in the hook-up culture, in cutting, in depression, and in suicide. If we don’t take the time and effort to intentionally form and shape our girls’ self-image, someone else will.
Walking in Freedom
One of the most beautiful things in my motherhood and ministry is watching young girls encounter God’s love for them, grow in confidence, and live more authentically.
These girls care less about impressing others and more about honoring the Lord. They seek forgiveness and learn how to forgive others. They use their words to bless and not to curse. Their friendships with other girls are supportive and empowering. They find ways to share God’s love and serve more willingly and selflessly.
Like all of us adult women who are also on the path of deeper conversion and discipleship, this doesn’t happen overnight. But I know that it is possible. I personally know many, many girls and young adult women who have encountered this Love. They now live confidently, courageously, and freely as daughters of God.
The Long Game
Our mission as parents is a marathon, not a sprint, and we can’t grow weary or give up the fight. We cannot protect our kids from everything, but we also can’t stop parenting when they need it the most. We must clearly, consistently, and lovingly set boundaries and give guidelines. There’s wisdom in saying no when it’s necessary, and yes when it’s possible.
We can’t naïvely overlook important issues like dating, media, phones, electronics, modesty, self-harm, and others. We need to help them navigate the dangers of our culture with practical wisdom and confidence. It is exhausting, and often frightening and frustrating. But they are worth it!
In this extraordinary time in the history of the world and the Church, Jesus wants to raise up warriors and saints. As parents, we have been given the privilege and responsibility to help Jesus in this endeavor. Let’s not be afraid or lose heart, even when our daughters seem resistant or indifferent. Let’s entrust them to His Fatherly care and truly believe that “with God all things are possible.”
Do you have daughters? What are your struggles when it comes to instilling freedom and confidence in Christ as opposed to false security in the opinion of the culture?
Debra Herbeck, a Jewish convert to the Church, has worked extensively in youth and women’s ministry. She has directed Pine Hills Girls Camp for the past 32 years, is the founder and Director of the Be Love Revolution, and also helps lead a ministry called i.d.916. She has written a number of books that can be found here. Debra and her husband Peter live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and are the parents of four children and five adorable grandchildren.