Mothering Without Guilt:                                     A Mom's Ordinary Day Bible Study SeriesMothering Without Guilt: A Mom's Ordinary Day Bible Study Series
Jean E. Syswerda
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Motherhood and guilt go together like peanut butter and jelly. You feel guilty for not making organic baby food, not keeping up with your scrapbook... and don't forget your cluttered house. Does it ever end? Yes, starting now. This study confronts guilt head-on. It will set your heart free to love, laugh, create, and cuddle, and to play and pray with your children. You'll meet new mentors--biblical women who model the possibilities of guilt-free mothering. As you confront your own guilt, be it over real failures or unrealistic expectations, you will find wonderful opportunities to connect with God. His love banishes all guilt and guides you into freedom in motherhood and all of life.
     

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session 1

when guilt is good


Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
PSALM 139:23-24

 

For You Alone

When you read the title of this study guide-Mothering with out Guilt-did longing leap within your heart? Did you think, "Oh; I want to mother without guilt," only to be quickly extinguished by another thought: "But I feel guilty all the time." Mothering without guilt is a reality many moms never experience because they can's distinguish between true guilt, which is good, and false guilt, which is a weapon of the enemy. The result? A nagging sense of guilt that becomes a constant and unwelcome companion.

Take a moment to examine your understanding of guilt and it, role in your mothering by looking at the following statements Check each one that applies to you.

   Mothering without guilt means:

   There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything.

   I should never lose my temper with my children.

   I should spend at least an hour in prayer and Bible study daily.

   Everyone likes my children and me.

   We should always be on time.

   I should never be discouraged or grouchy.

   I should always be ready to correct my children when they make a mistake.

   I should check and double-check my work to make sure it is perfect.

   My children will never get sick if I am vigilant in taking care of them.

   I should anticipate problems before they occur.

   My children should get good grades in school.

   I can trust God to keep my children safe if I read my Bible every day.

   I should always make tasty, well-balanced meals that my kids love to eat!

   The house should be clean every night before I go to bed.

   My kids never talk back to me.

   My children always love to go to church.

If you checked any of these boxes, you probably have pockets of false guilt in your life and hopes of mothering without guilt seem pretty far-fetched. False guilt dupes you into believing the ideal is possible.

Look back at the list and underline how many times the words "should," "always," and "never" appear. False guilt nags at you with messages of "should" and "always" and "never." False guilt gains a foothold when other people in your life (especially your children) don't live the way you need them to live in order to satisfy your expectations.

Go back and look again at the boxes you checked. This time evaluate each one in light of these three questions:

  • Does achieving this goal require that you live perfectly with perfect children?

  • Does this goal allow for interruptions, mistakes, or individual personality traits?

  • Is this goal dependent on your children conforming to your agenda?


  • Guilt is like quicksand. You can get stuck in it.

    As long as you are tormented by false guilt, true guilt will be difficult to identify. True guilt is a blessing. Just as a pain in the body may be a warning of physical injury or sickness, guilt is an ache in the soul that signals you to examine your heart for sin. When you let go of the "shoulds" and stop evaluating your mothering by how well your children conform to your agenda, you have the opportunity to look beyond the false guilt to the true guilt pointing to sin that needs to be forgiven. You finally have the opportunity to see an accurate self-picture. That's when hope for mothering without guilt begins!


    For You and God's Word

    Begin your study today by reading Psalm 139:23-24.


    Search me, 0 God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
    See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.


    The psalmist David penned this intimate, open prayer. Whom do you trust with your every thought, motivation, choice, decision, or action? David laid his life open before God. He wanted God to see him and help him to accurately evaluate his pain and joy, weariness and vitality, selfishness and unselfishness, sin and service. Laying your life open before God makes it possible to move out of the house of fear and guilt into the house of love.



    Guilt can keep mothers narrowly focused on the question
    'What's wrong with me?" and prevents us from becoming
    effective agents of personal and social change.

    HARRIET LERNER, THE MOTHER DANCE


    1. As you think about laying your life bare before God, what do you fear?


    2. Do you believe that God can lovingly handle all that goes on in your mind and heart? Explain your answer.


    When you don't believe God can be trusted, you become defensive, deny your harmful or hurtful ways, and deflect any hope of change. When you believe that God loves you and longs to forgive you and have an intimate relationship with you, you can look courageously at your life and change can become possible.

    Honestly ask yourself, "Do I want to defend myself, or am I willing to open my heart to God's gaze?" "Do I want to deny any hurt or harm I may have caused, or will I allow God to evaluate my actions, reveal their consequences, and offer forgiveness?" "Do I blame others or the circumstances, or can I ask God to unveil my responsibility?"


    Your ability to examine yourself accurately is wholly dependent on what you believe about God's love and forgiveness.

    3. Recall a time when your young child made a foolish or willful mistake. What did you feel for your child?



    Never was a mother so blind to the faults of her child as
    our lord is toward ours.

    DANIEL CONSIDINE, CONFIDENCE IN GOD


    Do you believe God to be distant, easily annoyed, indifferent, or angry? Is he always watching you so that he can catch you in your sin and punish you? Do you believe that God is harsher with you than you are with your own child? Pray the words of Psalm 139:2324, focusing on a God who is completely loving and completely trustworthy. Can you bare your heart before him? Can you be honest? Now write out the prayer of Psalm 139 in your own words, and use it throughout the week in your prayer times.


    For You and Others

    Begin your time together as a small group by discussing this question: What is the deepest need of the human heart?

    Look back at the boxes you checked in "For You Alone." What do these statements suggest that you may think is your greatest need?


    1. Look up each of the following Bible passages, discussing what each one says about your deepest needs:

    Mark 2:5, 9______________________________________

    Luke 7:47-48____________________________________

    Colossians 2:13__________________________________

    Do you agree that this is your deepest need? Why, or why not?


    2. Recall a time when one of your children asked for forgiveness. What did you feel for your child?


    What could your feelings toward your child tell you about God's feelings toward you when you need forgiveness?



    God pardons like a mother who kisses the offence into
    everlasting forgiveness.

    HENRY WARD BEECHER,
    PROVERBS FROM A PLYMOUTH PULPIT


    3. Describe an experience of forgiveness that has been life-changing for you or for someone you know personally.


    Read Psalm 139 together. Have each person in your study read out loud a verse from this psalm, then discuss the following questions:

    4. What does Psalm 139 suggest God knows about you? Be specific.


    How does this intimate knowledge make you feel?

    5. Discuss how the "shoulds" in your life (see the list in "For You Alone") can get in the way of trusting God with an intimate knowledge of who you really are.


    6. What is your understanding of intimacy with God? What does it mean in day-to-day living?


    7. Do you believe that greater intimacy with Jesus is the only antidote for guilt? If yes, state why. If no, state what could also be an effective antidote for guilt.


    8. David, the man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), was no stranger to failure, shame, disappointment, and sin. Yet he wasn't afraid to have God "search," "know," "test," and "see" him. Check out these verses, noting what David is confident of in each one:

    Psalm 13:5______________________________________

    Psalm 18:19_____________________________________

    Psalm 26:3______________________________________

    Psalm 27:13_____________________________________

    Psalm 52:8-9____________________________________

    Psalm 56:3-4____________________________________


    For You and God

    Once you cast off false guilt and trust God to search you, know you, test you, and see you in his perfect love, you can stop struggling and relax. Seeing yourself as God sees you will result in less shame and fear. The apostle John wrote, "There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear" (1 John 4:18 THE MESSAGE).

    Find a quiet place. While there, confess your trust in God's love, and ask him to gently reveal and help you banish any false guilt. Then ask him to uncover any remaining ache in your soul any true guilt. Here are two exercises that can help you lay yourself bare before God:

  • Take out a piece of paper and write down everything you are holding against yourself in your mothering. Include past failures as well as current struggles. Be as specific as possible. Offer them to God for his forgiveness, and then either burn your list or tear it into tiny pieces, knowing that "He forgives your sins -every one" (Psalm 103:3 THE MESSAGE).

  • Write about a shame-filled moment as a mother-yelling at your child, neglecting your child's needs, disregarding your child's feelings, being overcome by personal temptations and struggles, and so forth. Describe in detail every smell, sight, sound, and touch of this moment. Invite God into your story, asking for a sense of the fullness of his unconditional love and forgiveness. Then burn or tear up that piece of paper as a symbol of God's complete forgiveness.


  • For You and Your Kids

    One of the wonderful by-products of intimacy with God is that you will be able to live humbly and authentically before your children, modeling to them the liberation of forgiveness. A study done several years ago reveals that the most influential interactions between parent and child are those where parents seek forgiveness from their children for their wrongdoings. Children who experience their parents asking for forgiveness develop confidence that they can take risks, make mistakes, and remain secure in relationships (see the book Parenting by Heart by Ron Taffel, with Melinda Blau [New York: Addison-Wesley, 19911).


    Preschool-Elementary

    Do you remember pretending to be a mommy when you were a little girl? When your child pretends to be a mommy or a daddy, talk with her or him about the qualities of a parent that this pretend play reveals. Does their play or your conversation uncover ways in which you have failed your child? Take time to ask for forgiveness and to talk about ways you can better mother your children.


    Middle-High School

    Look together at the messages of your culture (magazines, movies, and advertisements)-what these messages say are your greatest needs. What does your culture suggest you need most? Wear certain brands? Have the right look? Acquire more stuff? Share with your children some of your own misconceptions about your deepest needs. Look for opportunities to remind your children that the deepest need of the human heart is to be fully known and forgiven by God.


    All Ages

    The message of God's story is that forgiveness is always available-you just have to ask. How can you translate God's message to your children? As you live in the fullness of God's forgiveness of your sin, you will be able to offer forgiveness to your children and at the same time point them to God. Don't miss the incredible opportunity that arises in the midst of failure -the opportunity of forgiveness. When you know you are forgiven-completely known and completely forgiven-you can mother without guilt.



    Forgiveness is an answer, the divine answer, to the
    question implied in our existence. An answer is an answer
    only for him who has asked, who is aware of the question.

    PAUL TILLICH,
    "To WHOM MUCH WAS FORGIVEN"

     

    END

     


    Excerpted from A Mom's Ordinary Day: Mothering Without Guilt. Copyright 2003. Published by Zondervan. All Rights Reserved.