often hear 1 Corinthians 13 recited at weddings, but not often as it applies specifically to motherhood. The truth is, 1 Corinthians 13 is an extremely important passage for moms.
As moms, we are our kids’ first experience with love.
We are the ones who love them first while waiting for them to arrive by birth or adoption, a mother’s love precedes the child’s presence. We are the one whose loving face welcomes them into this world and into our homes. We are the ones who tell them over and over and over that they are loved, and we show them not only what love says but what love does.
In a very real sense, we are our kids’ first tangible definition of love.
And yet we do not often apply 1 Corinthians 13, this famous love passage of scripture, to how we parent. It’s applied to how we treat our spouse more often than anything, but what about our kids? What about those who are looking to us to define love for the rest of their lives?
It wasn’t until just this weekend that I began to read these verses as a mom, looking at each instructive phrase and pondering how to live that love out in my parenting. You guys, it’s a pretty painful read, but I think it’s also very practical and applicable. In fact, I think it might completely change my life, if I pray this out, live it out, and let God transform me into a mom that loves her kids as 1 Corinthians 13 instructs.
Here are 5 ways 1 Corinthians 13 will revolutionize your parenting:
1 Corinthians 13 tells me to…
- Prioritize Christ-like loving over “Christian living”
I don’t know about you but I like lists. They make me happy. They give me tangible goals and measurable accomplishments. The problem with parenting is so much of it isn’t measurable. It’s easy to get caught up in doing good Christian things above actually living and loving like Christ. We get all wound up about things like serving at church as a family, reading devotions together every night, sending our kids to Christian schools, and the list goes on and one, but we forget to actually love our children well.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says:
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We can do all the right Christian things for our kids. We can cross off all the good Christian boxes, but if we don’t actually act loving toward them it is all for naught.
2. Parent in God’s power, not my own
4 Love is patient, love is kind.
How often do I hurry my children in the rudest possible way? How often do I correct my son, asking him to “say that again more kindly” when he learned that harsh tone of voice from me in the first place?
We mothers joke about praying for patience. “Don’t ever pray for patience,” we say, afraid God will heap more frustration or annoyance upon us to FORCIBLY grow patience in us. You guys, that’s just dumb.
Of course, we lack patience and kindness, we are fallen and sinful! Plus, we have persistent little patience-testers living in our homes, jumping all over our clean laundry with their dirty feet and taking A MILLION YEARS to get out of the car whenever we go anywhere. We can only be patient with our kids by asking God to fill us with the patience He has with us. If we aren’t praying for the Spirit to come to our rescue and fill us with God-powered patience and kindness beyond our mortal ability, then we are destined for failure in this area.
3. Quit comparing before I lose my way
[Love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
How often do we envy other moms? Their sleeping babies, their well-mannered toddlers, their bikini bodies after birth? Or how often do we “humble brag” about our kiddos trying to feel better about our faults, to find our worth in our children’s accomplishments or behavior? How often are we jealous, boastful, proud or rude toward other mothers, even just in our minds?
The root issue behind envying, boastfulness and pride is comparison. Comparison not only steals the joy that I might otherwise find in motherhood, it also derails my ability to truly love my kids. Comparison keeps my eyes fixed on other people out there, rather than my people right here. We need to run far, far away from jealousy, boastfulness, and pride if we want to really see our children and love them as Christ commanded.
4. Relinquish my right to be irritable
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
The NLT says “It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable.” If I’m honest with myself, I’m more irritable with my kids than anyone, and often that irritability is because I have not had my own way. I have not been allowed the quiet I WANT. I have not been given the space I WANT. I have not been treated or spoken to the way I WANT.
I am so easily angered when it comes to my kids, and I most definitely keep a record of those wrongs. I delight in those delicious wrongs because I can complain about them and bond with other moms over our mutual irritation with our kids. I share this record of my kids’ wrongs with my husband and my friends and my moms’ group and women’s Bible study. I re-live the wrongs, reveling in my right to be irritated, so reluctant to forgive and just MOVE ON ALREADY.I’m easily angered, constantly irritated, frustration at how I’m treated, it’s mostly just a giant tantrum. I need to grow a pair and grow up.
I’m easily angered, constantly irritated, forever frustrated at how I’m treated and how little I get what I want “because I’m a mom.” You know what I call that behavior in my kids? A tantrum. I need to relinquish my right to throw mommy tantrums before this behavior bleeds over into my kids’ definition of love.
5. Look for the good and strive to be better
7 [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…
This. This is the mom I long to be. One that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Not one who jumps to conclusions, assuming my kids are always up to something. Not the one who just reflexively shouts, “EMMA STOP IT!” when I hear a bump or a crash, ready to dole out discipline and correction rather than looking for opportunities to encourage and build up.