How lovely that the way your relationship begins with your children is that you are the one who nurtures them, nestles with them, and comforts them. You are the one chosen by God the Father to tenderly care for the little one who is incapable of doing anything by himself or herself. You are the one who has been appointed to gently guide your baby and gather the vulnerable child in your arms. After all, this is how our loving and merciful Father treats His children.
When I was discouraged over the lack of order in my home or by the constant demands of motherhood, I would remind myself that my job was to treat my children with the same gentleness and love that my Father had shown me. When I was at the end of my emotional rope due to two-year-old tantrums, potty training, and lack of time alone, I defaulted to behavior that was not of my own making but came from the example of the Good Shepherd.
Babies come with only one need in life: they need to be loved and nurtured. God looked at all the mothers over the face of the planet and He placed your little ones in your arms. Whether you are the mother of a colicky baby, a special needs baby, a strong-willed two-year-old, or a defiant teenager, God will give you the strength that you need to love and nurture.
God’s plan is that His very character would be translated from His heart to your heart during your motherhood journey. He wants you to treat your children the same way that He has treated you. His grace is enough for every long night and for every tear. His strength is available to a weary mother twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. His compassion never wanes, and He never runs out of lovingkindness.
In the most advanced intensive care units in the world, when a premature baby with an erratic heartbeat and irregular breathing is struggling to survive, the expert staff places the infant on the mother’s or father’s chest for skin-to-skin contact. Often, precisely as this happens, the baby will begin to breathe regularly and his or her heartbeat will match the parent’s.
Do you gather your children to you, or do you keep them at arm’s length? When they are misbehaving or fractious in behavior, what your little one might need is for you to gather him or her to yourself as you speak kindly and gently and lovingly stroke their back.
There is a need in every child, placed there by the Father, to be held, to be comforted, to be gathered, and to be touched. God touches us when we are disobedient and filled with pain; God holds us when we feel out of sorts or are angry. If this is what God does for His difficult children, it is what we should do for our little ones.
The prophet Isaiah reminded the people of God thousands of years ago that we have a Father who knows the value of carrying them close to His heart. The word carry is defined from its Hebrew roots as “to help, to aid, to touch, to support and to desire.” How wonderful to know that your Father desires you! He longs to touch you and support you in your weakness, to aid you in your challenges, and to help you live in a place of hope and peace. As the mother of your children, that should be your desire as well: to carry your little one through the rough days and challenging moments in life.
Will your nights be long and frustrating? Absolutely they will! Will the days seem to never end? Without a doubt, there will be days when your nerves are jagged, and your resolve is tested. Will your heart and your mind grow weary? Assuredly you will long for a day off or just one night of uninterrupted sleep. However, I can tell you from my perspective as I look in the rearview mirror at my early days of mothering that the one thing, I do not regret is the sweet nurturing of my children. I am filled with deep peace and satisfaction as I recall the times that I sang to them rather than shouted at them. I can rest despite my imperfections when I remember carrying my babies rather than allowing them to cry it out. I refuse to believe that encouraging toddlers in a soft voice was the wrong strategy in parenting.
The stirring truth is that to nurture your little flock in the same manner that the Father has nurtured you, you must know His character. You must take the time to get to know who He really is so that you can become like Him and embrace His strategies as your very own. If you view God as an angry, harsh taskmaster who is ready to clobber you over the head whenever you get out of line, you will never discover the joy that nurturing your little ones will bring to your heart.
The choice to nurture your children establishes a solid foundation for the other two components of discipline. Nurture does not mean spoil. It means spending time with your children, listening to their little hearts, giving them hugs and kisses, and enjoying being with them.
Excerpt from Rooms of a Mother’s Heart: A Sacred Call and an Eternal Purpose, © 2021 by Carol McLeod, published by Whitaker House. Used with permission.