This text is taken from a talk Debbie Herbeck recently to the Heart to Heart Apostolate in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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?” (Mt 19:25)
As the mother of four, a long-time youth minister, and a new grandmother, I’ve had some of the same exasperated conversations with the Lord about the seemingly impossible mission—especially in this culture—of raising teenage girls to 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.” (Mt 19:26)
Often when we are in the midst of struggles with our teenage girls, we need new eyes to see some important realities about who they are and what they are facing.
God’s Heart for Our Daughters
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 the first time my eldest daughter walked home from the bus stop alone, got her driver’s license, made the trek home from college, and flew home after a semester abroad. All I could think of was getting her home, safe and sound. We can have lots of plans, ideas, and desires for our daughters, but the Lord has only one ultimate goal: To get His beloved daughter safely home to heaven; to live with Him for eternity.
Nothing else is more important, and God will use everything in her life and yours to accomplish that purpose. It’s easy to lose sight of this overriding goal, especially in the midst of busy teenage years. Do we primarily investing our time, money, and energy in the things that only help our daughters to be smarter, more talented, more popular, and more successful, or are we also investing in the activities, events, and relationships that can help them get to heaven?
I think it helps to check our own motivations so we can think clearly about what’s best for our daughters—not just for high school or college, but also 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, the drama?
- Do I want her to engage in certain activities so I can live vicariously through her?
- Am I envious of her, or 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 desirable; that she is good enough. In a culture that is predominantly image-driven, your daughter’s identity and self-perception are easily shaped by what/who she sees—in false images that are doctored, in celebrity lifestyles that are unattainable, and in peer relationships that are shallow and fickle.
Our daughters are in a battle, not just for their time, attention and money, but also in a spiritual battle for their hearts, minds, and souls. Daily and incessantly, your daughter hears (yes, your daughter) and believes these types of lies about herself:
I’m ugly, fat, stupid, disgusting, 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.
No one really cares about me, it wouldn’t matter if I lived or died; there is only one way out of my pain . . . .”
Although shocking and disheartening, as adults we need to help them identify that these lies come from the pit of hell, and teach them how to fight for themselves and one other. The intensification of the battle is evident in the confusion about identity, bullying, eating disorders, the hook-up culture, cutting, depression, and suicide. In today’s culture, if we don’t take the time and make the effort to form and shape our girls, someone else will.
Walking in Freedom
It is so beautiful to watch a young woman encounter Christ’s love for her and find freedom. What does it look like as she begins to walk in this freedom?
- She thinks about herself less often and more about others.
- She serves willingly and selflessly.
- She cares less about impressing others and more about honoring the Lord.
- She seeks forgiveness and freely forgives.
- She uses her words to bless and not to curse.
- Other women become her allies and not her foes.
- She finds ways to share God’s love with others.
Like all of us who are on the path of deeper conversion and discipleship, it doesn’t happen overnight, but I know that it is possible. I personally know many teenage girls and young adult women who have encountered this Love and are living confidently and courageously as daughters of God.
Our mission as parents is a marathon, not a sprint, and we can’t grow weary or give up the fight. We cannot protect them from everything, but we also can’t stop parenting when they need it the most. We have to clearly, consistently, and lovingly set boundaries and give guidelines. Say no when you have to and yes when you can; help them understand why you are taking a particular approach to dating, media, phones, etc. It’s exhausting and often frustrating, but it’s worth it.
In this extraordinary time in the history of the world and the Church, Jesus wants to raise up warriors and saints. Let’s not be afraid or lose heart, even when our daughters seem resistant or indifferent. Let’s entrust our daughters to Him and truly believe that “with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).