By Nadia Marinaccio
"If we imitate Christ in all things, our children will imitate us."
I am a single mother with three children. We relocated to Pennsylvania from New Jersey in June of 2011. My oldest daughter, who was 12 at the time, would be starting 6th grade in a new middle school. Circumstances went from bad to worse in a matter of months; I lost all control. By February of 2012, my fearless 12-year-old, my little girl, had run away. We soon discovered the very real possibility that she was picked up by a 19 year old that she had met on Facebook. You can only imagine the agonizing thoughts during the 20 hours she was missing. It was the longest most heart breaking, 20 hours of my life. The prayers of the righteous availeth much and she came home safe and unharmed.
While I believed this was the worst year of my life, spiritually, it was the best year of my life. I learned first-hand what it meant in Proverbs 3:5 – 6, “… lean not to your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”
What I want to share with you are two moments that changed my life drastically; they gave me the courage to keep fighting when all I wanted to do was give up. I felt like such a failure. I had lost all control. I was depressed (again), contemplating whether or not I would need medication. In the midst of this, I was still responsible for the lives of 3 children who needed me desperately. I was done. I didn’t care what happened to me, or her. If she was crazy enough to take these chances in life, well, let her. I lost all hope in God. I no longer saw a way out. I gave up on what God called me to do.
March 2012, I was having one of the most real conversations I ever had with God. It went something like this, “How could you do this to me? You don’t know what this is like. To have a daughter that disrespects you, hurts you, lies on you, and makes you feel like such a failure. You had Jesus and He was perfect. He never sinned, never complained, he was always obedient. How do you expect me to handle all this and not lose my mind? You said in your word that you don’t give us more than we can handle. Was that a joke or something? Or did it not apply to parenting?” He allowed me to unleash my fury.
He gently stated, “Are you done yet?”
“Of course Jesus was perfect, but what about you? You are my child also and look how many times you sinned against me, used profanity, left me, disrespected and dishonored your own parents. Yet I still loved you, never turned my back on you. I still have plans for you even though you messed up.”
Wow, you can imagine how little I felt after my discourse with God. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut by a world-class champion; I felt like a world-class fool. I thanked God for His patience and love for us. From that moment, my hope was restored and I began to speak those things that were not, as though they were. I declared I would continue to speak my daughter out of this dark place and I wouldn’t give up on her no matter what came our way. I understood that I was to cover her, the same way Christ covered me. I was not to shove her wrong doings in her face and continually remind her of them. Christ doesn’t do that with us. He is a loving father, a gentleman, and he would never force himself onto us. He promises to forgive us and never leave us nor forsake us.
The second most important lesson God taught me was powerful. I remember purchasing one of Dr. Dobson’s books The Strong Willed Child. I saw that book sitting on the shelf and thought to myself “that’s what she is; she is strong willed! I’m going to fix her just as soon as I read this book. I’ll show her!” I began to read the book, convinced that I would find all of her flaws and how to fix them. I was suddenly faced with an eye opener I wasn’t expecting. (I had been sucker punched again.) I wanted all the fingers to point at her so she could be held accountable. You know what happened? All the fingers were pointed at me! Anger wasn’t the word to describe how I felt. I was seething! Are you kidding me? Some of this is my fault? She’s the one with the nasty attitude!
I soon learned, although a child may be unruly and strong willed, it is ultimately the parent’s response to the behavior that would make the difference. This was a hard pill to swallow, but I knew better. God himself convicted me. I did the only thing I knew; I humbled myself before God and asked Him for forgiveness and to show me how to lead my child and respond to her the way He required.
I’ve learned, as parents we are always expecting the children to behave a certain way, which is perfectly fine, but if we are not willing to look inside and better ourselves, we are not leading by example. Christ leads us by example; he expects the same from us. If we imitate Christ in all things, our children will imitate us. This has been a daily process of renewing the mind and I still have a long way to go. I am so thankful to God that he saw fit to choose me to raise this strong willed child. I love her more than words can explain. Although we have been through hell and back, I would do it all over again because she has made me a better mother, and a better follower of Christ.