Have you ever started to recognise a behavioural pattern within yourself? And in certain circumstances, you keep reacting the same way?
Over the last weeks, I’ve noticed an unexplainable pattern of anxiety brewing deep inside of me every time I drive to my children’s school to collect them. I’ve tried praying before showing up at the school gate, having a snack to make sure I was energised, and just sitting peacefully to read a book, yet none of these options helped calm my soul before pick-up time.
Particularly this school year, my nearly eight-year-old daughter has been struggling with mean girls in her class and their hurtful comments directed towards her. It’s been hard to listen to these remarks, as her mother, and understand the social difficulties she experiences by just showing up at school. My five-year-old son has also struggled with school but for different reasons. All the stoppings and startings of school, due to a season of Covid, have knocked his confidence and increased anxiety in going to school.
Despite feeling my routine uneasiness, I chose to thank God for showing me that this unhealthy emotional pattern has been taking place. And I humbly prayed for more clarity on where my anxious thoughts have been coming from.
Over the last year, my husband and I have been committed to growing healthier emotionally through counselling and reading various psychology / self-help / inspirational books to help understand our childhood backgrounds and what makes us behave as we do. A huge benefit has been talking so much more and cheering each other on through what can seem a terribly slow, painful-at-times process of exploring oneself.
In one of our evening chats, I started to recall my school memories, some of which I had really buried and tried to ignore in my subconscious thoughts. Kids had been repeatedly cruel with their words to me, making fun of my appearance with thick eyebrows, braces, and glasses. Everything seemed to be scrutinised, and I can recall a girl we carpooled with making fun of the Christian children’s music playing in the car. This was ironic, as I attended a Christian school! Their poisonous words wounded my fragile nine-year-old’s heart, heavily impacting me with low self-esteem and causing me to doubt if who God was making me to be was acceptable.
Even through eleven years of marriage, my husband had never heard these stories from my growing up years. Tears started to stream down my cheeks as I finally made the connection between my own challenges at school and those of my kids’ experiences; I was unkindly judged by other students and deep down I had wanted to change that pattern for my children. Fear of being judged and my inability to control the harsh comments of others were at the root of my anxiety. I was instantly regressed to the “little Joy” while listening to my children share their challenges with other school kids.
Sadly, I couldn’t control others while growing up, and neither can my daughter and son stop mean comments from coming their way. But even as a mid-thirty-year-old, I can courageously face up to my buried fears while empowering my children to stand up to theirs. We, mothers and children alike, do not have to let our worries overtake us. We can acknowledge our emotions, accept our feelings, and release them into God’s loving hands, as we ask Him to shield our hearts and minds from the toxicity of others. We can take hold of truth, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)
Coinciding with my family’s emotional awareness journey, my children planted sunflower seeds for a growing competition at school. Within three days, my daughter’s seed had germinated with lovely, green leaves showing. We waited another few days for my son’s seed to show a sign of shoots. Observing his disappointment, I checked his seed and realised that we had planted it too deeply in the soil. We replanted his seed closer to the surface, gave it a sprinkle of water, and practiced patience again.
About five days after replanting, I decided to pray about this little sunflower we were waiting on. The next time we had a look, the tiniest hint of green was starting to surface through the earthy soil, and we rejoiced with delight over its growth!
I think similarly, the slow growth of my son’s sunflower can parallel our work towards emotional healthiness. It takes time, effort, and can be at a snail’s pace. Maybe it doesn’t even feel like you are making any progress at all. Maybe you feel stuck in a fog or in an emotional rut?
Take one day at a time! When we lay down all aspects of ourselves to Jesus, including our thoughts and feelings, we are allowing for God to really bring about His good changes in our lives. It may take days, weeks, months, and even years to understand our personal development along God’s journey, yet we can remember that God is always working a greater plan of His mercy, compassion, love, and grace into our lives, even if we cannot see the progress made or our growth seems slow. With grateful hearts, we can delight in taking baby steps forward, because slow growth is still growth.