Article by: Sarah Koontz, Founder of Living by Design Ministries
As a writer, I diligently search for just the right words to encourage and uplift my readers.
I can work and re-work my writing to make certain it communicates a positive message and edit out any parts that don’t fit my overall goal for the piece.
Oh, how I wish I could say the same for my real life.
I am often more reactive than proactive and speak hastily and without much thought at all.
Sadly, there is no delete button in my daily life, no way to edit out the parts that aren’t edifying to my loved ones.
Matt 12:36-37 says, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Every. Careless. Word.
Poorly chosen words can strain our most critical relationships; they can tear down and destroy those that we love.Poorly chosen words can strain our most critical relationships.
As a writer, I can take the time necessary to craft and package my message.
In real life, the words spill out of me and often require a bit of clean-up once I’m finished.
Over the past few months, I have been writing about the beautiful work God has been doing in my relationship with my mother.
I know that our story has been an encouragement to many of you, and that is why I feel so compelled to share some struggles we’ve had over the past few weeks.
Even when God redeems and restores our relationships, we are still going to fail to love each other well from time to time.
I’m going to spare you the details because they really aren’t important, instead, I’m going to give you an illustration to put our current relationship into context.
Three years ago, my husband and I moved out to the country “so we could have a big garden and raise chickens” (among other things).
We live just down the valley from my childhood home and are surrounded by lifelong friends and family members (including my mama).I sometimes joke that we live in “The Familyhood.”
We have slowly worked our way up to a 5,000 square foot food garden (a.k.a. my full-time job in the summer months) and 29 chickens.
One of the best parts about raising chickens is the fresh eggs, and because we have many different breeds in our flock, it seems that every egg is unique.
We’ve got deep chocolate brown eggs, speckled eggs, bright white eggs, pale blue eggs, and a mixture of everything in between.
Of course, they are all exactly the same once you crack them open…runny whites with a deep golden yolk.
We’ve been finding a lot of broken eggs in the nesting boxes lately and have been searching for the root of the problem.
What we know for certain is that a few of our hens are laying eggs with weak shells.
So weak, that the act of picking the egg out of the nesting box is enough to crush the shell.
We never know when we are going to get a weak shelled egg, so we have to treat all of our eggs with extreme care.
My mom and I are like those weak-shelled eggs.
We need to be treated with tenderness and care and are far more fragile than we appear.Our loved ones need to be treated with care; people are more fragile than they appear.
Over the past few weeks, I have made the mistake of growing over-confident in our relationship and forgotten how fragile it still is.
All it took was a few poorly chosen words.
Minor bumps in the road.
A runny mess.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 NIV
I cannot tell you how much these small failures on my part have rattled me.
I was not trying to be hurtful.
Quite the opposite, actually.
I was trying to be helpful.
But here is the thing about mended relationships:
Just like a broken bone needs to be set in a cast and tended to carefully until it completely heals, relationships that have been restored and redeemed by the grace of God still need time and proper care to fully heal.“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Prov. 12:18 NIV
God has done an amazing work in my relationship with my mom, there is absolutely no denying it.
But all of those years of hurt don’t magically disappear, they fade slowly…
And, if we aren’t careful, even a few careless words can launch those painful memories to the forefront of our minds.
And cause our fragile exterior to shatter and our hearts to spill onto the floor.
I remember the first time my eldest daughter colored a picture for me.
It was a picture of a puppy hastily torn out of a coloring book with a few purple scribbles across the middle.
Although her artwork wouldn’t have been remarkable to anyone else, I knew she had done her best and that picture proudly hung on the side of our fridge for more than a year.
Just like my beaming toddler, our first efforts at any new endeavor will likely produce mediocre results.
But our loving heavenly Father is far more concerned about the motivation of our hearts than He is the results of our effort.
He knows when we have done our very best and He knows when we have been careless in our efforts.
At this moment, even my best efforts at loving my mom well are a bit like my toddler’s artwork.
But I know in my heart that I am trying my best and God does too.
Being redeemed doesn’t make us perfect, it simply gives us the ability to trust that God is at work in our imperfections.
Just like my little girl’s coloring skills have improved with practice, I believe my daughtering skills will continue to improve over time.Being redeemed doesn’t mean we are perfect, it means that God is at work in our imperfections.
I am determined to learn how to love my mother well.
I am also learning that even my best attempts will sometimes end in failure.
Next time I discover that my words or actions have caused broken eggshells, I will choose to pray the words of Psalm 19:12-14 and I encourage you to do the same.
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14 (NIV)
Because our primary responsibility is to honor God in all that we do.
To make certain that our words and deeds are pleasing in His sight.
The side effect of honoring God in all things is often healthy and thriving relationships with others, but that is not a guarantee.
Ultimately, our job is to love others to the best of our ability while trusting God to tenderly care for our soul regardless of whether or not that love is returned.
I am so grateful that my mom is also committed to seeing our relationship succeed because healthy relationships require two equally devoted parties.
Jesus will provide the tenderness we need to care for the most fragile of relationships, but only when our heart is focused on honoring Him above all else.
If you are struggling in your relationship with your mom, I encourage you to read our mother-daughter story from the beginning:
1: To the Grown Daughter Who Has Failed to Love Her Mother Well.
2: Here’s What Happened When I Chose to Forgive My Mom.
3: Careless Words and Broken Egg Shells
4: Fiercely Loving My Perfectly Imperfect Mom
5: Beauty for Ashes: How God Redeemed My Mother-Daughter Story
Our God is in the restoration business; there is no relationship on earth beyond the reach of His agape love.
It’s not easy to love our moms—selflessly and without expectation—but it is what God has asked of us.
And God never asks anything He does not also empower us to do.
Even if your mother-daughter relationship is never restored this side of heaven, you can have peace in knowing that you did everything within your power to love your mom well.
And isn’t peace what you’ve been longing for, after all?