by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery
I’m forty-four, and I’m still learning how to maintain healthy relationships. God recently sparked a major mind-shift in me on this, one that arose smack in the middle of tension, confusion, and heartache.
But in the end, the situation resulted in incredible hope and peace.
My two most important relationships are with my husband and daughter. Naturally, I am motivated to love them well, in a way that deepens intimacy, creates wholeness, and builds trust. I’ve discovered that being purposeful in those things long term has a greater impact than a quick solution for an immediate problem.
As the saying goes, we can win the battle but lose the heart.
This past week, my daughter has been dealing with some hard stuff. It’s been crazy-difficult to watch her struggle. My instinct is to want to immediately “fix” the situation. Whenever I give in to that tendency, however, not only am I getting in God’s way, but I miss out on opportunities to participate in His transformational work.
When I seek His heart and will, not for the problem, but for the person, my vision becomes clearer. More Christ-like. God is much more concerned with His work within us than external problems.
But our natural inclination is to focus on the now. We want solutions, to alleviate the pain of today. It’s easy to forget how often God uses our struggles to bring about His greatest and deepest work. This was my mind shift—to focus on growth rather than behavior. In short, to reach, protect, and equip the heart.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” To the ancient Jew, the heart involved much more than a person’s emotions. It was the core of their being and encompassed their will and intellect as well.
My daughter is facing the prospect of merging two families from different cultures. As her mom, I was tempted to center on the small, immediate solutions. But God impressed on me: This conflict is a good thing. You have an opportunity to show her what healthy dialogue looks like and how to communicate with others who may not share her perspective.
So, setting aside my “fix-it” tool belt, I chose a mentorship role. I planned a picnic for her, her future fiancé, and my husband. Together, we simply talked. We addressed tough issues, shared thoughts and feelings, and honestly…solved nothing.
But something greater was built that afternoon. A foundation of trust was laid, hopefully one that that will enable a lifetime of good communication. They got a chance to experience healthy discussion and learned how to persevere through hard conversations with a balance of love and truth. This will have a much greater impact on her future marriage than any decisions she and her boyfriend make today.
It’s easy to believe the immediate problem is the problem. But God’s vision goes so much deeper. Scripture says He uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:38)—to mold us into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:39).
God’s goal is never merely behavior modification. He works toward our transformation. The process is more important to Him than any quick fix. I’m learning to keep the big picture in mind. I want to trust in His wisdom, know He has a plan, and is even now working that out in those I love.
Resting in who He is frees me to love well, focusing on long-term growth. This is what it means to develop redemptive relationships.
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s also a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Jennifer’s latest book is Restoring Her Faith. She left belief behind…but could this family change her mind?
With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds that his hands aren’t just full, they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith and his heart?
Join the conversation: Have you ever had a role in someone’s long-term development?