Acts of Service or Enabling?

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!”

I Peter 4: 8-11 (The Message)


One of my gifts is encouraging. Another is serving. I love to serve my husband and I love to serve my kids. As a result, I sometimes struggle knowing the difference between teaching my children independence and serving them out of love. Sometimes, my kids get upset with me because I’ll make them do something for themselves but will turn around and do the same thing for their dad. They throw the “It’s not fair” card and to an extent, they’re right. But, on the other hand, they’re also wrong.

My job isn’t to train my husband. His mom did a great job of raising him and he has already learned how to be a fully functioning, independent adult. We got married a little later in life, and he lived on his own for many years before we met. I have no doubt about his ability to cook, clean, wash, shop for food, etc. However, our children haven’t achieved that level of independence yet, and it’s my job as their mother to teach them. Someday, if God allows, they will get married and I would love to know that I did my best to equip them well to fulfill their role as husband or wife and, again, if God allows, mother or father.

Therefore, if I continue to do everything for them, they’ll never learn the appropriate skills to pass on to their children. And, quite honestly, a huge motivating factor for me to continue to teach these skills is because I don’t want to be known as the “mother-in-law who never taught my spouse how to be independent.

It’s my choice to serve my husband by supplying food he enjoys eating, clean clothes, a relatively clean house, and a chance to relax at night while the dishes are washed and put away. It’s also my choice to give my children practice to learn the above skills so that they in turn can choose (or not) to serve their spouses in that way when they get married. Or, so that they can gain the confidence needed in those areas before venturing out on their own and focus on other aspects of adulthood – such as studying for their career of choice, working hard at their job after graduation, or focusing on reaching out and helping others.

I show love to my husband by making his life as easy as possible when he comes home. I show love to my children through practice of necessary life skills. The scenarios look opposite, and may seem unfair to those who are given the direction to work, but both are ways to love those God has blessed me with.

Everyone deserves a break, though, so when they least expect it, I will continue to give grace to each child from their chores occasionally – which is another way to show how much I love them.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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