Ask a Pastor Ep. 41 - Mother's Day Special
Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.
This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with his wife, Faith Bjorklund, about some topics related to Mother's Day: Worry & Identity, Celebrating vs. Pride, and Discipline.
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Kurt Bjorklund: Hi, welcome to Ask A Pastor. This is some content that we provide in different ways that you can get this. If you're listening on the radio, welcome, if you're listening on social media, welcome, if you're listening via podcast, welcome. If you have questions, send them to email@example.com, we'll be happy to get it on in future episodes.
Kurt Bjorklund: Today, I'm joined by my favorite all-time guest on Ask A Pastor. It's her first time, this is my wife, Faith. Faith, welcome.
Faith Bjorklund: Hi.
Kurt Bjorklund: My beautiful, lovely wife, Faith. It is a privilege today just to talk with her. We are going to talk about Mother's Day just a little bit. These questions are actually not questions that you've submitted, these are questions that Cindy Adams came up with, who works with me in the office, she thought would be particularly good for mothers to just listen to. We're going to get a chance just to hear Faith's thoughts on some of these. I'll chime in a little bit as well.
Kurt Bjorklund: Just as background, we have four children, and I can tell you that my wife has been a phenomenal mother. Not to put any pressure on her, I'm sure she's like, "Shut up already and let's talk," but she really has done a phenomenal job with our four boys. I would listen to her talk about parenting, and we're going to a little bit. So, Faith, the first question is this.
Kurt Bjorklund: And that is, how do you deal with worry as a mom? Everything from when our kids were little, from a baby has a fever, and I don't know what's going on, to developmental benchmarks. Are they walking soon enough, talking soon enough, reading soon enough, riding their bike soon enough, all that kind of thing, to college options, to the kids are driving away in a car the first time, and I'm worried at whether or not they can handle it. How have you dealt with the worry side of being a parent?
Faith Bjorklund: Do you want to know how I dealt with it well, or how I dealt with it badly?
Kurt Bjorklund: One of each would be great. Both would be awesome.
Faith Bjorklund: Badly, I would say getting on WebMD and researching and trying to control a worrisome situation by thinking that if I know enough, and if I talk to enough people, if I gather enough information, then I'm going to be able to control an outcome. I think there's being a responsible parent and then there's probably that place of, "I don't have any control over this, so I am just going to enter this 24/7 and try to solve this problem in my own power, my own strength."
Faith Bjorklund: I would say as the kids got older, if I was really worried about something, again, how I would deal with that badly would be just going horizontal and not vertical. Talking to people, and looking out at my peers and their kids, and what's going on with them, and comparing, and trying to get other people's input.
Faith Bjorklund: I think this is really obvious, but when I worry, the best antidote for that is the biblical one, and that is to pray. To take everything that's on our hearts, especially with our kids, and go vertical with it and say, "God, You love this kid even more than I do, and I know that, and you're more invested in their future and in their health and in their thriving than I am. And You're the One who actually has the power to do something about this."
Faith Bjorklund: This is really simple, but the first thing is to really commit to praying about the things that are most concerning about your kids, and to do it faithfully.
Kurt Bjorklund: And that really is a biblical answer in the sense of, I think it's Philippians that says, "Be anxious for nothing," Philippians four, "but in everything, through prayer and supplication, make your request be made known unto God." And our tendency, a lot of times, really is to say ... I love your image of go horizontal instead of vertical, to say, "Let me figure out how to control this. Let me answer this. Let me problem solve."
Kurt Bjorklund: And certainly, there's a time to problem solve as a parent. There is a time to say, "Let me see if I can figure this out and help my child forward." But a lot of times, we spend all our time there, and very little on the vertical solution. And the reality that's hard as a parent, especially as your kid grows, but even when they're little, is you don't control as much as you think you control.
Kurt Bjorklund: And to come to grips with that is actually helpful in terms of the worry, and say, "I don't," but I love how you put that, too, that God does know and love our child more than we know and love our child.
Faith Bjorklund: And the other word in that verse, it says, "Present your request with thanksgiving, with gratitude," basically. And when we're praying, when I'm praying, sometimes I get worried as I pray. If I'm just praying like, "God, here's the situation. This needs to change, and I pray that this happens," and instead, to take a bigger picture, to say, "What does it look like to be grateful for this kid, in this situation, facing what this child's facing? How can I be thankful, and how can I really have a sense of peace, that God is good and He's good in this, and I can be grateful for that goodness, and I can stake a claim on that goodness, just knowing He is going to be a good God in this situation?"
Faith Bjorklund: And keeping your mind and your heart centered on God's power and sovereignty instead of, "This is what needs to change."
Kurt Bjorklund: Right. Absolutely. Easier said than done.
Faith Bjorklund: Easier said than done.
Kurt Bjorklund: But a key thing. So, here's the second question. How have you, as a mom, kept your identity rooted more in God than in your kids? I think a lot of times, as parents, especially living when and where we live, our identity goes up and down based on how well our kids are doing. So if our kids are doing well, we feel good about ourselves, good about our lives. If our kids are struggling with something, we feel badly about ourselves, badly about our circumstance. How have you personally navigated that side of the journey?
Faith Bjorklund: Navigated it well or badly?
Kurt Bjorklund: Again, a little bit of each would be good.
Faith Bjorklund: I heard somebody say once that a mom does as well as her worst child is doing. You know what I'm saying.
Kurt Bjorklund: Not worst child, but as poorly ... Emotionally, you do as badly as your worst child is doing. Worst child, there it is again.
Faith Bjorklund: Yeah.
Kurt Bjorklund: As poorly as your child who's doing the worst emotionally [crosstalk 00:07:05].
Faith Bjorklund: I don't like that saying, but unfortunately, I feel like sometimes that has been true, that if one of our kids is really especially in a sad place, in a discouraged place, that as a mom or dad, you automatically go to, "Okay, what did I do wrong here? What did I miss? What haven't I done that could help them? How can I help them problem solve this?" And we do feel, once one of our kids is sad, there is a sense of sadness that I experience, and I'm sure most moms and dads do as well.
Faith Bjorklund: But I think there's another aspect of this that is, we feel as good as our children are doing, as far as their successes, too. If our children are doing well academically, if they have friends and they're not struggling in school, if they're doing well spiritually, then we think, "Oh, well, I'm doing a good job. I'm a good parent. I can feel good about this."
Faith Bjorklund: I think when our sense of wellbeing goes up and down so drastically with our kids, that does point to an identity issue of, "I need my kids to do well to feel good about myself as a parent, and if they're doing badly, I feel bad as a person." And I know that when I have a negative reaction, say, probably some of my darkest moments were back in travel basketball, when maybe our kids weren't doing well on the court, the team was losing, and I literally had to stuff something in my mouth to keep from saying things that would not reflect the character of Christ on the bleachers.
Faith Bjorklund: And I had to ask the question to myself, "Why is this so important to me? What does this reveal about my deepest held values?" And if I'm really honest, I want my kids to do well on the basketball court because they'll feel good about themselves, but I'll feel good about it. I'll feel like they're having success, and they're feeling like they're mastering something, and I'm going to feel good too, and why is that so important to me?
Faith Bjorklund: I think when we struggle with that identity thing, that's probably the most important question to ask. What is it that I'm so upset about, and why?
Kurt Bjorklund: Right. So how have you, when you've identified those moments where you found yourself saying, "I'm over-identifying, maybe, with the success or failures of my children," how have you tried to then re-balance yourself back to saying, "My primary identity has to be in Christ, not in being a good mom or a not good mom?"
Faith Bjorklund: Well, there's a separation that has to take place. Happened this last week, and I was asking one of our sons how his grades were, and when I got the answer, everything in me started churning, like, "You could do better than that." And then there's that question. Why is this so important to you? Is he you? No. Does he need to have the same standards that you set for yourself back in high school? No. He doesn't.
Faith Bjorklund: Is he going to be just fine? Is he who God created him to be, and is he doing a pretty good job with the gifts and talents that he's been given? Yeah. Is he thriving in different ways? Absolutely. I have to separate from that, I have to step outside of it. I have to identify my own bad reaction, like, "Why am I wanting to control this?"
Faith Bjorklund: And realize, again, that God has a path for him. It's not my path. I'm not God. I don't know what the path is for him. I'm trying to help our sons figure that out as they go, and kind of be a supporter, and hopefully somebody who points them to Christ. But ultimately, they're God's. They're not mine.
Faith Bjorklund: So it comes down to an issue of agenda. What is my agenda for them versus what is God's agenda for them? Is God's agenda for every kid to be a star on the basketball court and to get straight A's? No, of course not. Of course not.
Kurt Bjorklund: One of the things I've seen Christian parents do, and I've probably been guilty of, is saying, "I don't want to get my identity from my kids' successes in school or in sports or whatever else they're doing, music, theater, but what matters to me is their spiritual wellbeing." And even hoisting that into the equation, rather than saying, "My identity is not in whether or not all of my kids choose the exact path that I would choose for them, or do it the way that I would do it."
Kurt Bjorklund: And sometimes that's hard as a parent, because it's usually whatever rises to the top of our value list, and especially when we conflate it with God's value list, where we start saying, "But now, you have to do this," rather than being able to say, "It is their walk, their life, their decision point, and my sense of wellbeing and being a child of God really is separate from that, and it needs to be, or I'm going to ride an incredible rollercoaster where I will be susceptible to every low, every high, that my kids ..."
Kurt Bjorklund: Again, it doesn't mean you won't go up and down with it, of course you do, because you care about them, you love them. So you will have an up and down-ness as part of the reality, but what I don't think you want to do is let your identity be lumped to their successes. Because that's where, one, it's not healthy for you, it's not healthy for them, because now you're putting pressure on them to help you be okay, and that's really, ultimately, destructive as a parent, in their lives, rather than being able to say, "I'm okay whether you do well or not, because I'm not you, you're not me, we're separate people." And that's-
Faith Bjorklund: That's hard, especially spiritually. I think it's what Christian parents care about the most. We can even sometimes get really good perspective and say, "I'm not going to worry about these other things, and their success in these different areas, but as long as they're okay spiritually," but when that falls apart and our kids are struggling, and our kids are doubting, or they've walked away from the faith, or they're in addiction, or really bad lifestyle choices, and they're trying things out and making disastrous choices, as parents, I think it's really hard to separate that from your identity.
Faith Bjorklund: Because you immediately think, "Okay, we've missed the boat here. What did we do wrong?" Instead of ... I think it's the hardest thing in the world, is to take the long view with your rebellious kids, to say, "They're a work in progress, and even though the last five years may have felt like an eternity, God's timetable is so different, and He has them in His eye, and He has His hand on them, and He's still on the throne, and He's still working," and we don't see the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. We don't know who God's going to use, how he's going to use them, when he's going to use them to draw them back.
Kurt Bjorklund: That's good, that's good. So when your child does well, they succeed, what's the difference between celebrating their achievements and becoming prideful? And this really does tie to what we just were talking about, but how do you fully embrace and celebrate when your kids do well without becoming sinfully prideful, destructively prideful, rather than simply having a moment of saying, "That's great, I'm proud of what you achieved?"
Faith Bjorklund: Okay, well, I think kids ... I don't know, I've goofed up here too, because I've definitely put on Facebook posts that have been what you would call the humble brag, the, you know, "We're so happy that our kid did this."
Kurt Bjorklund: "We're blessed."
Faith Bjorklund: "We're blessed."
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. That's the Christian boast, yes.
Faith Bjorklund: "So blessed. Hashtag."
Kurt Bjorklund: Yes.
Faith Bjorklund: I want my kids to know that I really believe in them, and I do see their accomplishments, and I am so proud of them. I adore them, and I want them to know that, and sometimes it's nice to be publicly praised. I think when you talk about social media and making things public, though, I think, again, that question of, "Why do I want to do this? Is it really about them, or again, is it somehow involving me, and do I feel like a really good parent because my kids accomplished this?"
Faith Bjorklund: That is a line. I don't know where that line is. I know when I've crossed it, because I feel yucky.
Kurt Bjorklund: When do you feel when you've crossed it? Tell us about a time when you felt that.
Faith Bjorklund: Great, Kurt.
Kurt Bjorklund: I can tell one for me.
Faith Bjorklund: Could you?
Kurt Bjorklund: I'll do it, because it was in my mind as you were talking.
Faith Bjorklund: I'm trying to actually narrow them down.
Kurt Bjorklund: So, one of our kids just recently got into a fairly prestigious school. And I found myself wanting to tell people where, because it made me feel good about me.
Faith Bjorklund: So you work it in the conversation.
Kurt Bjorklund: And I had to ... And again, there's probably a legitimate joy for him, legitimate, I am proud of what he's done. But then there was a little piece where I knew it was like, "Oh, this isn't about me just sharing with friends, this is like, 'Look at what my son did.'" And what I found I tried to do, as just a spiritual discipline for myself, even, was not share all of the information unless it was requested.
Kurt Bjorklund: In other words, not be like, "Oh, let me tell you what happened," but instead, just kind of wait and say, "Okay, I'm not going to mention this," which was just kind of odd, but I felt that tension in myself, because I knew I was deriving just a little something from it for myself. So yeah.
Faith Bjorklund: Yeah. Yeah, that happened to me, too.
Kurt Bjorklund: Really? All right, one last question here. So, when you look back, and obviously, we still have kids at home, but when you look back, especially when your kids were younger, what were some of the keys to discipline that you would, as your older self, tell your younger self to continue to ... That you'd do again? Let me ask you this way.
Faith Bjorklund: What would I tell myself, my 30-year-old self?
Kurt Bjorklund: What would you do again? You're not 30?
Faith Bjorklund: That's nice. I would tell my 30-year-old self, in regards just to discipline, or in general?
Kurt Bjorklund: Let's stick with discipline, because I think when we talk on Father's Day, we're going to do more of a general thing, and do the 50-year-old telling your 30-year-old self what it would be. So let's just hone into discipline for a moment.
Faith Bjorklund: Discipline.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. Let's just talk. Yeah.
Faith Bjorklund: When they're young. Discipline's a big issue.
Kurt Bjorklund: Right.
Faith Bjorklund: And I think it's really intense from 18 months to four and five, honestly.
Kurt Bjorklund: Or 15, 16. But yes.
Faith Bjorklund: And then it resurfaces again, for sure.
Kurt Bjorklund: No, but definitely those little, those young years.
Faith Bjorklund: You lay that foundation during those early years.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah.
Faith Bjorklund: I have never worked harder in my entire life than I feel like I worked during those early years. Not just with their physical care, but just that it is my responsibility to teach them to listen, and to do the right thing, and to want the right things. And even at a young age, I would say, to do the right thing and to want the right things, that was probably the key for me, to keep it, not only behavior, but related to their hearts, and their desires, and who they are in the eyes of God, and what God wants for them, as far as loving other people.
Faith Bjorklund: And always bringing it back to character, and I didn't want our kids just to think, "If I do the right things, then I'm good, and I'm okay, and God just wants me to be good." I wanted them, even when they were young, to realize we're really, hopelessly screwed up. We really need God. And the way that you just treated your brother, there, what's that tell you? What's that show you about your heart right now? Where's that anger coming from? What is that? What do we do with that? We need God. We need Jesus. We need the Gospel.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah.
Faith Bjorklund: Not that that was translatable to a three-yer-old. I would say-
Kurt Bjorklund: But in many ways, in starts there.
Faith Bjorklund: It did.
Kurt Bjorklund: Because, and I think it's something, having watched you parent and co-parented with you, but something I saw you do well, what you just said really is something you did, which is, you did address the heart, not just behavior. And so, from a young age, it was very true for us that, certainly, we dealt with behaviors, but behaviors were dealt with as symptoms of a heart issue, and hopefully, what that did, is it kept us from being moralistic in our parenting, moralistic in our instruction about God and Christianity.
Kurt Bjorklund: And by moralistic, what I mean is, do the right things, and then we approve, God approves, everything's good, but instead, trying to go to the next layer, what is it that you're desiring? Why are you desiring something that is counter to what is good and right and true here? And then trying to help the child, even at a young age, address the heart of that.
Kurt Bjorklund: Because, if a child gets angry with his brother, steals something from his sister, brother, whatever, stealing is an issue, but it's selfishness, and you want to address the heart, not just the behavior.
Faith Bjorklund: And as our kids get older, they realize that we're messed up, too.
Kurt Bjorklund: Absolutely.
Faith Bjorklund: And I would say that's probably one of the most important things to do, is to admit to our kids, like, "Yeah, we have these standards. Whoa, look at me, I just blew that one, and I'm sorry."
Kurt Bjorklund: Well, you don't even have to self-admit. As your kids get older, they'll call you out on it.
Faith Bjorklund: Absolutely.
Kurt Bjorklund: And you either, in pride, defend yourself and deny it, or you say, "Yes," and admit it, and apologize. Faith, thank you for being here today. We're going to need to leave it here with what you've shared. If you have questions for us at Orchard Hill Church, and this Ask A Pastor, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll be happy to address them in the days ahead.