Redeeming Relationships

As a disciples of Jesus, our new identity springs from our relationship with Him. So it’s only logical that the transformational process of following Him would spill over into our human relationships as well. In this post, we’ll briefly explore the kinds of relational shifts that tend to occur during discipleship.


Helping to Heal the Mother Wound

One relational issue many women experience is what psychologists call “the mother wound.” The fact that there’s an actual term for it reveals that mother-daughter trauma is more common than we think.

Motherhood is one of God’s most wonderful inventions, and most of us have received incredible love and sacrifice from our moms. Yet for some, the much-needed experience of emotional nurturing doesn’t get passed down from mother to daughter, often because the mom herself didn’t receive it growing up.

When emotional nurture is missing from a mother-daughter relationship, the daughter tends to interpret the lack of connection as a negative statement about her own value or lovability. She may even carry a deep sense of rejection into other relationships and find herself consciously or unconsciously trying to fill that sense of loneliness in her own heart.

Like the baby bird in the children’s classic Are You My Mother?, a daughter may seek out person after person in hopes of finding the kind of nurture and support her soul longs for.

Or she may respond exactly the opposite, by shutting down her emotions and shying away from anything remotely resembling vulnerability.

God often pours His love through others to help heal our mother wounds.

The process of relational discipleship provides a natural opportunity for a woman to be heard, affirmed, encouraged, and delighted in, often by someone of her mom’s generation, as well as by God Himself.

The goal is never to replace or blame someone’s mother, but to make room for God to provide the emotional nurturance a daughter may have missed for one reason or another. She can learn to allow God’s tender love to fill her emotional well, whether or not her own mother ever learns to do so. This also enables her to understand, forgive, and love her mom for who she is – whether or not their relationship is fully “repairable” in this life, or her mother is ever able to give her the nurture she longs for.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch God fill someone’s mother gap, as He pours His tender, nurturing love into her heart – both directly by His Spirit and through others in the body of Christ who model His love.

PSALM 68:6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing.


Restoring Faith in Father God

There’s a special relationship between dads and daughters.

At least that’s how God intended it to be.

Unfortunately, brokenness between fathers and daughters is far more common than we’d like to think. If a daughter’s relationship with her father has been disappointing or deeply hurtful, she tends to transfer that hurt and disappointment onto herself and God, often without realizing it.

Restoring faith in Father God is essential to learning to walk in trusting obedience.

A discipleship relationship may be the first place a young woman has been able to honestly admit her feelings or pause to consider how her relationship with her father may have affected her view of God.

For some, finding the courage to share with a trusted friend or mentor is all that’s needed to expose the enemy’s lies and start replacing them with truth. Others may need the loving nurturance of a friend, mentor, or professional counselor over an extended period to renew their confidence in a tenderhearted Heavenly Father whose “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5).

At times, it may be helpful for a married mentor to invite a mentee over to spend time with her family. Seeing firsthand how a godly man interacts with his wife and kids can be incredibly healing for someone who’s never witnessed this kind of respectful love in action.

 Yet even the best human father is only a pale reflection of our Father God, who has never missed a moment of our lives or forgotten a single promise. He’s never ignored us, abandoned us, abused us, or failed to act on our behalf. Even if your earthly father has failed you, your Abba Father never will.

As you gradually learn to trust the constancy of God’s love, you will become more and more free to forgive and accept your earthly father for who he truly is, rather than the all-powerful figure he may have appeared to be when you were a child.

This doesn’t mean your father-daughter relationship becomes instantly perfect or safe, but it does mean you can allow him to be human, while you learn to rely on your Heavenly Father’s abundance, rather than being controlled or embittered by the past.

As we transfer our parental expectations to our Heavenly Father, we are freed up to honor our earthly fathers in a more realistic way.

ROMANS 8:15 (ESV) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as [daughters], by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”


Dangerous Curves Ahead!

When a young woman I’m mentoring announces she’s got a new guy in her life, I fasten my seatbelt and pray a little prayer: “Oh Lord…heeeeeeeeeeeere we go!”

Because in my experience, dating can be risky business for a new disciple-in-training. Nothing has as much potential to hinder a woman’s spiritual growth as a romantic relationship gone awry. After seeing this pattern repeated so many times, I found myself wondering why.

Then a few years back, I tried two different kinds of cell phone cases—drop-proof and waterproof. And suddenly the whole scenario made a lot more sense.

A drop-proof case does a great job of protecting the phone from all sorts of external dangers. It’s constructed of a super durable layer of plastic that’s insulated by a softer layer of rubber, both of which combine to make your phone drop proof, shock proof, kick proof, and practically run-over-it-with-a-truck proof.

On the other hand, the waterproof case doesn’t look nearly as sturdy. Its main claim to fame is you can completely submerge it without causing water damage. But there’s one catch: Before you put the phone in the case, you’ve gotta submerge it underwater for hours to test for hairline fractures!

I’ve attempted this process myself—and believe me it’s beyond tedious. Yet as anyone who’s ever dropped her phone in the gutter can tell you (or heaven forbid, a bathroom fixture), it’s well worth the trouble to make sure the case is completely watertight!

The drop-proof case reminds me of most believers. In many instances, they’re strong and steady in their faith, and have learned to withstand blows from the outside world with a fairly high level of resilience. Because of this, it’s tough for them to imagine anything shaking their faith, since they’re able to withstand being dropped, kicked, or even run over without losing heart.

But then they get into a romantic relationship. And suddenly they’re submerged in all sorts of thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, and hormonal responses they haven’t experienced for a long time—if ever. And before long, their heart springs a leak. The next thing you know, their whole life is taking on water. And they’re more surprised than anyone—because after all, they were drop proof, right?

I don’t share this analogy to discourage you. I share it to encourage you to take proactive steps now to prevent this sort of tidal-wave-of-the-heart from engulfing your life—or the life of someone you care about.

The best relational waterproofing  

I know…is discipleship!

When we allow God to reveal and heal the hairline fractures in our spiritual foundation before a relationship starts, this kind of relational crash (and subsequent sinking) can often be avoided—or at least downgraded to a slight fender-bender.

Yet for that to happen, we’ve gotta be willing to submerge our hearts in truth and godly vulnerability long enough for the waterproofing process to do its preventive work.

This may involve allowing God (and a trusted mentor, counselor, or support group) into the tender places of your heart where emotional fractures develop, so healing can take place. It may also include brainstorming a few dating scenarios with your mentor before you start a relationship, so you can make a few pre-decisions about your dating boundaries.

While avoiding all emotional pain isn’t possible, inviting a trusted friend or mentor to help you navigate the dating process gives you a much better chance of enjoying the ride and reaching your desired destination—a mutual, Christ-centered partnership with someone you’re crazy about! 

PROVERBS 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.


Drawing from the “Loving Well”

In the world’s system, you basically love those who love you back. While you might make an exception now and then, as a rule it’s pretty much “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” And, of course, there’s the unspoken corollary: “If you mess with me, you’ll live to regret it!”

But in the kingdom of God, things work a bit differently—okay, maybe a lot differently. Jesus calls us to love the unlovely, go two miles when we’re asked to go one, and forgive those who mistreat us. But how do we do that?

Beth Moore teaches a brief-yet-practical study called Loving Well that describes four different kinds of people we are called to love—joy, testy, far, and foe. The premise of the study is that none of us have what it takes to love others well in our own strength—especially those we find difficult to love. 

To love others well, including ourselves, we must learn to draw from God’s “loving well” rather than our own limited resources.

This shift in focus allows God to pour His love for that person into our hearts, change our perspective, and empower us to love even the most “prickly” people in our lives.

When we find it difficult to love others, it often means we’re running a quart low ourselves, which means it’s also time to dip into the “loving well” of God’s heart for us.

This new way of loving takes practice, and in especially difficult cases, may even seem impossible. And no, I’m not saying you can’t set boundaries with difficult people – at times you absolutely must.

Yet gradually, over time, it does grow easier to take a deep breath, dip into God’s perspective, and receive His power to love (“will the good of”) that difficult person in front of you. 

(even that girl looking back at you in the mirror…)

PSALM 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!


Do Your Best and Surrender the Rest

Are some relationships irredeemable this side of heaven? 

That’s a tough question, and certainly not one I feel qualified to answer about your relationships – or, frankly, mine either. 

We cannot peer deep into another’s heart and mind the way God can. 

Yet we can do own our part, forgive those who hurt us, set healthy boundaries, love wholeheartedly, and pray for God’s best in every situation. 

What we cannot do is force other to be trustworthy, caring, or even civil.

As a result, now and then there may be times when, sadly, reconciling with a friend or family member isn’t possible, or even a good idea: 1) when trust has been deeply broken, 2) when the toxic nature of the relationship hinders your own health or well being (or that of your family), 3) when the toxicity of the situation prevents you from doing what you are called to do, or 4) when others are not willing/able to enter the healing process.

Yet even though we may occasionally need to walk away from toxic relationships, that does not change the fact that God is a redeemer of relationships. He always offers healing, for those who are willing. 

As you practice the above principles and invite Him into your relationships – even the challenging ones – most of them will improve and grow exponentially! And those who are truly interested in relating in a healthy way will be drawn to you more and more – and you to them! 




PRESCRIPTURE (mp3 audio)


Here’s the full PreScripture list…with free downloads for pdf & audio!

(click here for PreScripture blogs #1-5)

  1. IDENTITY IN CHRIST PreScripture 
  2. “MASTERING” THE DAILY PreScripture 
  3. WISH-I-KNEW BASICS PreScripture 
  4. KING’S DAUGHTER PreScripture 
  5. RELATIONSHIPS PreScripture 

I’ll be sharing about the remaining 3 PreScripture audios in future individual blogs, so be sure to join the DiscipleSips email list for notices of future posts!

And if you share my passion to equip more women for relational discipleship, click here to learn about becoming a DiscipleSips Pour-Out Partner

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