A Mother's New Year's Resolution to Change

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"A mother's New Year's resolution to change" by Melanie Jean Juneau (CatholicMom.com)

Mary Cassat, “Mother and Child” (1905), Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Then he said, “In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 NJB)

The perfect New Year’s resolution for mothers would be to try and obey this request from Christ. Surrounded by kids, mums especially love this verse becomes it validates the charming qualities we see in our children in a society which tends to overlook the powerless and extol those who are rich and powerful. Most reflections on this verse also focus on our kids’ virtues, virtues Christ extolled throughout His life on earth — such as humility, vulnerability, dependence on others, and the beautiful ability to trust and love others unconditionally without censure.

However, the most pressing question triggered by this verse is: How is it possible for adults to change and become like little children? I can see the wisdom of Christ’s request, and I have the power to alter my behaviour and actions, but it is impossible to transform my ingrained attitudes and impulses. Brutal force cannot turn iron into gold, people into saints, sinful inclinations into Godly virtues.

Change?

Instead of the word change, some versions of Scripture use the word converted; some use the word turn. It is vitally important that we understand that the Greek word for turn or change (στρέφω strephō) is in the passive voice (straphēte).

This means God must be the one who changes us; we cannot convert or change or turn ourselves and become like little children on our own. This transformation does not happen by gritting our teeth and forcing it to happen. We must acknowledge we are powerless and ask the Father to do it in us. Just like a small child asks their daddy to help them.

Of course, the first step is to actually see our sin and the really repent and turn back to God, but that won’t transform our inner selves. Believe me, I’ve tried to change, and when I understood the limits of my power, it was like banging my head against a wall. This is led me to the next step — humility.

It is humbling to finally realize how helpless we are to obey God with our own willpower, but in the face of eternal mysteries, it is the only possible response. Anything else would be arrogant. Anything else means we slip into the mistake of the Pharisees, who confused outer conformity to the Law with inner holiness. We all make this mistake but this year, as we consider our New Year’s resolutions, let’s focus on God, not ourselves, and ask God to be the one to change our hearts.


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About Author

Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, the Editor in Chief at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.

4 Comments

  1. Very interesting, Melanie. I love the insight of this statement: It is vitally important that we understand that the Greek word for turn or change (στρέφω strephō) is in the passive voice (straphēte).

    I have thought about this often. It’s so easy to be frustrated by the flaws of others. For me, it has been the case in looking at my spouse and my children. I see these patterns of turmoil and tension in relating to one another. During Advent this past year, I realized that I only have control over how I perceive and respond to these tensions. “Responding” rather than “reacting” is the key. Even to choose not to respond takes the heroic act of humility. To be silent and to ponder my own darkness is what I’ve tried to do. This of course is not of my own accord. I’ve had to submit to the Holy Spirit. I have to say, the holidays were easier on all of us, because of it. Oh, how I’ve gotten in the way, in the past! The song, “Turn! Turn! Turn”! by The Birds, comes to mind. In one way, the exclamation points seem a bit over the top, but then, to humble ourselves takes a great act of the will, and that too, when I really think about it, also comes only by God’s grace. Turn, to me is a beautiful word. There’s something powerfully quiet about it.

    • I also struggled to take my eyes off the faults of my husband and children and to focus on my own inner darkness instead. I LOOKED like the heroic, saintly mother of a large family, struggling on a limited income and with a husband who suffered from depression. BUT when I allowed God to shine His light on MY sins, He used my difficult circumstances to change me, turn ME.

        • Thank YOU for YOUR honesty. Transparency is often a misused word but I think it is the perfect word to describe our calling as we walk humbly towards the Heart of God;- real transparency with ourselves, God and our brothers and sisters

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