Practicing Parents

Identity and the Tapes We Play


“…how I wonder what…you…ARRRRRE!!”  On any given day, the gamut of songs that plays over and over in my head range from this little ditty to Mumford and Sons’ latest to my favorite Indigo Girls rockin’ classic. But there are other loops that get stuck playing in my brain.  Tapes that play over and over, all day, every day.  Voices.  The subtle commentary I carry deep within my psyche that has been shaped throughout my life by my particular parents, teachers, and authority figures.

I first became aware of these voices in my first year of marriage.  I have explored (and talked back to!) these voices in therapy.  I have conquered their attempts to criticize and undermine me.  Yet, now as a parent, the volume on these tapes has been cranked up and given new nuances to nag me.

I have come to realize: you have your own tapes, too. Deep within us we all carry fears that play over our lives like a poorly-written soundtrack.

What tapes do you play?  Whose voice do you hear?

My “inner voice” is a twisted version of my mother; most of us carry the voice of one or both of our parents.  I was shocked to discover this voice living in me – particularly because it is very unkind (and I thought I was such a nice person!).  I call it my Inner Critic.  It is the running commentary that subtly evaluates everything I do to see if it is “good enough.”  And as you might guess – most things are not, in fact, “good enough” by the nebulous standards of this self-critic.  The Inner Critic emerges when I am particularly stressed, when I face a new challenge, or when I have failed in some way, whether this is in my work or a parenting belly flop.

And guess what?  As a parent there is a new challenge EVERY.  DAY.

When the Inner Critic is speaking to me, can you guess the kinds of things that come out of my mouth (and the passive-aggressive silence I default to)?   The things I say to my child.  To my spouse.

That’s right.  I become The Critic!

Your own Inner Tape may not be quite so critical.  But it is always rooted in fear: the fear of failure, the fear that you are not enough, or perhaps the fear that you are too much.  Fears that are not true.

So here is the great Good News: as followers of Jesus – yes, and as parents, too – we are not beholden to these voices!

As Jesus-followers there is a new tape for us to play.  We can listen to the true Voice of love that actually tells us who we are.  We can choose a new loop to run on “repeat.”

Here is one of many places we see it in Scripture…at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-13) there is a brilliant moment.  Jesus has just shown up on the scene and he has not yet done a thing.  Jesus’ first order of the day (and his ministry) is to be baptized by his cousin, John, in the Jordan River.  As Jesus emerges from the water a voice is heard.  God speaks with these clear, direct words: “This is my beloved son. I love him.  With him I am well pleased.”

Has Jesus just done a stellar job teaching or casting out unclean spirits or healed an entire village?  No.  Before Jesus has done anything, God speaks these words, not only of incredible affirmation and love (which they are) but words that name Jesus’ identity.

THIS is who you are.  Beloved.

Have you ever longed to hear the voice of God speaking clearly to you?  This is it!  Not only do we eavesdrop on an intimate scene between Jesus and his Heavenly Father, we receive these words from God as words for us and about us.

You are: Beloved.  Accepted.  The Greek hints at a meaning that says: You are the object of my delight.  God says to you: I am delighted simply because you are you.

Recently, a friend of mine came back to her seat after receiving Holy Communion at church and had a quiet moment to pray.  She said that scenes from her life began rapidly flashing through her mind and it landed on a scene from when she was seven years old, standing on the playground at school. God spoke to her and said: I love how I made you.

Like a sculptor who has been forming their work of art, God steps back and catches His breath and says – I love how I made you!  With that particular curve there, with this quirk over here.  I have made billions of people but I love the way I made YOU.

Each day, before our feet hit the floor, THIS is the tape we need to start playing on repeat.  

Here is why this matters: you will be a better parent when you actually know you are a Beloved Child of God.  If THIS is the tape you are playing on repeat, then you will be more compassionate, present, tender, and consistent with your child.  I do not have the statistics to prove it beyond what I have seen in my own life and the armies of parents I walk alongside.  I have seen it to be true: being rooted in our identity in Christ changes everything.

Our identity as Beloved kids is never swayed by what we prove, achieve or accomplish.  Or how we fail!  Not dependent on the shape and health of our body or the quality of our friendships.  And not determined by how well-behaved, cute, advanced, compassionate, or well-liked our child is!  Nothing changes who we are in Christ Jesus.  God wants us to know this– that’s why he said it so clearly to Jesus (and to us!).

Today, as parents and as followers of Jesus, let’s choose a new tape!  For our own sake and the sake of our kids.  Take a deep breath.  Close your eyes.  Hear it whispered in your ear: God loves how He made you. You are God’s Beloved kid.  Stand in your identity. Then, and only then, get up and start letting that tape not only be what fuels your thoughts but let it be woven through your words as you form your own child to know that God delights in them and that they, too, are a Beloved Child of God.

Pastor Sara Wolbrecht is head of Care Ministry at a Lutheran church in the suburbs of San Francisco’s Bay Area, married to a musician and mother to an almost 3yo daughter.


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