There’s a dirty little secret about motherhood that no one prepares you for. (Actually, there are probably about 250, but this is the main one.)
Becoming a mother doesn’t automatically give you unending patience, unfailing love, and a heart full of self-denial and sacrifice.
That was a rather rude awakening for me. I had sort of hoped that becoming a parent was some magic switch that would automatically suppress all my selfish tendencies and unlock a floodgate of noble qualities within me. But no.
I love my children. I love them more than anything else in my life. Yet, there are many days when I am impatient, sharp-tongued, unkind, and selfish.
I can be polite and kind, even charitable and self-sacrificing, when I’m around people in small doses. I can mostly control myself and my surroundings to the point where I can live in the illusion of being a “good person, ” and then leave when I want to.
Motherhood leaves no such retreat nor the room for any denial about who I really am, deep down. It shatters my artifice and destroys my comfortable myth of being a “good person.”
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of other situations in my life that have brought this out, too: my teenage years with my mother; living with roommates in college; adjusting to life after marriage.
But motherhood brings out how incapable I am of willing myself to be who I want to be like no other situation in life. Honestly, the truth is I can’t imagine how anyone goes through parenting without the grace of God providing them the strength and patience along the way.
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The Kids are Okay, but…
In case you’ve gotten the wrong idea, I actually love being a mother. My kids and I have plenty of sweet, tender moments; I know they’re aware of how deeply I love them. Some days, I feel so on top of this whole motherhood thing—I responded in just the right way, I taught them an amazing life lesson, I handled their misbehavior with a perfect calm, firm response to redirect them.
At the end of the day, the kids are really okay.
I’m not freaking out about all the ways I’m ruining them. I am not and cannot be a perfect parent; no one is and no one can be. We all leave the mark of our imperfection on our children in some way, even if we’re amazingly awesome parents; it’s inevitable.
Moreover, as much as I want to be a conduit of Christ’s love to my children, if I could be perfect without any effort, I’m not sure what that would actually teach them about God:
- Would they learn how to rely on Him for strength if they only ever saw me relying on my own strength?
- Would they recognize their own weaknesses if they never saw me struggle?
- Would they learn how to apologize and repair relationships if I never let them down?
(Again, a bit like Paul says—this isn’t an excuse to sin all the more. But God’s grace abounds in the growing and trusting, maybe even more than in times we feel confident and secure.)God's grace abounds in the growing and trusting, maybe even more than in times we feel confident and secure. Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, though, this really isn’t so much about my kids. With God’s grace and a whole lot of prayer, they’ll be okay. The main issue is the reality that motherhood is just like the rest of life—I can’t do it on my own power. We all fail to be what we should be and no amount of mere good intention and willpower can achieve it.
A Day Planner Ain’t Gonna Fix This
Now, to be sure, organization, parenting techniques, and wise advice are very useful, but they will only take me so far. We can’t just take that advice and implement it perfectly and raise perfect children.
(Plus, there’s a distinction between this problem and learning the “job” of being a mother. I’m not talking here about developing routines and discipline strategies. Yes, I want to learn my job as a mother and homemaker better, but I’m not beating myself up about failing to keep up with the laundry, impart impeccable manners to my children, or implement the perfect household schedule. Those fall under the category of “acquiring wisdom” and learning good practices for living.)
I’m talking about the days when I don’t even want to to try to be a good mom. In those moments, wisdom and willpower will fail me completely.
I recently came across this quote,
Often we believe life just requires a little more juggling, a little more work, a little more creativity. Arrogantly, we think we would have the capability of success if we just had the right resources, the right personnel, the right program, the right job or the right family. We don’t realize our need for a Redeemer, even after salvation…
This realization should not produce despair but joy. We need Him! The need is not an indication of our own inadequacy, but of our identity. We were made to be completed in Christ and to find our life in Him. (Passing on the Passion, p. 32 emphasis mine)
I disagree with this on one point; the need is, in fact, an indication that we are inadequate—but it’s not some personal failure! We are all, by our very nature, inadequate. We just are what we are; we are incomplete and insufficiently prepared to face this life without Him.
A little more creativity or another parenting book won’t help because my problem is that I don’t always want to do the best thing. My problem is not just a lack of knowledge or skill. I’m talking about something much deeper and more fundamental—my sin.
My sin is that I am still selfish; my sin is that I want to define on my own terms what is good, right, and true, instead of listening to God. My sin is that I still want to worry and plan and manipulate and pursue my own agenda and interests, independent of the needs of those around me. My sin is that I want to ignore God and His call to holiness and pretend like I’m just fine as I am.
Yes, Jesus forgives my sin and recognizes my weakness—praise God for His grace!— but certainly he doesn’t want me to stay here. He wants me to fulfill his calling.
Besides, I’m not particularly happy here in my sin; he wants me to participate in the full life and joy of his kingdom here on earth! Following his way brings me in step with him and opens the door for that.
Where do I go from here?
Well, this is the question I want to answer! One of the main purposes of this blog is to explore how to seek and serve God in the midst of the day-to-day tasks and decisions we face. How to live in the tension between what we are and what we are called to be. How to come to our Savior to receive his grace, but also to learn perseverance and discipline.
On the one hand, we are all fallen. We are so often inadequate and incapable. Don’t beat yourself up about it! Press close into Jesus and accept his love and forgiveness.
On the other hand, let’s not live satisfied with our own inadequacy. Seek the one who can sustain you! Use motherhood and all it’s blessings and challenges as an opportunity to grow more reliant on God and deeper in grace.
I don’t have this figured out yet. But these are the questions I’m pondering and want to pursue more deeply:
- How do we follow Christ and live out his commands, praising him for the grace of his forgiveness but striving for the perfection he calls us to?
- How do I find my life in Christ? How do I keep myself open to receiving (and acting upon) the wisdom he gives?
- What are some practical ways that I can stay in fellowship with Him?
- Where do I go from here?
If you’re pondering and pursuing these questions, too, please let me know what you’re learning! In the meantime, hang in there and know you’re not the only one struggling and slipping along through life. 🙂
Feel like following along with me in some of what I’m reading and learning as I seek God’s word and wisdom on this? Check out these books here!