Last night I shared a sweet conversation with a dear friend. A friend afraid to fail like I am. We walked through our failures. We shared our leanings. We cried (or came close to it). We came away refreshed.
This morning I stumbled on the Mother Letters. A collection of letters written from one mother to another to encourage and uplift. And I thought about that conversation and what I would say to my hippo-sized pregnant with twins self.
This is for you, Mothers.
It’s okay if you fail.
You’re going to become lazy in discipline. You’re going to crush little hearts. You’re going to want a vacation. You’re going to wish you’d remained barren.
You don’t have to be perfect.
The gospel is big enough for you.
Grace is big enough for you.
Christ died so you could fail without condemnation. And that grace leads us to repentance. To restoration of relationship. To knowing that He is enough. That He will change hearts (yours and theirs) through you and in spite of you.
Mother, mothering isn’t about you. Or your kids.
It’s about the Jesus Christ, and His Message: the GOSPEL.
Let me be honest with you:
I am prone to fits of rage when my toddler hides her shoes right after I asked her to put them on so we can leave.
I get bitter and resentful when my 5 month old son wakes multiple times and screams while all my friend’s babies sleep 12 hours before 2 months old.
I crush little spirits with thoughtless words.
My home is often as disorderly and chaotic as a drunken bachelor’s pad.
All of this is me– left to myself.
But this is where the gospel reaches down and plucks me from the patterns of my sinfulness. This is the point where God adopted me. Where He made me His daughter.
I was a mess when God called me as His own.
I am still a hot mess.
He knew that.
Reomans 5:8 says that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus knew I would flounder and flail and rage over little bodies. He knew that and He still chose me. He still died for me. He still died for you, mother.
The gospel changes everything.
Motherhood isn’t about doing everything right. God knew we would fail.
He knew my clean laundry would grow into mountains taller than my toddlers. He knew that when my daughter laid on my face with an elbow in my eye socket that I would bite her to break free. He knew that I would yell at my son at 3 in the morning demanding that he would sleep. Jesus knew that and He still loved me enough to die for me. He loves you the same.
And more than that: when God looks at us he doesn’t see our sin. No, God sees Jesus’s perfect-ness. His righteousness.
Mother, this is what should empower us to love and serve our children even though we know we’re going to fail:
My children disobey and I’m called to love them at their darkest. Bronwyn jumps out of her toddler bed 40 times in one naptime. Each time she is patiently disciplined and repeats the gospel after me: “Dear Jesus, please help me to obey because you died for my sin.” 2 days later she finally manages to stay in her bed. The gospel empowers me to consistently discipline without anger. After all, isn’t God patient with my sin?
I blow it and yell at my girls over those dumb hidden shoes. I stuff her feet in a too small pair and hustle them out the door. I know I belw it. I don’t beat myself up because it’s not about my perfection: it’s about the gospel. I stop, I hold little faces in my palms, I tell them I was wrong to yell- that Jesus died for my sin too.
My toddler throw an ear splitting tantrum at library story time because the can’t touch the book the librarians are reading. All the other mothers look at me with mixtures of pity and judgement. I feel scorned and like I’m a terrible mom. I leave nearly in tears. On the ride home, the gospel plays perfectly-timed on the radio. And I realize how much they’ve grown; a week ago they might have ripped the book pages and bit the librarian. What grace that this time it was just a tantrum. And, besides, their behavior doesn’t reflect on who I am as a mother or a person- I am God’s beloved daughter. No tantrum (mine or theirs) can change that!
Because Jesus preferred em enough to die for me, I start letting the girls pick out their clothes. Even though I think I might die of embarrassment as Aerie picks out red heart ‘jammie pants and a polka dotted hot pink monkey shirt. She almost glows that day when church nursery workers call her a cutie. What joy I would have missed had I forced her to wear what made me look and feel good!
I’m not trivializing motherhood.
It is hard.
We wonder if anything we do matters.
We try to quantify our success by a clean house at the end of the day. Or how well behaved our kids are on an outing. Or how many people tell us we look great 2 months after pregnancy when we’ve stuffed ourselves into pre-pregnancy jeans and covered dark sleepless eyes with heaps of concealer. But in secret we wonder whether our kids will sit in a psychiatrist chair and tell of how we let them run around panty-less in the yard because it was the only way they’d poop in the potty. And, oh yeah, that little potty was right in the middle of the yard where all the neighbors could see. Oh, wait, maybe I’m the only one who worries about that last one.
But motherhood is kingdom work. And building any kingdom, especially God’s kingdom, is work wrought with suffering, challenges, and growing pains.
Our job isn’t to be perfect: Jesus already did perfect for us.
Our job is to humbly admit who we really are, fail and repent, and quit hiding behind masks of perfectionism. To live life free and with no condemnation. To live life empowered knowing that while we were sinners God chose to die in our place.
Our job is to live the gospel in front of our children and the whole world.
I’m here to walk with you, Mother, if you’d just have the courage to ask me to be real. Or maybe I should have the courage to call you next time I fail.
I love you, Mother.
Keep doing what He’s called you to do.