Motherhood. It really is the best. It’s an amazing joy to parent a growing human and to watch each day bring new surprises and experiences. To witness firsthand the nuances of each stage of life, the tiny intricacies only a mother would notice. To partner with the Father to teach a child how to give and receive love and grow into the person she is destined to be…truly, what a gift.
Until of course, it happens. Your parent-of-the-year moment leaves as quickly as it arrived and before you know it, you’re imagining your kid sitting to the right of Dr. Phil explaining a reoccurring memory of their mom acting a fool and how it has shaped every day of their entire life. The panic and pressure of being all those things I just talked about set in and the reality of our imperfection sets in…and it’s all just absolutely terrifying.
At least a hundred times I’ve had the thought, “well, I’ve ruined her.” All the way back to our first night in the hospital when she just cried and cried and cried and nothing we could do soothed her. Then the time I accidentally put expired goat milk in her sippy cup (it was only like a a day expired). Then the one day at Christmas I lost my temper at our black lab who jumped on all my freshly wrapped gifts, scaring Lil so bad she said, “oh, mommy you scared me so bad when you yelled at Chapter!” Mommy for the win. Then of course there’s all the times I’ve ever left her, including but not limited to going on dates with my husband, going to the grocery store, leaving her in childcare at church, choosing to work part time and too many others to recant. People, mommy guilt is a very real thing. A very real thing.
My pastor always says that if you want to see if you’re selfish, get married. I’d agree with that and say if you want to see how you really live, have a child. Nothing mirrors your how well you’re doing at life like a child and consequently, nothing pushes you to make better decisions. You want your child be healthy so what to you do? Eat healthy. You want your child not to be scarred by reality tv so what do you do? You turn it off. You don’t want your child to see you scared of silly things (I might or might not have had a very rational fear of aquariums) so you determine to get over it. You want your child to love their quality time with Jesus so you suddenly make it a priority in your own life. Having a child, especially a toddler, becomes a mirror for your own life and you’re suddenly acutely aware of what you’re doing, who and what you’re prioritizing and listening to.
However, if we’re not careful, we can quickly become crushed under the weight of desired perfection. It’s a chase that drains us of life, joy & freedom and one that is surely to be passed on to our children. And the last thing in the world I want to pass on to my daughter is that in order to be loved, she must be perfect when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Out of all the amazing lessons motherhood has taught me, I think it has most reminded me of ridiculous, powerful, never-ending streams of grace the Father has for us. We really do over complicate everything. We (or is it just me?) think that the Father has a set of standards he’s waiting for us to meet in order to gain his approval, the majority of which we’ve set for ourselves to appease some desire we have to be better or feel more worthy. In doing so, we fail to realize that any effort we put forth to bring ourselves closer to Him through works actually separates us from the simplicity and power of the gospel.
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith, we eagerly await through the spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:4-6
John Sheasby, a pastor who has taught me a great deal about grace and sonship, used to say that one of the greatest tragedies in living with God is how we miss out on years and years of intimacy with the Father because we’re too busy trying to earn something and make fruit. Instead, he would say, focus on intimacy with the Father and allow fruit to grow naturally. After all, no one wants to eat artificial fruit…so why spend so much time trying to create it?
I really identify and have personally struggled a lot with this message, trying to determine if I’m striving or resting and whether what I’m doing (or wanting to do) is God or just me trying to do or be something.
And then I became a mom. And I understood.
As a mother, I would be heartbroken if Lilian ever thought she had to do something to earn my affection or make me want to be with her. Literally, she could be sitting on the potty trying to poop, and I would happily sit with her (which, by the way, we do for at least an hour every day). It doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated and wish she would make a different decision or act differently, but when it comes to patience, love, grace and joy to just BE with her, there is always, always enough. Just when I think I can’t take one more outburst, pee pee accident, yell, no-nap day, something happens. Without any doing of my own, there’s more. Another shipment of grace arrives (sometime without a moment to spare) to provide a refreshing dose of peace, patience and nurturing love, filling my own cup to the brim so that I can pass it all along to my favorite little three year old.
Three years in to this thing called motherhood, I’ve learned the key to giving to my child is receiving from my father. If I don’t take time to receive from Him, I will never have enough to give. From Him comes my energy, joy, patience, love and strength. We cannot, now or ever, be complete on our own. He and He alone is the author, creator, finisher and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
As I continue to walk out this revelation and learn how to be a daughter of the King and a mother to my own daughter, I count it all joy. My growing, deepening relationship with my daughter and my growing, deepening relationship with my Father—two journeys, so different yet so interconnected. And instead of accidentally leading my daughter down the road of perfection, I take her hand and try to lead her to the only place that really matters: JESUS. Well, Jesus and the bathroom because she’s currently trying to pull my chair away from my desk and yelling, “Mommy, my pee pee is on my foot!” Oh well. Such is the life of a mommy.