One night, I told my husband that I just did not understand God. I wasn’t accusing, but I was gut-level honest, because if I’m not, I start to wither. I said, “All our friends- I’m not talking nominal Christians, I’m talking the real deal, God chasers- they’re crying out to God for their kids as much as we are, but none them have any more of a clue than we do. (Sorry friends!) We’re all just fumbling along, doing the best we can. I cry over these little people. I repent more often than I ever imagined I’d need to. I don’t mind apologizing, but I’d rather get it right once in awhile. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why God would let me be so lousy at such an important job. I want to be better at this thing called mothering. I want more. They need more.” The question hung in the darkness.
Now, that’s a pretty dramatic assessment of the situation, and most days I have a better perspective about motherhood in general, and my mothering specifically. I’m pretty sure that perspective might have be impacted by hormones, although only a foolish man would have suggested that in the moment, and my husband is a smart man.
So, we lay there in the silence with no answers. Maybe we prayed, I can’t remember. I do know those conversations in the dark are already a prayer, as much between God and I, as they are between my husband and I. I was just pouring out my heart, so He could change it all. I’ve done this for years, and He rarely answers me in those moments. It used to frustrate me, but now I understand that He’s a good listener and will just patiently be with me there. I went to sleep knowing He knows my heart and surrendered to the fact that He’s good, even if this whole parenting gig puzzles me.
Still, I have to admit that mothering has been one of the hardest (though most rewarding) things I’ve ever done, mostly because I fall short so often. It seems too important to mess up and too around-the-clock to get it right. I’m impatient with them sometimes. I don’t extend the same grace to them that I desperately need. I forget that they’re doing their best. They are learning how to live and love just like I am and are years younger than myself. I fail to see them as they really are, a little less than angels, bearers of the Divine Image. Sometimes the bickering or constant demands make me want to run and hide or slip into childishness myself. I’m not the mom I set out to be. I try and fail, ask for forgiveness, and get up again. Who knew that verse in Proverbs 24:16 would be such a comfort to me? “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again…” I had never planned on falling this much.
A few days later, it was my time with Jesus. Who knows why I was at my wits’ end, but I said to Him, “I just want to be a good mom.”
This time He whispered to my heart, “By ‘good’ you mean perfect. Could you love yourself if you’re not a perfect mother? What if My definition of success is you yielded to Me? What if it’s really that simple? What if they’ll learn as much from your failures as they learn from the times you get it right? If that’s ok with Me, will it be ok with you? What if I use it all to make something beautiful? Could you surrender to Me? Could you let go of the shame and the doubt that plague you? Could you accept imperfect you?”
“Could you let My Perfect Grace be the trump card in your hand every day. When you fail, Grace. When they fail, Grace. No need to despair, or be anxious, because I’m an expert at turning messes into victories. The cross looked like an awful defeat, but it is the source of every victory. You are not responsible for parenting in a way I have not revealed to you yet, even if everyone else seems to have a handle on it. ‘A man can receive nothing unless it is given to him from heaven.’ What I have given you is enough as you abide in Me. Trust Me. I’ll never leave you. Rest, dear one. It’s the best gift you can give them- a mom who rests in Me and trusts that I’m working it out for your good and theirs.”
My dreams of motherhood, of my whole life, have always been so idealistic. I used to hate that. Now, I don’t think that the Lord minds it, so I try not to let it get to me. That’s how He designed me. I think we all remember the garden in our spirits. We were known by the Father before we were in our mother’s womb, and He left a dream, an imprint on us. The Lord has set eternity in our hearts. Adam and Eve fell, but we know what it was supposed to be. All creation is groaning for the day that it’s all restored. Indeed, we are groaning for heaven to come down here to fill our homes. And heaven comes. Often it comes in our weakness. It comes as a gift, not as wages paid for good behavior.
This word came alive in the darkest place. Six weeks after the Lord spoke this in my heart, I was weaker than I’ve ever been. I was afraid to turn my own head, the world was spinning so much. My husband had to help me to the bathroom, weak and trembling. Nope, not your Instagram sort of day. I couldn’t come to the dinner table that night, and when my kids came for songs and prayers, they were falling apart. I had always been able to come to the table, at least. One face was twisted with anger and muttering frustrations with God. The other’s eyes were frantic with questions and brimming with tears. One burst into sobs and threw herself onto me feeling my pain. I hadn’t told them what I’d been through that day, but they had an inkling. There before me was everything a Christian mother doesn’t want her for her babies. I could tell they were wondering how in the world God had allowed this to happen to me, to them.
This is not our inheritance! Maybe it is a doorway to our inheritance, though.
Amid their sobs and frustration, something changed in me. I suddenly had peace and freedom. I knew more than I’d ever known that I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t make them see the God I knew to be kind and loving. I couldn’t chase all their fears away. I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be, but it was okay. I knew that God was real, solid and sure. He’d Shepherd their souls through this valley. Only He could. He had given me promises over each of these lives in front of me, and He is faithful. I’m not the source of miracles and unfailing love, He is. It’s all about Him. He is able where I am unable.
He made family. He calls Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not Evangelist, Preacher, Deacon, because family reflects His Divine Nature more than any other connection. He’s invested. He thinks family is important. He started this family. He would finish it.
And so, out loud I answered their questions in weak whispers, but with a new strength in my heart, “I don’t know why this is happening, baby, but I know He’s working this out for our good. I know He loves us. He’s right here.” When I said bedtime prayers, I thanked Him that He was good and for being our Healer. I prayed for their hearts. I lay there letting them snuggle into me and be exactly what they were, so He could be exactly who He is. I trusted God like I’d never been able to trust Him before for my little ones. I trusted that His Strength would be made perfect in my profound weakness. It was not me doing this, it was Him working into me His good pleasure. I knew grace like I’d never known it. I didn’t wonder if I did it right, said it right, or if they’d be ok. I knew He was working on our behalf. That would be enough. I released them to Him in a way I never could before. I had never tried to hold back in the past. I had just never been so empty.
“Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” I’d been praying for the Lord to reveal that to me deeply for at least 13 years, because I knew it was a doorway to grace. Everything I want is behind that door. Now, I could do nothing, and that’s when I began to see that He could do everything. The only way to be fruitful is to know that we have nothing to offer but Jesus. It’s always true, but I’m so forgetful. He is so faithful to remind me, to take me deeper still.
I have no desire to stay in this bed, but I have every desire to be fruitful. When this all started, I was asking God not to let me miss one bit of what His dream is for my life. I didn’t want to get to heaven and find a whole storehouse of stuff He wanted to give me that I hadn’t received because of my small mindedness or because I demanded my own way.
What if His dream coming true for our life starts with us knowing it starts and ends with Jesus? It’s not about us. It’s not up to us. What if Saint Augustine was right, and the way up really is the way down? I want to live in the peace and grace I encountered that night for the rest of my life. I’m not there yet. I’m guessing it’s more of a journey than a destination, but I’m asking for a heart like Heidi Baker and so many others’ that is willing to go lower still. There, I will be empowered by the grace of Holy Spirit.
The Message Bible begins the beatitudes by saying, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matt. 5:3 MSG). Well, as for me and my house, we want more of God and His rule, however it comes.
Photo credit- Heather Kelson. Thanks, Heather!💜