Friday, September 28, 2012

Gladness in weakness

My friend, a new mom of a precious baby boy, was worrying. She'd heard that cell phones transmitted dangerous radioactivity and here she'd been checking her messages and Facebook timeline on her smartphone every time she sat down to nurse the baby, sometimes five or six times a day! What had she done to him? What sort of damage had she incurred, however innocently?

We attempted to soothe her stress with the truth that if not via radioactivity there will yet be some other way she would fail her son. "We are all doomed to ruin our kids," I told her and I meant it as an encouragement. In fact, I placed my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye and told her what I wished I'd known as a young mom: "You are not enough and you never will be."

It's something I'd always secretly suspected in those years of juggling a baby on my hips and toddlers at my feet. I mean, I knew in my heart of hearts that no matter what standard chosen to evaluate my effectiveness as a mom I'd failed it to some degree or another. On any given day I'd forget to brush their teeth, or I didn't feel like reading Good Night Moon (for the hundredth-plus time in a given day). I yelled, I spanked, I lost my temper, I used T.V. as a babysitter, I skipped baths some nights and don't even talk to me about crafts. Pick your definition of a good mom and I couldn't live up to it, not with any degree of consistency or excellence.

Well meaning friends and parenting books would tell me that this was the most important job I could do and not only that but I was the best mom for the job, why else would God give me to these children? Neither assertion brought much hope. Knowing this was the most important job I could do and seeing my persistent and overwhelming failure carried an extra weight of guilt and despair. I can't even do the one most important job I've been given to do!

And if I'm the best woman for the job? Well then God either has a twisted sense of humor or rather low standards for what my kids need and what I can give.

So I spent many years caught in the same frenzy of fear and worry as my friend. I tried so hard and failed so miserably. Many a night I cried myself to sleep as I confessed my frustration and my failure. "I can't do this. I can't!," I would sob, "Please, oh, please, God, if You hear me, can You not make this easier so I can do it and do it well?!!"

It was during one of these late night sob sessions that I sensed the Spirit saying to me (not audibly, mind you, but as a sort of remembering): "Lisa, Lisa, do not despise those areas of your life that make you desperate for Me. Do not reject what keeps you at the foot of the cross pleading for mercy."

It was an echo of 2 Corinthians 12:9 in which the apostle Paul declares that he will boast--and boast gladly--about his weaknesses because it is then that the power of Christ rests on him with His sufficient grace. Glad? About weakness? In fact, not only that but Paul goes on to say that he is content in weakness and in hardship and in persecution because when he is weak he is strong. How? Because the Lord's grace is sufficient in weakness.

As I contrasted Paul's gladness with my late night grief I was slowly-oh-so-slowly beginning to understand grace. Grace tells me that in my weakness I am strong because I will know the strength of my Savior in ways I could not when caught in the cycle of self effort and determined moralism. Grace says that good mom or bad mom I cannot earn or lose the favor granted me through Christ. Grace sets me free from my try-harder, do-more, be-good exertions. Grace is unmerited approval based on the righteousness of Christ not mine! Grace shows me I am not enough, I never will be, and that's okay because the Lord is sufficient. Glory to God, grace shouts that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! None!

See, I knew I needed grace to save me as a young girl wanting desperately to love and belong to Jesus. But grace now? As an adult? A mom? I'd paid lipservice to grace but I lived as if it were all up to me--directly opposite to what grace really is. Grace says I can't; Jesus is and can and will and does.

Maybe, like me, you worry and wail over your insufficiencies and inadequacies and outright wrongs. The grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient! Confess, repent, and rest in the Lord's promise to be faithful and just to forgive. And here's the deal: there's grace for yesterday's failures and sins for those who repent and believe, yes and amen, but there's also grace for today's failures and sins. Like Paul, be glad for the weakness that drives you to desperation before the throne of grace. Our God is gracious and merciful!

Hear me: you are not the mom of your kids because you have what it takes or because you are the best one for the job. Go ahead and lay down that burden of expectation and condemnation. Rather, you're the mom of your kids because the Lord has something to teach you about Himself and about His sufficiency and about true sanctification. Your mothering is not about you nor even really ultimately about your kids. I do not mean to imply that what we do as moms carries no significance. Yes, of course, absolutely we are the primary influences in our children's lives, particularly in those important early years. But influential does not mean determinative. Finally, ultimately, motherhood, as well as the whole of the believer's life, is about the Lord, His sufficiency, His grace, His salvation, His glory.

I am not enough to be sure, but, glory to God, His grace is sufficient.

24 comments:

  1. "Finally, ultimately, motherhood, as well as the whole of the believer's life, is about the Lord, His sufficiency, His grace, His salvation, His glory."
    Love that, yet somehow, I always seem to forget it, and need reminding.
    Thanks for the post, Lisa. It is an encouragement.
    Grace,Peace and Joy,
    Jojo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always seem to forget as well and need reminding. Sometimes just a quick glance at Twitter or Facebook is enough to cast me headlong into that same old despair. What freedom we have in Christ! Praise the Lord for the good news that Jesus saves!

      Delete
  2. Thank you for the reminder, I needed that today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome, Andrea. I am glad I am not alone in my need to hear the gospel!

      Delete
  3. "I'd paid lipservice to grace but I lived as if it were all up to me--directly opposite to what grace really is. Grace says I can't; Jesus is and can and will and does."

    Story of my life, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this and praise God for the gospel of grace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, our stories are quite similar in that respect and I too praise the Lord for His grace!

      Delete
  4. I can relate so much to what you are saying, Lisa. I'm so glad you wrote this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kim. I appreciate your kind words!

      Delete
  5. I have just been reading "Give them Grace" by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Your post summarizes her thoughts so well. I especially liked your statement: "Finally, ultimately, motherhood, as well as the whole of the believer's life, is about the Lord, His sufficiency, His grace, His salvation, His glory."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Being named in the same paragraph as Elyse is high praise indeed! :)

      Thank you for your comment, Violet. I haven't read "Give Them Grace" but I am a big fan of Elyse's other books and I am thankful for her commitment to the proclamation of grace, particularly in motherhood. How much we need to hear and heed the message of the Lord's free gospel grace!

      Delete
  6. >"Lisa, Lisa, do not despise those areas of your life that make you desperate for Me. Do not reject what keeps you at the foot of the cross pleading for mercy."< I love this. I'm going to print it out and put it somewhere where I can see it in all my mess. It's gotta be God talking. It sounds so like Him--and He says your name twice so that proves it! ;O)

    When my kids were out of their teens I wrote a little booklet of haiku called Poems for Parents and I dedicated it to our children: For Ben and Becky/who, by God's grace, turned out OK/in spite of us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I complete relate. I can't write haiku but I certainly can testify to the fact that anything remotely "good" about my kids is totally and completely by God's grace and wholly in spite of myself. :)

      Delete
  7. I LOVED this article. I have definite weaknesses in my life and at times I hate them. I dont see them for the tools that the Lord is using to make me more like Him. And you are so right, that is what He is doing in my life. Thank you for such rich gospel centered truths!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've spent many a season of my life hating my weaknesses--hiding them, rationalizing them, despising them--which is what makes Paul's declaration all the more shocking to me. I do not pretend to have "arrived" in terms of boasting in what makes me weak and desperate but I am grateful that the Lord is faithful to teach me of His strength and His sufficiency by revealing my overwhelming insufficiency. He is good to me!

      Delete
  8. BEAUTIFUL Lisa! Oh, how many years and tears does it take to finally realize these marvelous truths! Very well said, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tears and year, yes indeed. What a faithful God!

      Delete
  9. This s medicine for the weary mom.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Daily medicine, at that! Sometimes hourly! Thank you for your comment, friend!

      Delete
  10. Thank you Lisa! This actually made me cry. I have been questioning my sufficiency in the past few weeks with all of the trials and tribulation that God has put on me and this helps me know that He is teaching me instead of punishing me. Mom's can feel so much despair on so many different levels and it's all because we are trying to do it on our own. We all need God's help, even/especially me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Gayle! This is not a truth I have learned and moved past. Even this week I have dealt with "loser mom" despair but glory to God He is more than enough, He is everything!

      Delete
  11. God is so amazing! A friend of mine posted this on FB at the same time that I was broken down and sobbing on my knees because my son in college continues to reject the gospel. He had just posted a joke about Christ on the cross that he found to be hilarious, but was devastating to me. My whole family became believers during his first year of college, after he had left our home. The guilt I feel for having missed my opportunity to raise him to know who Christ is can be immense. Talk about "Looser Mom!" Yet, I understand that God is in control and has purpose in all things and will choose him when He is good and ready to choose him. So I remain at the foot of the cross everyday.
    Make no mistake ladies, there is nothing more important you can do as a mother than share your love for Christ with your children!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment, Tina. I will pray now for you and your son. One of the hardest lessons for me as a mom is the realization that nothing I do--or don't do--guarantees my children's salvation. THAT is between them and the Lord! As I said in the post, influential does not equal determinative. How we moms want to be in control! But the Lord is faithful and He is good and we can trust Him.

      Delete
  12. Lisa, this fed my soul like you would not believe. The last couple months have been some of the hardest in my twenty years as a Christian, one of the many reasons being the feeling of a profound sense of failure as a mom/wife/woman/human....am I leaving anything out? :) Some of it has to do with the extraordinary "oversell" that my first church as a believer made me about marriage and mothering - that it was the highest, the best, the ultimate, blah blah blah. And a lot more of it has to do with how competent I was in previous seasons of life, like school and my career before I got married. To put it bluntly, I've been blessed with a good sized brain and a love of using it. And I think you have too, more than me. :) When you're used to being able to figure things out, solve problems, be articulate, etc., being kept perpetually off-balance by babies/kids doing those things they do and being utterly flummoxed for an answer, is ten times as hard. Americans in particular are such lovers of "can do". But it's profoundly anti-gospel. Thanks for this great reminder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our journeys, or frustrations as the case may be, are remarkably similar. Even today, just in the last few minutes, I have struggled with a profound sense of failure. Not only that, but I also have a great love of measuring my effectiveness by my To Do list--which is also totally anti-gospel! What a desperate pauper to grace I am and I am grateful for the Lord's faithfulness to expose my need...

      Thanks for your comment, friend. I am glad to know I do not walk this journey alone.

      Delete