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.