I had just given birth to my fourth child. The baby fog was thick, so the fact that we had made it to gymnastic class on time was a small miracle.
I kissed my girl goodbye, waited for her wave at the door, and off I went to the grocery store. I was feeling pretty super that day.
As I pulled out of the gym parking lot, I noticed there weren’t as many cars as there usually were. I shrugged my shoulders, assuming the other families must be on vacation or something.
I strolled happily through the store with my three boys. This was my first trip “back” and I was feeling quite capable. I eyed the mother next to me eyeing the bananas. She looked frazzled, bless her heart. And she just had one with her. I looked at my three peaceful boys. Yep, I was feeling super.
Half-way down the cereal aisle, my weeks old baby began to scream. For no reason. He simply became hysterical. Before leaving the house I’d made sure he was fed and dry so hadn’t planned on encountering a hysterical baby. My Moby Wrap was inconveniently stowed away in the car, so I carried him in one arm, pulling the cart with the other. But that was no problem for this mom, because remember, I was feeling pretty super. I could almost feel the breeze of my cape, fluttering behind me.
By the time we hit the frozen food aisle my confidence started to slip. My previously peaceful boys had reached their peaceful peak. Judah’s screams had reached a level of decibel-desperation. And now that mother who had been eyeing the bananas was now glaring at me, as she tossed her frozen peas into her cart.
I threw my items onto the belt, threatening my boys with a glare of my own. I tried to ignore the look from the cashier. You know the one, would-you-please-shut-that-baby-up look! I dug blindly into my purse looking for my credit card, while bouncing and patting and begging the baby to stop crying. After 30 minutes of incessant screaming in a public place, you start begging.
We made it to the car. I was on the verge of tears. After loading everyone and everything up we rushed to pick up my gymnastic girl, for we were now late.
This time only a single car occupied the parking lot of the gym. I felt the weight of my heart sink into my stomach.
After squealing to a stop I jumped out of the car and ran (as best I could weeks post giving birth) into the building. I was met with two large, tear filled eyes. There had been no gymnastics class that day. This super-mom wanna-be had dropped her sweet baby off at a big empty gym.
My heart wasn’t the only thing to hit the floor. My cape slid down around my ankles and so did that super feeling I had been caressing all day.
I wanted to blame the baby fog, the sleep deprivation. I wanted to blame the distraction filled life that comes along with having four kids. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I couldn’t be super mom, not even for one.single.day.
But that is the very thing God wants me to do.
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong… that no man should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)
The heart-stopping minute that tiny, pink baby was placed in my arms and the nurse and doctors left the room I was completely overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility. I felt fearful and frail. Were they even allowed to send me home? Wasn’t there some kind of test I had to pass first? I was so unsure as I timidly stepped into motherhood.
But somewhere along the way my fearfulness turned into boastfulness.
I began to place my value as a mother on what I was able to do and be. How was it that schedules and laundry, cooking and cleaning, breastfeeding and homeschooling, t.v. time vs. book time, organic baby food and name brand car seats became the measuring stick I quantified my mothering by? Some days I measured up. Most days I didn’t.
It is an easy trap to fall into and one of Satan’s favorites I think. Satan wants us to believe there is such a thing as Super Mom. He wants us to so that we can be weighed down by the thought of her. So that we will feel judged and condemned and assume she thinks we are failures. All before we even get out of bed. So that we lose sight of the true way God measures us.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)
Is it about having well-coordinated and well behaved children whose manners don’t match their hearts? Is it about looking good and holding it all together while the inside bleeds out? Is it about stumbling under the burden of perfection at the cost of my family, or my very soul?
Or is it about grace lived out in our own lives so that our children might get a glimpse?
A glimpse of the power shown in weakness. A glimpse of a God “who remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). A glimpse of a grace whose message is, we are all lost, all sick, all in need of salvation (Give Them Grace p.71).
Granting that glimpse of grace can be a frightful thing. A life where grace is lived out is a life that calls us to expose our weakness. To break open wide the idols of our hearts. To lay down our abilities and strengths. To accept the fact that we were never expected to have it all together.
God does not ask me to be Super Mom. It is my own ideals and expectations that ask that of me. And those quite deeply reflect the idols of my heart.
“To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Sometimes it feels like my kids are that ‘thorn in my flesh’! But in all seriousness, I believe God gives us children to expose our weaknesses, not to turn us into heroes. He wants us to be faced with our failures and confronted with our incapability’s. To remind us of our need for Him and to force our reliance on a Father who knows our frame. To offer us humility, so that Christ’s power may be seen in us.
Jesus does not want us to be weighed down by the burden of our sin and shortcomings. But rather lifted up by the reminder that no matter how we fail, he loves us all the more.
“Come, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)
He says this to the mother who can’t keep up with the laundry. He says this to the mother who hates to cook. He says this to the mother who threw a tantrum bigger than her toddler’s. He says this to the mother who dreads getting out of bed some mornings. He says this to the mother whose kids are well behaved but their hearts are far from him. He says this to the mother who is killing herself trying to do it all. He says this to the mother who does all the right things, but her children still stray. He says this to the mother who is discontent, who is frustrated, who yells, who forgets to have her quiet time, who walks in fear, who gets angry, who is discouraged, who needs a break.
He knows our frame. He knows we are far from super. He knows all this and he still offers us his grace. He still says, Come. And he means it.
I will never forget being in the counseling room not many years ago and my counselor and friend asking me, “What do you want your children to know when they leave your home?” My answer was something like, “I want them to know how much I love them, to serve God, to be kind and respectful, to know how to work hard and to be responsible adults.” He then asked me, “What about the grace of God?”
That one question has revolutionized the way I view parenting, the way I view myself as a mother, and the way I view my children. We are simply all the same, desperately in need of the grace of God lived out in our lives.
I will end with a quote from my new favorite parenting book, Give Them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Through this book (and the delightful women I am studying it with) my parenting is continuing to be revolutionized. It’s about one thing and one thing only. What Christ has done.
(Referring to the motivational theory based on promises of reward and/or threats of punishment)
Rather than trying to entice us by dangling an unattainable carrot of perfect welcome and forgiveness incessantly in front of our faces, God the Father freely feeds the carrot to us, his enemies. He simply moves outside all our categories for reward and punishment, for human motivation, and gives us all the reward and takes upon himself all the punishment. He lavishes grace upon grace on us and bears in his own person all the wrath that we deserve. Then he tells us, in light of all that he’s done, “Obey.” Yes, we do have promises of rewards in heaven, but these are not earned by us through our merit. Yes, there are promises of punishment, but not for those who are “in Christ.” All our punishment has been borne by him. The carrot is ours. The stick is his. Manage your children with beans in a jar if you must, but be sure to tell them that it isn’t the gospel. And perhaps, once in a while, just fill the far up with beans and take everyone out for ice cream, and when your son asks you, “Daddy, why do we get ice cream? How did the jar get full?” You’ll know what to say, won’t you? (Give Them Grace p.108)
I feel certain, if we get really good at knowing this one thing, we will become the most super moms on the planet. So watch out world.