As soon as our kids are born, maybe even as soon as we see that plus sign on the pregnancy test, our priorities shift. Those babies move into the number one spot while our own needs take a back seat. God gives us an incredible responsibility when He gives us children.
Psalm 127:3-5 KJV Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Once my first child became old enough to truly understand what I was saying and start imitating me, I was shocked at the level of influence I had over another human being. If she saw me cooking dinner, she’d go to her toy kitchen and pretend to cook dinner. If she saw me doing sit-ups and push-ups in an attempt to get back in shape, she’d start doing her adorable baby version of sit-ups and push-ups. If I accidentally let a not-so-nice word slip when I stubbed my toe, you’d better believe she’d start saying that not-so-nice word all the time, especially in front of Grandma. (Why do they always repeat the worst stuff in front of Grandma?)
Each time we added a child to the family, my overwhelming sense of responsibility grew, and probably rightfully so. Parents should feel the weight of their role in their kids’ lives. But this pressure to raise well-rounded, Jesus-loving, kind-hearted kiddos can bring about a lot of anxiety! So how do we keep our sanity while worrying about things like screen time, organic foods, which extracurriculars to choose, and how to just stop yelling all the time?
“What if I name her ‘Grace’?” I thought, when trying to pick out our third child’s name. Maybe if I literally put the word “grace” in her name, I’ll finally remember to give the child grace when she messes up. Maybe if I’m screaming “Ava Grace Kenaston!” across the room when she’s hitting her brother over the head with a toy hammer, I’ll hear the word “grace” and actually remember how much grace she deserves. Or I’ll remember how much grace God gives me each day as I continually feel like I’m failing at motherhood.
I think grace is what’s missing in today’s mommy culture. It seems like most of us moms fall into two categories. The first mom puts on a big, fake smile and pretends like she’s doing just fine all the time. Her life looks perfect on social media and she never confides in anyone about her struggles. She likes having the appearance of having it all together and she doesn’t want anything to mess up that façade. Then there’s the mom who has gotten so good at talking about her flaws that her life has become one big complaint. All she does is talk about how she messes everything up all the time. She’s very good at playing the victim. Her children are too whiny, too messy, too disobedient. Her husband is too busy, too unhelpful, too unsympathetic. She doesn’t even feel like trying anymore because she seems to always mess it up.
If you don’t feel like you really fit into either of those categories, maybe you’re the mom in the middle — the mom who sometimes seems perfect and sometimes seems like a hot mess. I think I might fall into that category. I’m either faking perfection on Facebook or I’m whining about how hard #momlife is on Twitter. There’s rarely that in between, which is what most of “real life” is made up of.
You know what is missing from all three of these mamas? Grace. The “perfect” mom needs to give herself grace when things don’t look so perfect. God doesn’t expect perfection from us. In fact, He says: As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one… Romans 3:10 KJV
We’re human and we’re going to mess it all up from time to time. That’s why we have to be so grateful for God’s grace that forgives us and lets us try again the next day. Or the next hour. Or the next minute. The complaining mom needs to give herself some grace, so she can step out of the shadow of her perceived flaws. Her flaws don’t define her. Her successes don’t define her. Only her salvation in Jesus Christ defines her, as a child of God. And children of God are guaranteed this awesome thing called grace! Let God’s grace wash over you, shed a couple tears if you need to, pray for God to sustain you with His strength, and get up and try to do better. The third type of mama, the “in between” mama, needs grace too – grace when she’s putting on an act and trying to look perfect to the outside world and grace when she feels like whining all day and running off to a sunny beach in Mexico.
God will always sustain us in such an incredible way, through some really crazy parenting situations. In fact, He might even purposefully put us through “failures” so that we’ll learn something. They aren’t necessarily failures in His eyes.
He’s a good, good father and He loves us so much that He wants us to grow into the amazing humans He’s created us to be. Sometimes that takes hard lessons, like forgetting the paci on a Walmart trip during a particularly difficult phase with my youngest, when she’d scream bloody murder through the entire shopping trip while simultaneously trying to launch herself out of the cart and into my arms. I initially thought of that as a massive failure on my part. I should’ve remembered the paci. I should’ve just done a grocery pick-up order so we didn’t have to come inside. (Can we just take a moment and praise the Lord for grocery pick-up?) I should’ve done something differently so that I would be better equipped to handle this nightmare.
But what I finally realized was that I didn’t need any earthly item to handle this situation. I needed the Lord. I needed His armor to fight against the enemy, who was using everything he had to try to get me to react in an angry, impatient, and unloving way. I needed His strength and wisdom to guide me on how to calm Ava down and get her to cooperate. Or maybe I needed His wisdom to nudge me into leaving the store and coming back later, something unthinkable for this planner, who has a specific time set aside for grocery shopping and couldn’t imagine not getting it done at that exact time. Regardless, I was interpreting this situation as a failure instead of giving myself grace for just being in a hard moment or giving Ava grace for being 18 months old and acting her age.
So, maybe calling her “Grace” doesn’t always help me to remember grace in the hard moments. I’m just so thankful that God never forgets to give me grace. He knows we’re going to continually mess it all up. But if we turn to Him in those moments, we’ll find grace and forgiveness and a new start.