Musings About 30 Years of MotheringApril 17, 2023 Gospel Connections
If you know me, you might know that I desire to live a godly life, I love God’s word, and I strive to keep the good news about Jesus on repeat. You may or may not know that I struggle with bouts of depression, anxiety, and wrestle with persistent, vague feelings of guilt. My personality, much to my dismay, is prone to see the negatives of life, otherwise known as pessimism. It takes real hard work for me to see the positives in myself, in others, in life. It can be exhausting, which is probably why I have bouts of depression and anxiety, and wrestle with persistent vague feelings of guilt. It’s also why I strive to keep the good news about Jesus on repeat, which tells me that my righteousness before God is not earned by my works. Though I don’t earn my way into favor with God, I still earnestly desire for God to be at work in me and through me.
Here's some good news, though. He is at work in me and through me. He always has been. I can trace his hand throughout my life, beginning with my earliest memories. Though I often want to give up, my gracious, merciful Father; precious, loving redeemer, and wise, guiding Spirit urges me on, buoys me up, and — in my darkness — often gives a spark of hope in him that floods my life with light.
What does this have to do with mothering? you might wonder. I am a mom and have been for 30 years. But first and foremost, I am a person — a whole person. I have complexities, deficiencies, scars, even doubts at times, and I bring all of this into mothering. This is true even today as I interact with my adult children — but it was also true when they lived in my home. I am also a whole person with gifts, experiences, and wisdom who has been sovereignly given by God specific people to mother.
You are also a whole person with a history and a unique mix of personality, giftings, and weaknesses, and you bring all of that into mothering the specific people God has given you, biological or not. This is true for every mother since Eve. God sees and knows, and according to his word, has even planned it to be so.
Maybe you don’t have children of your own. Please don’t underestimate the impact that your interactions with the children in your life makes. You may have nieces and nephews, but even if you don’t, there is an abundance of children in our church that you will naturally bump into — often quite literally! You have a unique opportunity to model God’s love to the children around you. This is truly important.
As Steve and I looked at various parenting resources and are currently leading a series focused on parenting, I am excited about the things we are all learning together. We certainly are not and never will be parenting experts. (Side note — it’s not too late to jump in these last two weeks and to email Steve for a password to the videos you’ve missed.)
The foundation of the framework that we are sharing with the church is to make sure that children feel safe with us. First and foremost, in families — that children feel safe with their parents — but also in the context of our church as we all rub shoulders with them. In one session, the video described a fight or flight reaction that children have when they experience fear. The same is true for adults. I realized a while ago that many of my negative reactions as a mom came when I was fearing something. I would fear something I saw in a child and project a fear-based outcome and then decide I’d better do something to control it. I would almost compulsively instruct/correct out of fear of failure — theirs or mine (fight). Or I would long for escape, in some seasons even hide in my closet and cry, or worse yet, ignore constructively dealing with the issue (flight).
I’ve been privileged to hear a lot of good teaching through the years. I’ve sat under solid theology. I know a lot of truth about God, and yet, sometimes even the simple thought that he loves me as I am still shocks me. I don’t love me as I am. It’s hard to believe God would. This is one of many reasons why I love his word. The message that God is abounding in steadfast love is all over its pages, and sometimes it peeks out at me when I least expect it. Opening his word and finding that God not only loves me but is for me is astonishing to someone prone to pessimism who is not even for herself some days.
I naturally look back at my 30 years of parenting and think of all the times I wish I had done better. But, as someone who remembers that God is for me and always has been, I look back and see the countless moments when I instructed my children out of faith, when I listened to them, when I extended grace, when I sought to encourage each one in their uniqueness, when I modeled to them what it looks like to depend on the gospel and guided them towards doing that for themselves.
I suspect that my own upbringing had a hand in shaping my thoughts about myself and the world. Why do I constantly feel that God is displeased with my behavior and that his love and acceptance depend on me getting things right? Well, that was the main message I heard as a child, even if my parents didn’t intend that to be so. I am 54 and am learning that my story is not over. I am still growing and changing. I am still endeavoring to “be transformed by the renewal of my mind, that by testing I may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). I’m still asking God to work in me by his Spirit. I can still grow in learning how to mother my adult children and interact with my grandchildren as well as children in our church (I mean, let’s be honest — adults too!), and I’m striving to do that in humility rather than assuming that what’s done is done and that I can’t change.
I have faith that God is leading me onward in this mothering journey. I have faith that he is leading you onward in your journey as well. The story is not over for you or your children or the children that you encounter in various settings. So, give them a squeeze and tell them how much you love them or are glad to know them, write them a note if they are grown and express your affection for them. It’s never too late to say you’re sorry and ask forgiveness if you need to. It’s never too late or too early to embrace your calling with new faith and joy, no matter your personality, back story, or current struggles.
God is for you as a mother. God is for you as a woman. He will never leave you to fend for yourself because he is the perfect parent, and you are safe with him as his beloved daughter.