Reading the facebook posts of several young mom’s having a rough week of it, I’m reminded of an excruciating season:
What joys of parenting? Everything related to my role as “Mom” added up to one, ginormous emotion – guilt!
That particular March gave me a scapegoat for the ugly mood as the Puget Sound region once again made national headlines for its waterlogged winter with the sad suggestion of a spring all wrapped in gray and wet.
Mornings were the worse. I was never a superstar when it came to getting the family out of the house. That day made day number three in which the youngest dawdled until the very last minute to get her shoes on and her sluggish, little body into the van.
“Right this minute!” I spit the words through clenched teeth in a tone darker than the clouds. It was one of those “or else” tones that would result in something terrible, although I couldn’t think of anything more terrible than the way I had just spoken to my child. The threat worked without revealing my bluff, and we swerved around corners at teen-age driver speeds, bolting into the school with a single minute left on the clock; we’d been spared the march to the office for the dreaded “late slip.”
Even though we made it, the car ride was ridiculous. Never mind that I had succeeded in getting us to school on time … the truth was that if I was more organized in the mornings, Sallie wouldn’t dawdle. Never mind that we were making sacrifices to put our girls in a Christian school where I was a teacher, expected to reach out to other people’s children with patience and compassion. Never mind that I had sat awake last night, thanking God for my husband and children, imploring Him to help me be more of a First Corinthians Mom. (You know, the love-is-patient, love-is-kind person.)
Each thought pulsed with condemnation but it was the review mirror that turned guilt into bullets. Barely visible in the bottom corner of the mirror was a tear-stained, four-year-old face, blue eyes darting in my direction, plainly saying, “You don’t have to be so mean.” Even louder was a pair of seven-year-old, steely gray eyes in the neighboring seat. “You fink,” those eyes yelled. Knowing I needed to apologize, all that came out in the moment was, “Girls, if you would help lay out all of your things at night like I’ve asked, we might do better in the morning.” I was a fink – Mama Bear had turned on her own cubs.
Everything related to my role as “Mom” added up to one, ginormous emotion – guilt!
Somehow we made it through that morning and way too many others like it. I was thankful for a chance to find the girls at recess, squeeze them with happy mama bear hugs and apologize … really apologize this time. Confession is beautiful with kids – they forgive so wholeheartedly and are not so undone as we believe to find that Mama and Papa Bear are human after all.
Still, I walked around that spring with a crippling weight on my heart. Those morning flare-ups represented only a fraction of the failures. Why was it so hard to love like Jesus … to help my family understand how revolutionary Christ’s love had been in my life? The initial change had been a huge deal, yet I remained such a sinner.
I remembered having dreamed of the day when I would have children and could share with them the joys of living by faith. Instead, I now looked at the endless opportunities surround me and Mike (opportunities neither of us had experienced as kids), and I felt rotten.
There were church programs and Sunday school programs and extra church activities, as well as all of our Christian school functions, bulletins and memos stacked up on our counter top. Each one contained memory verses or Bible lessons to share with our children. Should I start with “My sheep hear my voice,” “Suffer not the children to come to Me,” or the list of the books of the Bible? And what about squeezing in a family devotional after dinner? But just as booming were the demands to get dinner out of the microwave, scrub gunk off of dishes, wrestle through homework, and anxiously forage through Laundry Mountain for at least one pair of socks that semi-quasi matched.
Always fretting about needing another day in my day, I wasn’t prepared when Molly (owner of the gray eyes who rightly called me out as “fink”,) ran into my office one afternoon, breathless.
“Mom! Where’s the earthquake?” Her voice was anxious and high pitched.
“Well…” she looked confused, her voice quieted.
Her next words were whispered, “I know there must be an earthquake coming.”
I pulled her onto my lap. “I don’t understand what you mean.”
“It’s just … it’s just that I was sure that was what God was telling me.”
“‘God’ told you there was going to be an earthquake.?”
“Well … no. I mean – I don’t know for sure. I just know I was playing in the driveway, and Jesus told me to stop what I was doing and get up on the porch. I figured that He was warning me because something bad was going to happen … like an earthquake.”
I have to admit, I was concerned that my daughter was so convinced that she was hearing voices.
“Molly, how do you know it was God who spoke to you?”
“It just was. Miss Lisa has been teaching us at school that prayer is not only us talking to God, but He talks to us. And it’s true Mom. There are lots of times when I know God is telling to be kind or to obey you and Dad.”
How could I argue with that? “Well … what did you do when God told you to get on the porch.”
“I got on the porch.”
A moment of silence, then she smiled into my face. “Mom … you know, I really thought there must be an earthquake or something big. But maybe Jesus just wanted to see if I would do what He asked, even if I don’t know why.”
With that, she was off of my lap, running back outside.
Was it only a coincidence that my window burst into light as the sun broke apart a thick wall of clouds at that exact, very moment?
Mama Bear had been sucker-punched by a seven-year-old who simply trusted God. Through her innocence, Father God tenderly reminded me that at the end of my rope and efforts, He’s big enough to hold my kids, to make Himself real to them. No matter how messy I make a day or messed-up the world appears around me, He’s got my kids. Now a decade plus later, when I lay awake at night worrying about two beautiful, young adult women, I’m reminded to keep praying, keep trusting His promises … He’s got them covered.