You dream of them for years. You name them before they exist. When you see the two blue lines, you are giddy for weeks. Every doctor’s appointment, when the sound of that heartbeat fills the room, is like front-row seats at the most beautiful symphony. You endure hours of pain beyond description and forget it as soon as they lay that baby on your chest.
You sit up nights when she cries. You drop everything every two hours when he’s hungry. When she sighs as she snuggles off to sleep on your shoulder, your heart melts. This is truly bliss. All your dreams are coming true right in your arms.
Nothing could ever make you forget this feeling.
Fast forward 8 or 10 years and a few more kids.
You are still running on frequently-interrupted sleep, but have no newborn snuggles as a reward. You still have monthly doctor’s appointments, but instead of being accompanied by the symphony of a baby’s heartbeat, they have a soundtrack of coughing and wheezing as one child after another falls victim to the crud.
That sweet baby who smiled at every stranger now argues with every sentence you utter. Your kids fight over who started the fight. Fits are thrown over the ketchup being on the wrong side of the plate.
You have moments when you are helping your first-grader painstakingly sound out sentences while your sixth-grader is calling for help with pre-algebra, your four-year-old is yelling “Wipe my bottom!!” from the bathroom, your fourth-grader is informing you that you forgot to write her grammar assignment in her planner, and then the baby climbs up onto the table and dumps out the full cup of juice your second-grader left there.
Every. Single. Day.
These are the moments when you wonder why in the world you ever thought you could handle this whole parenting thing. When you turn on the TV to babysit, lock yourself in the bathroom with chocolate, and cry.
These are the days when you might forget.
When you might forget why you signed up. When you might forget that these moments are just moments and that there is much more joy than tears, much more warmth than fighting, much more love than despair. When you might forget that underneath all the huffs and puffs and eye-rolls and arguments is a heart that is desperately in need of your love and compassion. When you might forget that it is all so completely worth it.
When you might forget that there is a hope available to you that will sustain you through every one of these chaotic days.
Every mother is a sinner raising sinners. Every mother has moments and days like these, and if she says she doesn’t, she’s lying. And every mother finds promises of hope to which she clings, longing to find the answer to surviving these years and not completely ruining her children.
But there is only one hope that delivers on the promise.
Parenting books and positive thinking are only a temporary band-aid. You can follow every step in the book, and find out that it wasn’t written about your child. You can print and tack on your refrigerator every inspirational quote that shows up in your Newsfeed, and they will just be giving your magnets something to hold up. Gritting your teeth and determining that tomorrow you are going to do better will only last you until breakfast, if that’s all you are standing on. And chocolate will make you feel better for a little while, until you add guilt for eating chocolate to your already heavy load of ways you failed that day.
Only Jesus offers hope that is real.
Hope that will lift your head at the end of another long weary day when you spent every ounce of energy from the moment they woke you up to the moment you put them to bed, and then several times after that, but still didn’t come close to meeting everyone’s needs.
Because He has already met all your needs, and all the needs of your family as well.
He is God, but He became human and lived a perfect life so that He could offer Himself as a punishment for your failures, and then give you His perfect record in return. This is so, once you have believed this and placed your trust firmly in His life and not your own meager attempts at making it on your own, you can gain access to paradise for all eternity. This is mind-boggling in and of itself. But He offers so much more than that. He offers you grace upon grace upon grace to live a life of hope instead of a life of despair and frustration. When you are walking with Jesus, He gives you grace to respond all those messy mothering moments with love instead of self-pity or anger. Even more, He sends His Spirit to dwell within you to change you, give you power to meet with love and grace every curve ball your kids throw at you, and make you look more like Him and less like Crazy Mom who is losing her mind.
If you follow Him, will you still have these kinds of days, the days that make you forget everything you know to be good about mothering?
Yes. I do.
I did today.
But, amazingly, once you are His, He gives grace, not condemnation, when you blow it.
This is the hope you need on the days when you forget why you’re doing all that you’re doing. This is the hope that lets you have a day filled with those crazy moments when you think the only relief will come from selling a kid or two, and then go to sleep in peace, resting in the fact that His righteousness is in your account that day instead of your dismal shortcomings.
So to that mother who feels weighed down by all the ways she failed her kids today…
“Rest. You are loved. Because you are my child, because you have been redeemed by my Son, I look at you with the love I have for Him. His record is spotless, and it is yours. So rest. I see all your labors for those precious children. I see how you spend yourself and give of yourself and still come up short. Trust me. Your plate is not too full. I know because I am the One who measured your portion and served it to you in just the right amount to make the changes in your heart necessary for you to look just like Me. Just be obedient, do the work I’ve given you to do, and trust Me with the results. Trust Me with their hearts, their minds, their bodies. Depend on Me to make them who I want them to be. I never meant for you to mother them on your own strength. I know you are exhausted. I know you are weak, but My strength is made perfect in your weakness. Rest now. Tomorrow rise in My love, lift your head, and walk in My grace that will never run out. Not even on the days you forget.”