Everyone tells you that being a parent is hard work, but they don’t always tell you it’s the kind of job where you’re guaranteed to feel like you’re in over your head.
There are days when I feel like I’ve got it down… I’ve made the healthy meal, the house is clean(ish), I’ve spent good quality time with the girls and nailed a couple of real teaching moments. The kind of day when I think: I am just rocking this. I should write books about this. Someday I will give talks and people will come from all over to hear me impart my parenting wisdom!
Then the next day comes and every single one of my sweet daughters has entered into some new phase with new challenges that I am completely unprepared for and untrained in how to deal with. I become a fumbling, bumbling mess, struggling to find my footing and feeling completely unqualified.
That’s the thing about parenting – you never really get good at it. Because you can’t. How can you get good at a job that changes every single day? Kids are always changing, their needs and challenges are always changing, and you’re just trying to keep up. Raising human beings isn’t easy, particularly if your goal is for them to also be decent human beings who love Jesus.
Proverbs teaches that we are to:
“Start children off on the way they should go, so that when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
The trajectory of our children’s spiritual lives will be greatly affected by the way we as parents live out our faith in front of them.
Wow – no pressure right?
Then a few years ago I read a book by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof called “Parenting Beyond our Capacity.” This book resounded so strongly with me that has become sort of a foundation for me in the way that I parent. As the authors write:
“Too many of us buy into the myth that we need to become the right kind of parent before God can use us. In reality, God is longing to tell His story through our imperfections and brokenness.
If you were to invite God into your less-than-ideal story and learn to cooperate with whatever He wants to do in your life, the dynamic of your family could radically change. If your picture is not where you want it to be at this time, you may be tempted to throw in the towel. Don’t focus on the picture. Focus instead on the bigger story God desires to illustrate through you.
Rather than painting a picture of a perfect family, God wants to use family as a canvas for His redemptive story. He wants to use the family to show us what it means to have an authentic, everyday faith with a God who redeems and restores broken people.”
This was a total game-changer for me. A simple shift in perspective and the weight of the burden was lightened. My lousy parenting moments stopped being a recipe for guilt and discouragement as I saw them as an opportunity to teach my kids about God’s character and love.
I mess up, and they mess up. Yes, it can be hard and disappointing and frustrating, so we do our best to be open about our brokenness and shortcomings and our need for forgiveness. Times of heartache and stress can become beautiful moments where we talk about grace and God’s love for them in ways that are tangible and real.
Instead of the crippling pressure of needing to be a perfect mom to my kids, I can be real with them. I can show them that I am trying my best, but I am flawed and God is working on me too. I hope and pray that as they walk through life and their own little mess-ups become not so little, they will have the confidence to lean on the grace that is available to them thanks to God’s unconditional love.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Psalm 86:5