August 19, 2013

Motherhood and Fear

A quick announcement before getting to the post today: You're invited to watch The Exchange, an online show with Ed Stetzer, tomorrow, August 20, at 3 pm EST. Kathy Litton from Flourish.me and I will be on talking about issues that concern church planting wives and pastor's wives. (You can see the video here.)
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When my first son was born, a struggle with fear was also borne in my heart. In the beginning, trivial fears gripped me: What if he won't sleep when the book says he should sleep? What if he cries like this for the rest of his life? What if I never shower again? But when he was diagnosed as having autism, the realities of motherhood and the weight of profound fears landed hard. Would he ever speak? Was his future a hopeful one? Would he ever enjoy relationships? Would I be able to parent this child how he needed to be parented?

What I soon realized was that all moms struggle with fear at some level. Every mother wants their child's emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, and every mother wants to do right by her child. Every mother fears that she might not be enough, or that life might be a big bully to the one she loves.
I recognize my fears as a mother, and I also recognize my typical responses to those fears. I either anxiously feed the fear and am motivated by it, or I attempt to tamp down the fear through my own effort.

My primary method of handling fear is the second response-- the control of fear through effort. And what do I fear most? I fear that they won't know and be assured of what God has done for them in Christ. I fear that they won't love God or love others well. So I set goals of what I want to instill into my children. I make lists of activities to help them grow. I write down ideas that other mothers share. I scour blogs and Pinterest. I pack the schedule with opportunities. I help them pursue friendships. I peel open the Bible after breakfast.

This doesn't sound so bad, so why is this response to fear such a bad thing? Being purposeful with my children is not inherently bad, but if it is motivated by fear, it is sin. (Romans 14:23) Let's think about this: What are we saying if we believe our efforts are the way to protect our children or produce heart and character transformation in them? We're saying that we are God. We're saying that we can control life and circumstances. We're saying that we have the power to do what only God can do. This is why controlling our fears through effort is so dangerous.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my typical responses to fear as a mother and recognizing that, truly, my children belong to God, and that I have no ability to produce character in them. I can teach them and lead them to this end, but only God can actually do it. Wouldn't I much rather allow Him to protect, provide for, and work in the hearts of my kids? A million times, yes.

So what is our response to the fears we have as mothers? He gives us a way to respond: we can pray! We are to pray fervently for our children and ask Him to do what only He can do. And we not only pray, but we trust the answer that He will give, which is so often different than what we think it will be or should be.

We must also be obedient to put the structure in place that He asks us to put in place in our families, but we recognize that it is not actually this structure that will do anything. It's Him, and it's only ever been Him.

Our prayers are the way into the heart of God, and it's also God's way into the hearts of our children.