June 8, 2016

A Weak Mother is a Good Mother

If there is one thing I want to do well, it’s rearing my children to know God's voice and love his ways. But if there is one area that I feel most inadequate in, it's rearing my children to know God's voice and love his ways, and every other little thing I’m trying to teach them under this larger umbrella, from how to study for a test to engaging in polite social interactions.
I panic when I think of my children embarking into adulthood, typically because I imagine that they’ll have to call me to come tie their shoes or they’ll freeze to death because I'm not there to remind them to wear pants rather than shorts in the winter. Or they’ll spend every waking minute in front of a video game console because I’m not there to monitor every second of their activities. Those concerns, however, pale in comparison to the greatest hopes I harbor for my sons. I want them to become men of integrity and character. I want them to know deep in their bones that walking with the Lord is the path of abundance and joy. But I can barely imagine them driving, much less becoming the compassionate, strong, godly men I pray for them to be.And then I remember that a man isn’t built in a day and to keep my eyes in the moment, to take small steps, to do the next thing. I find myself most overcome with the task of motherhood when I despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10) and when I gauge my own strength as a catalyst for the growth of my children. When I look to myself, I am fully aware of how powerless I am. I feel like I should be better at this than I am. Or maybe it’s that I feel like all these things come easily to a “good mother” so I must not be one. I want to be a good mother but how do I get there?
I am so impatient with myself, so quick to throw my hands up in frustration or surrender. And I find myself thinking that God feels that same way toward me: impatience that I’m not further along, frustration that I fail, irritation at my faithless worrying. Those thoughts show that I often perceive God huffing at my weaknesses, wishing I could get it together already, arms crossed and foot tapping. The good thing is, however, that he knows we are weak mothers and that he doesn’t expect us to be anything else. In fact, he wants me to embrace my limits.
He’s been talking to me about this through His Word. Some of it has been conviction. All of it has been hope-filled. The main point he is driving into my heart over and over and over is that I cannot manage my life, I cannot control or change my children, and I cannot work hard enough to produce men of valor. I am weak. I have no authority, nor power, to change the hearts of my children.
But he doesn’t stop there, just driving nails in my coffin. Instead, he points to 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My power is made perfect in weakness.” While I am feeble and weak in motherhood, he is all-powerful. He created my children, he knows them more intimately than me, and he has plans for them that are good. He promises to be strong in my weakness as a mother.
Perhaps this is why motherhood seems so daunting and where I make it far more difficult than it has to be--because I don’t like to admit my weakness. I don’t like to admit my inabilities or acknowledge how little control I have over their hearts and actions.
But perhaps this resistance to weakness is also a resistance to the very power--God’s power--I crave to pulse through their lives and my own.
This, yes this, is a godly mother: a mother willing to acknowledge her weakness before a grace-giving, power-filling God. Through daily dependence on God’s Spirit, he takes our lack of wisdom and our feeble efforts and allows us to be a major cultivator of beautiful fruit in the hearts of our children.
This is so what I want: to know deep in my soul that a good mother is not one who bakes intricate treats, who schools a certain way, who manages her household within an inch of its life, or who has her children in a million wonderful activities. A good mother is one that acknowledges her need for the power of God to enable her to train and teach her children. A good mother is one who rests (and glories!) in the ability of God to change the hearts of her children. She is one who prays and acts in faith, believing that God can take a meager, imperfect offering and turn it into a miracle. A miracle that showcases the beauty and power, not of a great mother, but of a great God. 
This post is a revised version of one of my chapters in Desiring God's book, Mom Enough