Patience, Parenting, and the Power of Grace

There are times when I’m reading God’s Word and a verse seems to literally jump off the page at me. Maybe a light bulb of understanding flashes on in my mind or a connection is made for the first time. Most often, the lamp of God’s Word shines deep within, and His Spirit pricks me with conviction as the true condition of my heart is revealed.

This happened recently as I came to the following verse in my reading through the book of Proverbs: 

Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions than capturing a city. (Prov 16:32)

Ouch.

As the long days of summer have worn on, I’ve found myself quick to lose patience and grasp for power, particularly in my relationships with my boys. Here’s the thing: Summer is really fun. I love having all three boys home all the time. I love getting to sleep later and have lazy mornings with nowhere to be. I love having time to swim, play with friends, travel, read and take the boys to lots of new places. I love having more opportunities to teach them all sorts of things as I seek to fill their minds with truth. I consider it a privilege and joy to be home with them each day.

But summer has its challenges too. While there are more opportunities to spend time together enjoying and loving each other, there are also more opportunities to rub each other wrong…to irritate each other…to sin against each other. Constant family togetherness means the shortcomings of four sinful human beings are highlighted and on display. Selfishness, pride, anger, fear, manipulation, sibling rivalry. In the summertime, more than in other seasons, I see my kids’ individual weaknesses and the sinfulness of their hearts.

And my natural tendency is to want to fix my kids by my own power. In other words, I want to say and do all the right things as a parent to produce the desired effect in their hearts and behavior. I find myself trying to smooth out their rough edges with solid biblical parenting–trying to somehow mend their flaws and melt away their fears and insecurities so that I can feel really good about my kind, obedient, well-adjusted and happy kids. And if none of this “good” power parenting works, it’s likely I’ll completely lose patience. I’ll let my own irritation, anxiety, and fear take the wheel, and in a final ditch effort yell, “WHY CAN YOU NOT DO____?!?!  WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT____?!?! JUST STOP IT! NOW!!!!!!” 

Patience is better than Power.

When I read these words, I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, “They are not your projects, Sarah. They are gifts from my hand. They are blessings to steward, not burdens to shoulder. You will not give account for how you changed or healed or fixed them. That is not a job you can even do. It’s mine alone. You will give account for how you loved them. And my love is patient. It is not irritable. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. My love never ends. You can be faithful and rest in grace as you trust Me with the hearts of your boys.”

Loving my kids with a Christ-like love, doesn’t mean glossing over their sins and struggles with an “anything goes” mentality. The proverbs also repeatedly command parents to discipline their children in love: Discipline your son while there is hope; don’t set your heart on being the cause of his death (Prov 19:18). No, loving my kids with a Christ-like love means being faithful to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4),  being patient with the process rather than trying to force visible results that, in reality, I have no power to produce. 

When the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, he was telling them to raise their children in the Gospel. Paul’s Gentile audience (Greek believers) would have raised their children in the instruction of the philosophers. The Jews would have raised their children in the instruction of the Law. But Paul is calling followers of Christ to something new: Gospel-centered parenting. And the good news of the gospel is that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Tim Keller). Loving my kids patiently and raising them in the instruction and discipline of the Lord means giving them the good news of grace as I rest in that grace myself.

Jesus Christ came to this world and lived the perfect, pure, and righteous life that my boys and I could never live. He died a horrific, unimaginable death in our place. He triumphed over death when he rose from the grave, and He lives to offer us forgiveness, His own righteousness and transformation through His Spirit. When I am resting in the gospel, I can stop grasping for power and love my boys with a patience that endures the process–rough sinful edges and all–because that is how Christ has loved me. I can discipline and teach in love rather than irritation and fear, extending the good news of grace that has been extended to me. I can parent in a way that hopes all things because my hope is grounded in the finished work of good, merciful and mighty Savior, not the way my kids behave on any particular day. My life can exhibit the truth that patience is better than power because God’s patient grace has changed me. . . and his patient grace will change them too.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:8

 

 

The Home as the Hub of Life on Mission

Our family is in the process of moving from one house to another, and I’m kind of feeling all the feels about it. There’s the nostalgia and twinge of sadness as we say goodbye to a house where we’ve made sweet memories and grown as a family, but there’s also the excitement about a new place for a new season. All these feelings brought about by our upcoming change of address have gotten me thinking about the fact that a home is much more than just brick and mortar.

When we think of a house, we may think of shelter or a space to decorate according to our various styles. When we think of a home, we might envision a refuge or place of belonging. But in the Kingdom of God, does a home have a deeper purpose than even these good things? Does the Bible have anything to say about God’s purpose for the home?

Women who are familiar with the Bible may remember that in Titus chapter two, the work of the home is mentioned. Here, the apostle Paul exhorts Titus to teach what accords with sound doctrine (the gospel): Older women are to train younger women to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home . . . that the word of God will not be reviled” (2:4-5). Paul is not here saying that women should only work in the home. The point Paul makes is that the home is significant in God’s gospel mission; therefore, the work of the home is extremely valuable to Him. The Bible is clear that the mission of believers is to spread God’s glory to all the world by making disciples through the power of the gospel (Matt 28:19-20, Rom 1:16). This mission is not disconnected from Paul’s exhortations to women concerning work in the home. When Titus chapter two is interpreted in light of Christ’s great commission mandate, women will begin to see that their homes can serve as a “hub” or effective center for living a life on mission for Christ .

The mission begins within the walls.

I love Mother Teresa’s thought provoking words: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Al Mohler recently made a similar statement: “If we can’t reach our children, we can’t reach the world.” Our mission to reach the world with the gospel starts at home. The people who live within our walls {spouses, children, roommates} are our closest neighbors and usually the people with whom God has given us the greatest influence. Hearts and minds are shaped early and, as parents, we have the hearts of our children first. As we are faithful to love and care for our kids in the day-to-day, we have thousands of opportunities to make intentional deposits of gospel truth into their hearts and lives while praying for God to bring transformation and growth.

When we view the home as the hub of our mission efforts, even the most mundane and exhausting work required in keeping a house and caring for those we love is important and meaningful; yet, at the same time, it doesn’t rule us. Christ rules us. We can work faithfully by His strength and for His glory while recognizing that our joy is not dependent on whether or not we have a beautifully decorated and tidy home, a thankful spouse, or well-behaved children.

To use our homes as the hub of our mission efforts does not mean we are domestic goddesses who keep picture-perfect homes and never make mistakes in front of those who live in our home. In fact, it’s really just the opposite. Being on mission within the walls of our homes means that we really get the gospel ourselves. We understand that apart from Christ we are broken and flawed and weak. We recognize that every failure–every bad attitude, impatient word or careless act–is an opportunity to point to the Perfect One whose righteousness has been credited to us through faith and who is slowly transforming our hearts as we turn from our sin and look to Him alone. The ugly things in our hearts that are exposed in front of those we love give us the chance to demonstrate humility and true repentance as we shout the good news that the gospel of Jesus is our greatest hope in our weakest moments. To be on mission in our homes, we must model our deep need and highlight God’s great grace.

The mission moves beyond the walls when the door is open.

God has provided us earthly homes as temporary places of refuge, not that we may sequester ourselves behind closed doors and only minister to those within our walls, but that we may open our doors and bid others to come in and see that the it is The Lord is good. These physical structures we live in are just temporary dwellings, but they can be a powerful  tool to point others forward to our eternal dwelling in Christ if we will simply open our doors.

A missional home is an open home, not a perfect home. Are we willing to welcome others into our imperfect (and in my case, messy) homes to share of our time, our food, and ourselves? In the book of Acts, Luke records that the early Church did life together. Followers of Christ gathered daily to learn, worship, break bread, and remember the gospel together. They also applied the gospel together as they generously gave of what they had to meet the needs of others. In short, they lived life with a “what’s mine is yours” mentality. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were beings saved” (Acts 2:47b). As they lived life together with open homes and hands, the gospel spread.

We live in an individualistic culture of locked doors, drawn curtains and privacy fences. The American mentality is “you can only count on what you earn”. But if our homes are going to function as little gospel outposts for taking the good news to the world, we must work by Christ’s strength to keep our doors open regardless of how uncomfortable or costly it may feel.

We each need to ask ourselves questions such as these: Is my home open to those in the Body of Christ? Do I regularly welcome believers in to share a meal or coffee and speak about the things of the Lord together? Is my home a refuge for others in need of a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, godly counsel or just a free place to spend the night? As I welcome the Body of Christ, am I intentionally seeking to build relationships with the lost in my circle of influence while petitioning the Lord to add to [our] number those who are being saved? Do I speak to neighbors and try to get to know them through time? Do I develop friendships with lost coworkers who do not know the Lord and invite them into my home? Do I pray for them and ask the Lord for opportunities? There are countless creative ways to use our homes for God’s Kingdom mission if we will open our eyes and ask daily for his strength and help.

Lest we become easily discouraged, let us remember that we will not be perfect in managing our homes for effective gospel mission. We will struggle and always have room to grow, but weakness itself is a gift. It reminds us that our hope is in something greater than our home and our own efforts at faithful obedience. In the hard moments, let us shift our perspective to the truth that Gloria Furman communicates so well:

The remnant Israelites learned that their home was not their refuge. In our modern time, we need to know this too. We need to know that our home is not a projection of our image but a space in which we work to display the image of Christ. Home points to a peace that is beyond color schemes and adornments. It points to the fact that the Lord is our refuge. Jesus Christ is the greatest missional home manager the world has ever seen. He builds his house, and he sets his house in order. He is head over his church, and he loves her perfectly. He nourishes her with his word. Christ reigns in sovereign superiority; he is the basis of all our joy. We must live our lives focused on his sovereign lordship over the cosmos.“

Yes. And amen.

 

What I want for you Most

To my boys…my little arrows…my warriors in training:

I often think about what I want for you most.  Hopes deep within my soul turn into prayers poured  from my heart and oftentimes whispered from my lips throughout my days. Do I want you to have good health and talent and success and a life of happiness? Well, certainly those things would be wonderful blessings. Do I desire for you a well-adjusted childhood? Academic and athletic achievement? Loyal friends? A solid career? Financial stability and ease? What parent wouldn’t want these good gifts for their children. I hope God sees fit to bless each of you in some or all of these ways during your life on earth, but the truth is that I rarely pray any of these things for you. They are not the most important things. They are not what I want for you most, and they are not what I want for you at all if they come at the expense of what I want most.

What I desire for each of you more than anything is that God would grow you into mighty warriors for the Kingdom of Christ–the Kingdom of Light. In Psalm 127, God tells us that you boys are a heritage to your dad and me. You are a reward to us from God Himself. As children born into a household built by the Lord, God’s Word describes you as “arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior.” The passage goes on to say that warriors who fill their quiver with these arrows are  abundantly blessed. While your dad and I are not warriors in a physical sense, we are very much warriors in a spiritual sense. Ephesians 6 tells us that, as followers of Jesus, we are warriors in a battle that we cannot see with our eyes but a battle that is very real and very intense, nonetheless. This battle is not against flesh and blood, but it is a battle against a very present darkness in our world–a battle against spiritual forces of evil.

You will not have to live long in our world to see this darkness. It is pervasive. It has left our world broken and seemingly beyond repair. Broken hearts. Broken bodies. Hatred. Violence. Abuse. Dysfunction. Destruction. Despair. Death. Things are not as they should be and it hurts so deeply. No one is unaffected. Suffering comes to all, and the burdens of this present darkness are too many and too heavy for us to bear. The worst part of it all is that the darkness starts in you and me—in the deepest crevices of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and God’s Word says that we love this darkness (John 3:19). My precious boys, you will never become warriors against this great darkness in our world until you first recognize and mourn the great darkness in your own hearts. You will never fight for the light until a supernatural and transformative Light shines in your own hearts. This Light is my greatest hope and prayer for you.

. . .the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Only Jesus has borne the full burden of our brokenness through His death in our place on the cross of Calvary. Jesus alone is the Light that will shine in our hearts and vanquish the darkness. Look to Him, little Arrows, look to Him. And one day, I pray you will fly from our quiver and into the world as strong Warriors–full of integrity and kindness– ready to do battle for The Light as you love others deeply and make an eternal difference here on Earth to the glory of God. May every part of my parenting be shaped by this deep desire of my heart—what I want for you most.

I Love you deeply.

7 Truths for Parenting

I recently walked out of an OB appointment before seeing the doctor. With tears in my eyes, I tried to avoid the nurse’s gaze and keep my voice from shaking as I gathered our things and told her I would have to reschedule. Because of a change in my husband’s typical schedule, I had both boys with me at the appointment that day (something I don’t normally attempt), and it was a complete and total disaster. I came armed with snacks, books, and the ipad full of movies. Regardless of all my gear, the boys were their usual active (read: wild) selves! They loudly ran about the waiting room and then got into a screaming, yanking fight over a bag of veggie straws right as the nurse was calling us back. That fight carried over to another one over the only extra chair in the exam room while the nurse stared awkwardly as I tried to get my children under control. The iPad refused to work properly, so I couldn’t get a movie started to help settle them down. My stress levels were elevating, and I was slowly coming unglued. Completely embarrassed, I dragged both boys out to the car and pretty much had a come-apart the entire thirty minute drive home. It was a low point in parenting. A real low point.

In spite of the story above, parenting my boys is probably the most significant, joy producing, glorious task I’ve ever been given. It is also, without a doubt, the most challenging task I’ve ever been given. The task of bearing and raising life is such a gift–a miracle, honor and privilege. But it’s also ridiculously hard. Harder than I ever really imagined. I find myself growing tired, impatient, and worried more than I care to admit. Parenting, like nothing else in my life thus far, has driven me to mine God’s Word for truth, wisdom, and hope. Below are seven significant truths from God’s Word that I am continuously turning to and meditating on through both the good and hard days of parenting (but especially the hard days):

1. Children are blessed gifts from God’s hand: On the days when our children are acting impossible, we must dwell on the truth that they are undeserved gifts from God’s hand, and they are great blessings to our lives regardless of their actions at the moment. No new life is an accident or a mistake. Every child, regardless of the circumstances through which he or she is conceived and born, is a purposeful gift from our good God’s hand. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

2. God is sovereign over His creation–each child is created exactly as God intended him or her to be: Individual personalities, full of their various strengths and weaknesses, are more than just random genetic combinations. They are the careful handiwork of an all-wise and sovereign God who does not make mistakes. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

3. God possesses all the wisdom and strength we need to faithfully parent our children. This wisdom and strength are made available to believers through faith in the shed blood and finished work of Christ. Through Jesus, we must draw from this strength and wisdom daily. Because Christ’s strength is perfect and is magnified in our weaknesses, we can rejoice even in the greatest parenting struggles that we face. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

4. Our children (and spouse) are our closest neighbors. Jesus calls His followers to love our neighbor(s) as we love ourselves. Contrary to common belief, no one has to be taught self-love. All people naturally seek their own happiness and well-being and naturally look out for their own interests, although this takes different forms in different people and varying circumstances. Jesus radically calls His followers to pursue the happiness, well-being and interests of others with the same intensity that we pursue those things for ourselves. Upon close examination of the heart, all of us will find that self-love often tries to dominate and overpower a love for others, even in the case of our own children. But, by God’s grace and power, we must see to it that our parenting is not tainted with selfishness or driven by our own idolatrous desires for security, peace of mind, a good reputation, convenience. etc. The way we parent must flow from a self-sacrificial love for both God and our closest little neighbors–a love that seeks to point our children to Christ through and in the midst of challenges. “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

5. Anxiety and worry are sin. When it comes to our children (and our parenting), anxiety and worry can so easily creep into our hearts and minds. Am I doing this right? How is this child going to turn out? How will we make it through this tough season? Is something wrong with my child?!?!? God calls believers to stop fretting and turn to Him for everything, resting in His peace and trusting Him to help and supply us in every need. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, 19).

6. Parenting failures are inevitable. If we confess our sin and repent, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us.  Believers in Christ will not be made perfect until we meet Him one day and, therefore, we will not be perfect parents during our time on this earth. All of us will fall short. We will all lose patience. We will sin against God and our children more than we care to admit. But if we come face-to-face with our sin through confession and repentance, God through Christ is faithful to forgive us and make us clean. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

7 .Our job is not to produce godly children. Our job is to be a faithful parents. God has not called us to produce godly children because we have no power to do so. As parents, we do not have the power ultimately necessary to turn our children’s hearts away from sin and toward Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can draw people to repentance and light the fire of true faith in the heart. Parents, however, are called to put as much “kindling” around our children’s hearts as possible. We are called to teach our children the truth about God, themselves, and our world. Through our everyday interactions and conversations, we must help our kids see their brokenness and rebellion against God and point them toward the good news of the gospel of Jesus–the only one who has the power to transform their hearts and lives. We are responsible to hold up the glory and goodness of God before our children and teach them that a life apart from God our Father is really no life at all. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise’”. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).  


May our parenting be guarded and guided according to the blessed truths of God’s Word, and may we seek to steward well the good news of the gospel by holding it out to our closest little neighbors. It is our greatest hope…and theirs.

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Give them Jesus

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I so often look at those happy smiling faces, and I long to keep them small. To keep them safe. To keep them unaware and protected from the brokenness and dysfunction in the world around them.

Ashley Madison. Extramarital affairs. Rampant pornography addiction. Abuse. Millions oppressed in sex slavery. Millions aborted before they even have a chance to experience life outside the womb. Millions orphaned. So much hurt and pain–with sexual brokenness at the root of much of it all.

The reality of the task before me looms large: How will I parent these precious ones? I am called to be faithful–to do all I can to raise my sons to love and serve the Lord (Eph 6:4), to help them develop into godly men who seek to image their Creator. But the task often seems daunting. When I see all that’s happening in the world around me, I feel fear and discouragement. Fear about realities they will encounter all too soon. Discouragement about how they could possibly process these realities truthfully. Fear about how they will respond. My first inclination is to hide them—to shelter and protect and then fill their minds full of truth and maintain my supposed “control” over their lives through boundaries and rules.

But the truth is, I’m not sovereign over their lives. I never have been.

Hiding never works. And rules just expose brokenness. They can’t fix it.

No matter how much I try to hide them, the brokenness of this world will find my children. And not just because it’s enveloping them from the outside-in. The problem is not only outside and around my boys. It’s inside them. It’s inside me. It’s inside you.

Brokenness doesn’t start with Ashley Madison, pornography, rape, or abortion. It starts with lust. With idolatry and misplaced desires. With pride. With hearts that are naturally bent to love and serve “self” above anyone else–even God Almighty. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9). A sin sickness has corrupted the fundamental nature of every human heart, and none of us are immune, even those who appear perfectly polished on the outside.

No amount of hiding and no list of rules will protect our kids from sin because hiding doesn’t expose the depth of their need and rule-following can’t change their hearts or alter their affections. Only the power of Jesus can transform a self-centered, rebel heart. Only the beauty of Jesus is enough to captivate the mind with truth and the heart with holy desire and worship. Only the righteousness of Jesus is enough to cover our own supposed “righteousness”—a righteousness motivated by consuming self-love rather than God’s glory and deemed “filthy rags” by Him.

If I want to be faithful in the parenting task, I’ve got to give my boys Jesus. Nothing less. In the everyday, mundane moments of parenting. When I fall short. When they fall short. Even now, before they are really aware of all the brokenness within and without, I must be faithful to hold up the hope of the gospel before them and urge them to turn away from their sin and look only to Jesus for healing and salvation. And then, I rest. I seek to be faithful and then relinquish my desire to control, resting in His perfect wisdom, sovereignty, and plan for their lives. Regardless of the path my boys take, He is faithful. And He is enough.

First-trimester: The blessing of weakness

I’ve just recently come through {survived} the first trimester of my third pregnancy, and while I am so thankful that this precious life is growing inside of me, I think it’s been the most challenging one yet. When I was pregnant with John Wicks, I shared some of the funnier parts of first-trimester pregnancy, and some parts were similar this time. Like the crazy food aversions and hilarious, unhealthy cravings. I drove through Jack’s for burgers, ate dill pickle spears with La Croix snow cones made in my blender, and stopped to get take-out Mexican food on the way to Chick-fil-A with my family. I sent Adam out for biscuits and orange juice at 9 pm at night and drove him crazy with my indecisiveness about food choices. But, if I’m really being honest, the first trimester season was a lot harder than it was funny. I felt moody and nauseous and very, very tired almost all the time. Viruses, ear infections, and a sinus infection in addition to pregnancy sickness left me spending a lot of time in bed. And the hardest part wasn’t necessarily the sickness itself but the weakness—the inability to accomplish the things that needed to be done, much less all the things I wanted to get done. First-trimester pregnancy was a time of vulnerability. A time of becoming painfully aware of my limits. And I really didn’t like that one little bit. In fact, it often got me a little worked up and stressed.

I think the sickness is finally beginning to ease now, but I still need more rest than normal. I still cannot accomplish as much each day as I would like. And I’m finally realizing how important it is for me to evaluate what’s at the heart of my constant frustration and stress over my heightened weakness during this particular season. Why is it so hard for me to slow down…to rest…to let the laundry get out of hand…to let my kids watch more TV…to read less and sleep more…to intentionally do less in this season and to be ok with that? I don’t like facing my limits and vulnerability because I thrive on achievement and accomplishment. Almost nothing makes me feel better than checking things off the to-do list and feeling like I’ve had a productive day. Almost nothing makes me feel worse than feeling behind, overwhelmed, and unable to catch up. While being driven and productive are good things–God-given qualities that will aid in my work for his Kingdom–my  joy, peace and satisfaction each day cannot be wrapped up in them. I must not bow down to the false god of human accomplishment.

 I must not find my hope in what I can accomplish each day; rather, I must always find my hope in what has already been accomplished on my behalf through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In a recent podcast, I heard Paul Tripp make the following statement: “Generally it’s not my weakness that gets me in trouble, it’s my delusions of strength. The Bible is all about the beauty of God’s grace for the weak. In fact, you could argue that there is no such thing ever considered in Scripture as human autonomy and human self-sufficiency. I’m neither independent nor self-sufficient.”

It’s counter cultural to affirm and embrace weakness, but the Bible is clear that God’s grace is for the weak. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” It’s those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and acknowledge their need for God’s help who receive the Kingdom.

When I feel strong and able and accomplished, it’s easy to believe the lie that I’m autonomous and self-sufficient. And it’s easy to slip into idolatry without even realizing it–to begin worshipping my productivity and thereby begin worshipping myself. But the truth is, I am not God. I need God. I need a helper. Through Christ, God is my salvation and my help in all things, even the seemingly small tasks of this life that I so often toil and strive to accomplish in my own power and strength. And God is much more concerned with the holiness of my heart than in what I get done each day.

I know that many aspects of bearing children {or being unable to bear children or losing children or struggling with rebel children} are hard because of the fall and because of sin. But I am thankful that our sovereign and good God is able to bring beauty out of pain and difficulty and hardship. He uses seasons of weakness for good by revealing our frailty against the backdrop of His sufficient strength and abundant grace. He uses frustration with our limits to expose misdirected worship and to turn our hearts back to the only One worthy of our worship. He continues to bring life–both physical and spiritual–in spite of the curse of the sin. He uses the gift of pregnancy to teach us much about our hearts. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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Motherhood

Here I am again. At the end of the day. At the end of myself.

Motherhood has to be the hardest and most beautiful job on earth.

Yes, messy and hard and beautiful and precious.

It’s hard because people are hard. It’s messy because people are messy. And it’s beautiful and precious because people are beautiful and precious as image-bearers of God. We’re all hopelessly broken. We love ourselves more than we love each other. We worship our comfort, our success, our hopes and plans, and our tidy houses. We want to fit our children neatly into our little boxes. We want them to be compliant and smiley and to get with the program for heaven’s sake!

But children aren’t our show prizes. They’re not our cute little family trophies in their monogrammed outfits with neatly combed hair. They’re not our consolation or comfort or fulfillment. And they’re certainly not our projects.

They’re people. Teeny, tiny little people created in the image of God but born broken into a fallen world. People who so naturally image the selfishness and pride of their parents. People who so desperately need to be studied, learned, and nurtured according to their individual personalities. Little people who need to be truly loved—sacrificially and unconditionally even in times when they are completely unlovable. People who need to see first hand what it means to rightly image the beauty of God in a dark world.

No one told me just how hard motherhood would be and just how much it would humble me. I realize every day how inept I am at rightly imaging God’s holiness and beauty before my children. At the end of the day, I mourn my continual impatience when my kids are inconveniencing me. I hate the selfishness and perfectionism that still try to rule in my heart and make it all about me.  I feel discouraged by the lack of “important” tasks accomplished and wonder how laundry, dirty diapers, correcting disobedience, and refereeing sharing wars could possibly take up so much time and leave me so utterly exhausted.  I wonder if I have the endurance to do it all over again tomorrow. And sometimes I question if it really matters.

The logical conclusion that I reach as I put my head on the pillow every night is I need help. BIG HELP. 

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” 

The Creator of heaven and earth sent his Son to be my help. His Son took the ugliness of my selfish pride, impatience, and all other mothering failures and bore God’s wrath against them in His own body on the cross. God not only pours out his forgiving grace on me through Jesus, but also His transforming grace. In Christ, I have power over the sins that still fight for control in my life. In Christ, I have endurance for motherhood through the little years and beyond. In Christ, I learn how to think rightly about myself and my children.

The gospel enables me to see my children for what God says they really are: Blessings {Psalm 127:3}. Blessings when they’re sweet and blessings when they’re not. Blessings when they obey and blessings when they disobey. Blessings when my heart is exploding with love and blessings when it’s overcome with frustration.  The gospel teaches me how to think rightly about motherhood.

God has given women the beautiful gift of bearing and nurturing life in a world still under the curse of death. Pain will be intricately intertwined in this gift because of our sin and theirs. Motherhood will never be easy {so we should stop expecting it to be}, but it is always a gift. Children are gifts. As mothers, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to faithfully care for “the least of these”–those who cannot care for themselves. We have the opportunity to show them what Jesus is really like by loving them, even {and especially} when they act unlovable. We image our Savior when we serve them through thankless, exhausting work that no one else sees or acknowledges. But God sees. And, praise Him, we have a Helper who covers our mothering failures with His blood and transforms us from the inside out.

Our greatest job and privilege as mothers is to show our children that they need this Helper as much as we do. Only through Him will they reflect God’s beauty accurately and spread His glory throughout our dark world. It’s the glorious task they were created to do. And it’s the glorious task we were created to do. So, mamas? Let’s think rightly about motherhood. Let’s see it for the significant thing it is. And by His grace, let’s seek and pray to raise up faithful little image-bearers in Christ who will spread his glory all over the world.

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