Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mommy Guilt

I have been watching my dear friend (and heart twin) Bethany as she parents her sweet first-born son, James. Actually, I "watch" through her blog and through Facebook because we no longer live in the same town. I hear her heart to be a good mom and to do right by James, so that he will be all that God has created him to be. Truly, God has placed a big responsibility on the shoulders of moms and dads and we do well to take it seriously.

And yet, I know in my own parenting adventures, I can try to carry the weight of that responsibility alone. And let me tell you, it can get heavy fast. I have to come each day for a refresher course with Jesus. He reminds me that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This lets me know that if things are feeling too heavy, I have left His yoke behind and have fashioned my own.

His yoke is to teach as I walk, talk, cook, work, clean, get groceries, garden, etc. Lifestyle evangelism as it were. "Look Levi. See the beautiful fall colors on the trees. God made the trees. God gives them these beautiful colors. Isn't God amazing?" Levi is three, so this is appropriate to his understanding. As he gets older we will go deeper.

Jesus' yoke is about being in the moment, being present with my child, and answering his questions about life (and death, if you have a child like Levi). As with all of God's commands, when I am walking with Him and being aware of His life in me then there is no heaviness, no worry, no "Am I doing a good job?" There is only light and life and rest and peace. Yes, even in the midst of a storm or trial. This doesn't mean that pain is not there. The hurts and grief in this life can be deep, intense, and, sometimes it seems, without end.

I remember when we lost our second born girl to stillbirth. That was a deep and intensively painful time. Taylor, our first born, was only two at the time. Explanations were not easy, and yet I had a sense of peace and rest that God would protect her heart and give us wisdom in our words. I don't even remember the words we used to talk about the baby sister who would not be coming home with us. While my heart hurt for our losses, the yoke of Jesus was easy and light. I felt as if I were being carried on Jesus' arm in the midst of the sadness that enveloped my heart.

However, I can remember so many other times when the losses were really only minor life disappointments and they seemed to so weighty.

I wanted to give my children an "ideal" childhood: loving parents, boundaries, a strong and loving God, freedom to run and play, and sweet memories to look back on. While those are all good things, there was a lot more wrapped up in that definition. There was a false belief that I could (and should) shield them from hurts and disappointments as much as possible.

I wanted to be a parent who was true to my word. So when I made a promise (and every word I spoke I considered a promise), I would move heaven and earth to carry it out. Sometimes circumstances would try to change the best made plans, but I would not hear of it. Rain? We are going anyway! We will stay two more days until we see the sunshine on the beach! Money issues? We will find a way around them. My kids are going to summer camp!

Funny thing is, instead of teaching my children that my word was good and I was trustworthy, I was teaching them that I was their god. I would make sure they got the best. I would make sure they were treated fairly. I would provide all the love, nurture, and life experiences they needed. And an interesting thing happens when your god is a person, your god fails you. Again and again and again. I could never be all they expected of me or I expected of me. I was doomed to failure. I tried so very hard to be this great mom, but I was constantly struggling with a sense of failure; also known as "mommy guilt".

Enter the grace of Jesus. I'm not even sure when God showed me I was trying to be god to my kids, but He did. He did it in His usual gentle and merciful way. I had failed again and the Father spoke. "It's not your job to make their lives perfect and pain free. And you can't anyway. You live in a fallen world. Sin and pain are part of the reality. Trust me to be God to them in their disappointments." Wow. What a great idea. Rest. Walk with me. Trust.

A childhood without small disappointments would do little to prepare my children for the world. Sometimes it does rain. Sometimes the van needs repairs and there is no longer money to take that trip to Six Flags. Life goes on.

If I don't let my children feel these minor inconveniences, how will they be ready for the Goliaths in life? It was the life in the wilderness with the sheep that prepared David for facing the giant. He had already battled the wild animals to defend the sheep. God had already shown Himself powerful in David's life. He was ready to trust His God with more.

Father, I am so thankful, that I get to step off the throne that rightfully belongs to You. I can rest and walk with You and trust You to be enough for my children in the midst of their disappointments. You are preparing them for a life in which they can bring You glory. You are God and you are good!

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