Hope For A Flawed Mom
It happened again just the other morning. My eldest woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and from the get-go did everything he could to bug his younger sister and push the limits. A few lost privileges later, everyone seemed even crankier than before and the day wore on not much better. And I began to wonder once again, is there something I’m missing here or am I, with all my sins and weaknesses, failing as a parent?
I am by nature a perfectionist. An accomplishment junkie and fanatical list-maker. A people-pleaser and glory-hound. I know that these sins—the wounds and scars of which go deep—affect my parenting and play out in myriad ways as I try to mother my three children. Some of it runs as a self-fulfilling prophecy in my perfectionisticly strong intent to not let my weaknesses and failings hurt my children.
I have not yet plumbed the depths of all the ways my sins impact my children; consequently, I still have much to learn in how to be a better parent. But the Lord, in His gracious faithfulness to me, has given me a simple and enduring lesson that I cling to as a life-raft in the ongoing journey of daily flawed motherhood. The lesson is, succinctly put, that my kids need Jesus. If you were hoping for something more profound or eloquent, I hate to disappoint, but there it is, the truth that I hold fast.
I need this simple truth because in this age of psychology, of fearful anxiety, of theories and methods and internet searches that by the click of a button can bring you a thousand different ways you are liable to ruin your child forever if you don’t choose just the exact right path of parenting—well, my sensitive, people-pleasing, accomplishment-loving, fearful of failing self is more than susceptible to give way to terror and anxiety for the future of my children. My children, those whom I love and care for more than any in the world and who have, in the tenderest of vulnerability been placed into my care.
So I’m anxious. I’m overly protective. I’m fearful and controlling and prone to despair when my children show signs that they, too, are in fact flawed individuals. Until, like a fine but piercing light, my Redeemer breaks in, cutting through the compulsive cycle of fear with the truth. Sarah, your children need Jesus. And the truth rings loud and clear and freeing. For, even if I were the perfect parent, they would still need Jesus, still need to be redeemed and freed from their sins. The full burden of their becoming the humans they were meant to be is borne not by me, but by their Creator—the one who made them, who knows them, who loves them even more than I do, and who bore the entirety of their broken and imperfect selves when He hung on the cross to redeem them. I walk with these precious little ones, then, with the amazing job not of saving them by my parenting, but of nurturing their bodies and their souls in such a way that seeks every day to point them to the truth they really need to live.
My role as parent is important, but it is not everything; therefore, I can rest and lay aside fear and anxiety. My failings—and they are many—do not seal my children’s fate. As hard as I may try, I and my chronic sinfulness will hurt my children, already have hurt my children. They will not live perfect lives. But praise be to Jesus, there is a Redeemer who can bring them to freedom and full restoration.
And with this truth, I may walk forward with renewed confidence. My children don’t wash their hands before every meal. They defiantly disobey me. They eat refined sugar, white flour, and non-organic food. They have been known to throw violent tantrums on numerous occasions. I have not been always consistent in disciplining them. I have before disciplined in anger and I will probably do it again. I have spent time on Facebook when I should have been watching my kids. And this is only the barest tip of the iceberg of my less than perfect parenting.
And yet—and yet I have hope and can rest. I have hope because I know my Redeemer lives. He lives to save me and He lives to save my children. And while my perfectionistic, accomplishment-loving self still wants to strive to build my identity on being “the perfect parent” and having “the perfect children”, I can choose to rest instead. Because of Jesus, I can choose to lay down my striving and allow my identity to come from being a flawed, but beloved daughter of Him who is the perfect Father.
In this hope alone do I find grace and courage sufficient to walk forward another day as a parent, knowing there is One who is in the business of restoring and redeeming all things.
By Sarah Williamson
Sarah is a wife and full time mom to three young kiddos. She grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, studied English and French at the University of Michigan (go Blue!), but now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she and her husband help lead an intentional Christian community group and serve college students with University Christian Outreach. In what spare time she can find, Sarah enjoys experimental cooking, gardening, playing Scrabble, being outside, and reading good children's literature.