“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 3-6
Do you ever feel like you get to the end of a breakneck day and look around to find that your house is messier, your connection with your children a bit more disheveled, and your insides tied in a few extra knots?
Bedraggled at the end of a day, I sometimes wonder why I worked so hard, when no one seems to notice or care. Down in my belly, I hope and trust and struggle to keep believing that raising the next generation is deeply meaningful work. I know it is. But I fail to be the mom I imagined a hundred times a day, and some days I can’t help but wonder if someone else would do a better job. I make resolutions for better, more present, more intentional days only to find interruptions, discouragement, unexpected crises, and a dollop of uncooperativeness from my sweet little ones who didn’t get the memo on my new expectations.
This parenting thing requires faith that something is cultivating under the surface, that God is at work and multiplies the faithfulness of our hands.
Whether you are a stay-at-home mom just dying for something, anything to show for your day, or you’re a working mama wondering how in the world to juggle it all, I think so many of us have these same questions badgering us about how we measure up and all the things the other moms seem to be doing better, the child’s needs we can’t meet, which sports or musical instruments or languages we should be learning, how exactly our life was reduced to folding clothes, packing lunches and driving to sports practices, and if anyone in the world has a clue how hard we’re working to manage it all.
This thing requires faith that we are seen by God when we are seen by no one else.
Do you ever wonder if anything you are saying is getting through to your children? If any of the work you’re doing in your home makes any difference? If you will invest and serve and give it your all only for them to look back and say you were too hard on them or too easy on them or that you favored their sister or that you were too distracted with housework and emails to spend time with them? Do you wonder if they’ve noticed your effort?
This thing requires faith that God will sift out the words and the lessons and the moments with grace, that he sees our children and knows their heart’s cries…that He hems them in, even through the ups and down of their well-meaning parents.
These secret, sacred things of parenting – terribly and wonderfully invisible to the rest of the world – are the weightiest things I’ve carried, with the least amount of training, input, or feedback. These up-all-night, argue-all-day, hang on for dear life, just make sure to say “I love you” and try to mean it kind of days…these are the ones that make up the most formative years of our children’s lives, the ones they talk about in the counseling sessions later.
These are the years that shape us…that make us brave or make us afraid. It makes me want to give them my best.
And yet, if you stop by my house at 5pm any day of the week, you’d never know I’ve tried to teach them anything. You’d never know I worked to create a home of peace and belonging. You’d never know there were 87 moments of reconciliation and 743 corrective words exchanged today. You’d never know by the look of things, with hair-pulling and clean-up refusing and their mama muttering something about will they just wash their hands for dinner, for the love of all things good and holy.
My motivation for this work at home cannot rest in seeing immediate results.
This thing requires faith that seeds are being planted and God — our Faithful Gardener — will bring a harvest in their lives and mine, in time and with great care.
I’m discovering that I surely cannot rely on my children’s words or behavior to tell me how I’m doing at being a mama. My hope must rest in faith alone.
My hope rests in faith that God’s mercies are new every morning, and so I don’t need to sit in guilt over imperfect days. My hope rests in faith that God will fill in the gaps their daddy and I leave with precious friends and family, and the power of His Word and Spirit.
My hope rests in faith that God is writing my children’s stories, and He doesn’t need perfect threads to make a beautiful tapestry.
If only I could have a guarantee that my work is going to make a difference, that all these moments of showing up and investing and shepherding and trying to be consistent will add up to more than heavy bones and sticky eyelids…that these moments will add up to the kind of childhood that shapes a person of character. If only I could know for sure how this story ends.
But we do! This story ends with a God who is making all things new. This story ends with the victory of Christ on the cross that covers all of our frailty and all of our flubs. This story ends with a God who never lost sight of us, and never lost sight of our children through every one of these sloppy, bedraggled days.
But this thing requires faith. And I think that’s the point. God is after our hearts and calls us into sweet communion with him when we’re dying to know who we are, why we’re here, and what kind of legacy we’re leaving.
Look for Part 2 next week…
And this is real life at my house right now…