My firm expectation that life was generally supposed to be awesome, was only mildly muddied by the bumps I faced, in my younger years. I predominantly maintained the philosophy that heartbreak, uncertainty, angst, and grief were the exception. And that life was “supposed” to mostly feel good.
I thought the goal was to remove the obstacles, be always moving towards settling the disquietude, solving the problem, removing the pain, learning the lesson as quickly as possible, so I could do better. Be better. Fail less. Hurt less.
And when I became a mom, I thought motherhood was “supposed” to feel amazing almost all of the time, too. I was always thinking about how to remove or repair the things standing in the way of experiencing motherhood as mostly fun and wonderful.
The wheels of my mind spun with new answers and things I had read, formulas and systems and solutions to fix myself and my children and my home right up into the perfect versions I thought they should be.
A day inside my head was like riding a tilt-a-whirl, round and round with problems and solutions, as if I was the business consultant for my home, and as if our brokenness was my problem to fix. I always needed a new book to make me a better mom… a new friend to help me feel known and understood… a new devotional to help me shepherd my children better… a new hobby, to break me out of the boredom of daily chores… a new breathing exercise to help me keep my cool when things got heated.
Intermingling notions about the relief that might come in a couple years, and the desire to soak up every minute while they’re little, bounced around in my head.
I tried to demand a good attitude of myself. I would say to my own soul, motherhood IS awesome… Motherhood IS a blessing. Motherhood IS a privilege…
And it is.
But the exceptions would always creep back in. Yes, motherhood is awesome… except for the sleep deprivation… except for when the kids are sick… except for the tantrums… except for the pressure to do it all perfectly… except for the crushing feeling that I actually have no idea what I am doing… except that it’s just so constant, so demanding… except that I can’t think straight, and I feel like I can never give them my best… except for when my kids won’t let me love them, don’t want my help, won’t listen to my advice… except for the constant fear that something terrible is going to happen to them… except when the loneliness creeps in, or when I feel so completely invisible and misunderstood… except that I have nothing to show for my day, and it chips away at my sense of my worth and identity…
My eyes clouded over with the exceptions, until I suddenly realized that I was losing sight of the blessing of motherhood, that I swore I would keep always before me.
I began to itch with discomfort at the complaining and self-pity that seemed to cast shadows over every moms’ group, every conversation in the preschool pickup line. The words spilling out of my own mouth were squirming with a desire to be seen, noticed, appreciated. I was actually beginning to feel sorry for myself. And I knew I wasn’t ok with it!
So I began a journey that I thought was all about rediscovering the joy and blessing of motherhood, in real life. And though I have, I found something else, along the way, too.
On the road to learning to walk in the blessing of motherhood in the real life mundane moments, I found the radical love of God.
What I began to see is that the abundance of joy, of peace, of freedom, of grace that felt so terribly elusive…that they dwell in the midst of my exceptions. The very things that I thought stood in the way of abundant life, were actually the doors to finding it.
Right smack in the middle of my exceptions is where I would genuinely learn to need Jesus.
I began to truly know and experience the benefits of knowing God while I was trudging through the mess.
In the unrelenting hard places, I would learn how big, and merciful, and faithful, and gracious God is. Here, I would learn that I really need God’s mercies to be new EVERY morning (Lamentations 3: 23).
This is where I would learn that God’s grace is always sufficient for right now, and that I will have to trust God intimately to provide for me afresh each day.
This is where I would begin to learn that our dependence on Christ is not a last resort, but a daily way of life. This is where I would learn to stop trying to be everything for everyone, and let Jesus be the Savior.
What I began to see, is that tucked within each and every one of my desperate places, is a beautiful invitation from my Beloved King.
And I developed a new mantra that transformed all of my mundane moments, all of my heartache, all of my struggles into doors to find God’s reckless pursuit of my heart:
“Look for the invitation.”
When you feel weak and broken, look for the invitation, and find God saying… Come a little bit closer, my Love. My grace is sufficient for this moment right now. Watch my power shine through you as you lean all of your weakness into me. (2 Corinthians 12: 9)
When you feel tired and weary, look for the invitation, and find God saying… Place your hope in me, Beloved, and I will renew your courage, so you can soar through your day. I will be your strength, and I will enable you to tread on the heights! (Habakkuk 3: 19, Isaiah 40: 31)
When you feel misunderstood, unappreciated, or invisible, look for the invitation. Find God whispering… I am the good shepherd, who knows my own. I know the work of your hands. I know your joys and pains, your worries and fears, your heartbreaks and your dreams. And I know how I knit you together for beautiful things. Sweet child of mine, I see you. I delight in you. I am pleased with your service to your family. (John 1: 14-15, Psalm 139:1-24
When you feel ill-equipped to raise up your children in the ways of the Lord, look for the invitation, and hear God saying…You are my masterpiece, and I prepared this work for you before you were conceived. My power is in you, and fully equips you. (Ephesians 2: 10, 2 Peter 1: 3)
If you are exploding with anger, and you’re failing to be the parent you want to be day after day, look for the invitation. Find God inviting you to lift your eyes to meet his. Find him pouring out his grace and compassion and forgiveness. Receive it, and watch it spill out of you onto your people.
When you just want your children to hurry up, look for the invitation. Find God saying…I love their wonder. Pay attention to what they pay attention to, and rediscover your own eyes of wonder. Delight yourself in me, and in my creation. Marvel at the worms on the sidewalk, and the grass growing up in the cracks. Find the joy in me that you thought you lost when you life got so busy and important. (Psalm 37:4)
When the grind of the day discourages you, and you’re exhausted from the mundane tasks, look for the invitation. Find God saying…Lay your life down, sweet one, and I will give you abundantly more. Whatever small and seemingly insignificant thing you are doing, do it for my eyes only. This is your dance of worship before me, and it is beautiful to me! (Romans 12: 1-2, Colossians 3: 23)
I see now that my joy had been washing away in the flood of worry and guilt and pressure and pride that said it was all too insignificant. My hope dissipated with every failure. And every time the duties of motherhood felt like a burden, the shame that I should be more grateful nearly swallowed me whole. There were all of these things that stood in my way, stealing my joy and distracting me from the blessing. I was bitter towards them, and wanted to be rid of them so I could start loving life and motherhood the way I had intended to.
Until I began to see that this mess IS the journey.
I think life in Christ is less about getting better, and more about figuring out how to let Jesus be real in our real lives. We need to let him be Savior on those days when we actually feel our desperate need of rescue.
The goal is not to be perfect, or to create perfect families, but to rely well on the perfect Jesus.
As we dare to lift our eyes in the midst of our messy, ugly, real life places, we find the open arms of God, inviting us to sufficiently receive from Him, out of the glorious riches of his grace.
Our God loves you fiercely, Sister. So today, when things get ugly, lift your eyes and look for the invitation…