For some reason, when I think of my mother being alongside me during this season of motherhood, I sometimes imagine her shoulder-length red hair, her social boldness, and I imagine her asking me the question, “What kind of mother are you?”
From what I can remember of my mother, this question comes from a story passed down in my family or passed around amongst her friends. These stories mostly about the times the women before me have screwed something up during this season of motherhood, picked themselves back up, and then dusted themselves off to learn from their mistakes. What kind of mother are you, feels more like the punch line in all the ironies of motherhood, much more than deeply rooted criticism.
When my first child was an infant I had dreams of being the perfect mother. Perfection is always the longing of my heart when it comes to most things. However, in God’s goodness, these threads of perfectionism are slowly being unraveled away as I learn to embrace there are no perfect mothers in this world, there are only weak and broken mothers holding fast to the only one who is perfect, Jesus.
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30) I need this verse not just in small doses every day, sometimes I need to be walloped upside the head by this truth.
I do not hold up the world when it comes to my children, or my parenting, it is God, the Maker and Sustainer of the universe using our family as a microscopic part in the greater redemptive story of the whole world.
Cue my scary, humbling, story … it has taken me eight months to get to a place where I felt like I could write about this humbling place in motherhood. As you are reading this, visualize me as the clenched teeth emoji.
Last summer I was walloped upside the head with the truth that He must increase, but I must decrease. I am not called to be a superwoman, but I am called to be a super-dependent woman, upheld by the strength of the gospel.
It was Fourth of July Week and my oldest son was experiencing some severe stomach pains. I was certain he had a kidney stone, or his appendix was about to rupture. My son and I spent two back to back nights in the emergency room, I was a walking zombie by the third day. I had slept less than 2 hours at a time in 60 hours. Normally, when my kids are awake, I am awake. Even the slightest inkling of a movement or the onset of vomiting, I jolt awake. Motherhood has given me ninja-like reflexes, even in my deepest of sleeps.
Once my oldest was on the mend, I was able to experiece my first full night of rest. I was beyond exhausted and when my three year old arose for the day at 6am, I walked her down to the television, turned on Bubble Guppies, gave her and her five year old brother who had joined us by this point their morning warm milk, (warming morning milk for my three a five year old is still a crazy thing I do) and told them I’d be back downstairs at seven-zero-zero. In the age of digital time, this is how I communicate seven o’clock to my young children.
The next thing I know, it is eight-thirty and my husband is waking me. God has knitted me together to be an early riser, my husband NEVER has to wake me. As he wakes me he says something like, “Well, the police just rang the doorbell. They asked me if I knew where my children were.”
To my (at the moment) extreme surprise, shock, anger, and shame I discovered my children, while I was sleeping, had opened the front door at seven-zero-zero in the morning, my less than one year old puppy ran out the front door of our home, and my three and five year old chased after our dog to find themselves in a completely different neighborhood. My babies were lost in this big world.
My three-year old still in her soaked and droopy to her knees overnight diaper.
A sweet hero woman, called 911 when she found them.
What kind of mother am I? It is so easy to see this question through the damaging lens of shame in this moment. That I am a very bad mother.
Then it is easy to self-justify.
You all. I am a good member of our community. My husband is a good pastor of a Bible believing church. I am a good school teacher. I serve in our local schools as a decent substitute teacher. I lead a very good women’s ministry team at our church. I bring meals to people when they are in need. My resume is neat and tidy.
But none of these good things mattered in this moment. In this moment, the only thing that mattered was: What kind of mother I am. A mother, doing the best she can, one day at a time, firmly clinging to Jesus. When shame creeps in, I need not to think about what I am, but what I believe in.
I believe in a good God, redeeming me and my family, even when the police are at the front door of my very good and clean home because I don’t know where my children are.
He must increase, but I must decrease. This is a small thread in the unraveling of my unbelief.
What kind of mother am I?
Shame says, you are a very bad mother. What kind of mother loses her children? Don’t ever share this memory, keep it in the dark. Let it fester, and cluster to all the other lies you believe.
The gospel says, when you are weak I am strong.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Can you imagine all of the horrible things that could have happened to my precious three year old daughter and five year old son? Believe me, I have imagined them all.
Can you see how God protected them? How He sustained them? How He brought them back home to me when I was weak? How He used His community of neighbors, police officers, and grace to display His strength and goodness to my family?
If my mom was still here, alongside me in this season of motherhood and this question came up between us… What kind of mother am I? I would answer, I’m an okay mother with a very Good God.
It is only by His grace. As perfection unravels, and I decrease, He increases. His power is perfectly displayed.
What kind of mother are you?