Never has the law fallen so hard on me as in motherhood. Never before was I more aware that my best wasn’t good enough. If parenting doesn’t drive you to your knees, you’re doing it wrong.
I remember a conversation with a mom-friend years ago. She was telling me about her new car seats that were $500/piece, and convincing me that I needed to get some too. I pointed to our $100 carseats, and said they’ve been working just fine, and we just didn’t have the money to replace all of our carseats with ones that cost a lot more. “Is there really any price too high to pay for your child’s safety, though?”
Ouch. I don’t write this to shame to anyone who has bought $500 carseats. I’m proud of you for loving your kids more than I love mine.
There are helicopter parents and then there’s laid back parents. I wanted so badly to be the laid back kind.
Then one of my kids was diagnosed with celiac’s disease. If he eats gluten, his small intestine shreds up into pieces, he stops absorbing food, and he slowly starves as his organs shut down until he dies. So no, he can’t have that cookie just this once, Grandpa. I became the hyper-vigilant mom with the rules. I am the law-enforcer, like someone’s life depends on it.
There are rules about doing the dishes, contamination prevention, and meal-planning. Traveling becomes insanely complicated.
I can’t do this. I am too much of a lazy, pastry-eating, undisciplined, mocker of gluten-free people.
And yet, here we are. God gave me a gluten-free child, probably so I could understand the relationship of the law and the gospel better…and he has a sense of humor. The family is the crucible of our understanding of practical theology.
If you want kids, beware of the head first dive into the legalistic systems set up for you to choose between. You can pick your legalism camp to join, whether it’s the attached parenting hippies or the hyper-scheduled fascists. There is a blogger out there to shame every kind of parenting, equally, and many of them will claim their method of parenting is what Jesus would do.
It feels there is no grace for moms, no matter which legalism camp you choose. There is no sabbath for moms. There is no rest for moms. We are expected to have read the latest research, talked to the right doctor, fed our kids the right food, and of course, bought the right carseats. Unless of course you don’t love them quite that much, like me. The law of motherhood is crushing.
Where is the gospel in parenting? Where is the herald proclaiming that “it is finished!” We look around our house and see the dishes in the sink, and think, “no it’s not.” If I don’t work, someone could die, most literally.
When the world tells you to worship your children with all that you have, you will constantly feel like you are failing your religion. It’s a system designed to fail.
“Good parenting lives at the intersection of a humble admission of personal powerlessness and a confident rest in the power and grace of God.” —Paul David Tripp.
Is there rest in powerlessness? Is there grace when you fail your kids? Yes. A thousand times, yes. As my kids grow in the knowledge of their sinfulness, shown to them through a consistent law, I grow in my ability to teach them what grace means.
As I fail and sin as a parent, I get to model the beauty of confession and forgiveness, made possible by the cross. If I were a perfect mother, I couldn’t model that for them. God uses every one of my weaknesses to show my kids that his grace is sufficient. With that system, it’s impossible for me to fail, because I am living under grace, and the completion of the law through Christ.
As my kids get older, and I can’t seem to reach their hearts or make them see how their attitudes and actions are destroying our family, I find myself going on walks outside more, to pray for them. I have most literally reached the end of my rope, and I hand the reigns (that I thought I held) back to God. I’m holding my hands out to God more with each year as I pray, “God, I’ve reached my end. I have nothing left to say, and no ideas. So, you’re going to have to either give me a new idea, or better yet, reach them yourself.”
As I step back and just watch God work, it always brings me to my knees in awe.
As my older kids turn into teenagers, and I see God work in them apart from me more clearly than ever before, I realize that I’ve been powerless all along. The only power in me was the resurrected Savior, and he was never worried. Where did my frantic thoughts come from? There was even grace for those.
There is peace in personal powerlessness. There is power in the grace of God. That is where we find our rest. I get to minister to my own little flock at home, teaching them grace daily. That honor bestowed on a sinner like me is not lost. We live by faith, not formulas. We don’t even need to muster that faith, it’s a gift. Rest in your powerlessness. As a parent, you have a front row seat to God at work.
Gretchen is a mom to 6 hilarious kids from toddler to teenager. She works as a homeschool mom, writer, and tutor to middle school kids in classical studies. She has published an e-course for mentors in intergenerational ministry called Gospel Mentoring and works to equip women’s ministries in churches from falling into legalistic patterns that compromise the message of the gospel.