Be Free

birds

Two days ago I got a card in the mail from my mom. Inside was a hand-written note that said, “Happy Mother’s Day to one terrific mom!” When I read those words, I scoffed, “Hah! A terrific mom. Yeah right.”

That card arrived only moments after I went on a tirade in the living room because I told my kids to pick up their things, and they didn’t. When my yelling fit subsided and we were all in our respective rooms in tears, I thought to myself, “I can’t do this. This is too hard. I’m not cut out to be a mom.”

Ten minutes later, I pulled myself from my pillow, took a deep breath, dried my eyes, and went to my son’s room. I sat on the floor and drew my children close, embraced and kissed them, and apologized. Then I prayed aloud for forgiveness. The tirade was over. I had made amends. But I still felt myself struggling beneath the weight of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.

That evening, after the kids were in bed, I told my husband what had happened. I told him about my frustration and impatience, and resultant remorse. I told him that I just felt… mad.

“Who are you mad at?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. I thought for a moment. “I guess I’m not mad at the kids. I’m not mad at you. I’m not even mad at myself. I’m just… sick of serving everyone else all the time.”

“Oh, so you’re mad at God.” The words were a sucker punch. Mad at God.

“Yep, I guess I am.” And I was. I was mad that God gave me work that requires me to completely pour out myself in service to others. Mad because I’d rather be doing something that serves me instead of others. Mad that I feel inadequate. Mad that I’m mad. As I sat there on the couch staring at my hands, I felt like I had been stripped bare, face to face with my own ugly, terrible, condemning sin. “So what do I do?” I sobbed. “I’m not supposed to feel like this. I’m such a crappy mom.”

My husband smiled at me. “So what if you are? Jesus came for the sinners, the losers, the failures. Own it! Quit trying to be a perfect. You have an ideal in your mind of what keeping a home and rearing children is supposed to look like, and you sacrifice to it. You sacrifice your time and energy, the needs of your children, and your sanity to that ideal, that idol. And what would happen if you stopped sacrificing to that idol? Nothing. Nothing would happen because it doesn’t matter. How well you keep a house and how good you are at being a mom and how well-behaved your children are doesn’t define you or determine your fate, Jesus does. And guess what? Jesus says you are forgiven. Jesus has covered your sins with his blood so that you can be free from sacrificing to the idols you build for yourself. Free to serve in your vocations. Free to love the people in your life. Free to live.” Then my husband embraced me and said, “You’re the best crappy mom I know.”

Today, I opened that card from my mom and read the Hallmark sentiment: “May your Mother’s Day and every day be blessed with as much love as you always show to others.” Thanks be to God that he loved us, not because we loved others, but in spite of our inability to do so. May God grant me, and all mothers, the humility to repent, comfort in God’s forgiveness, hope in his promises, and the confidence to tear down the idols and be free.

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