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Over the weeks since becoming a mother of two (now 2 months old and almost 5), my heart has been both warmed and challenged. In this post, I would love to describe each beautiful mother-daughter exchange and every sweet observation… but that’s really not the point.
Over the weeks since my youngest was born, I’ve found myself battling distraction and frustration, at times wondering if my purpose was truly being fulfilled.
After all, there is no grandeur in endless diapers and bottles, along with massive spit up… no glory in pinching the bridge of one’s nose while struggling to stay calm amidst whining or wailing meltdowns. (Which are hard no matter how sweet the other moments.)
Some days, meaningful accomplishments seem all but impossible to achieve after finishing—or not quite finishing—the routine upkeep. Gotta keep them fed. Gotta keep them clean. Gotta take care of the physical—not to mention the spiritual needs.
Sure, I read my eldest devotions and lead her in prayer. I ask her forgiveness for my failings (when I’ve been impatient—yet again), and I ask for God’s help to improve. Under my leading, she follows that model, too. Yet when we both struggle over and over with the same sins, it can be disheartening.
As Christians, we all want to shape our children’s character for the better. How frustrating, then, when it seems to make our character worse instead!Tweet
The Manifold Problems, Summed Up
Every mother knows the challenges and struggles of raising kids. Not all problems are the same for each family—but some are.
As Christians, we all want to shape our children’s character for the better. How frustrating, then, when it seems to make our character worse instead!
Especially when the constant interruptions waylay quiet time with God, eroding character and faith, while exhaustion further tips the scales so that what was once easy now seems impossibly hard. We all want to do right by our kids—be examples of Christ to them—but when the grumpy days come, they steamroll those desires.
And so, we might begin to wonder…
- Does my constant failure to be Christlike render my mothering fruitless? (Is God unhappy with these meager exhausted attempts?)
- Is there value in being relegated to such endless mundane tasks? (Or should I add more impactful goals to my to-do list?)
- As slow as my child’s progress seems, am I really making any difference in his or her faith walk?
All these questions have surfaced in my life of late—sometimes evident only in vague emotions. Putting them to words has helped to clear a good bit of the fog. Yet even before my attempts to record these thoughts, a few truths from God began to burn holes through the haze.
Here’s what I believe God has been speaking to my heart regarding these concerns…
The Problem of Motherly Imperfection
First of all, if this is one of your concerns, remember you’re not alone—you’re in good company. In his letter to the Romans (7:15), Paul shows similar struggles by admitting, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (emphasis mine).
The truth is we all sin, falling short of God’s glory and the ideal of walking in Christlike love (Romans 3:23). The only difference, then, consists in the different ways in which we sin, in perhaps the intensity of our offenses (as apparent to those we love), and in the state of our heart: Are we sorry?
Perpetually hard hearts that refuse to admit their wrongs, casting all blame on those around them, are probably incapable of setting a good example for their kids. So, Lord, search our hearts and shorten such times of hardness. Give us Your perspective and make us humble to hear Your voice and heed Your call to repent, whenever it comes.
Conversely, soft hearts that deeply regret their sins are in a position of positive influence. God doesn’t say that we, as believers in Christ, won’t ever sin. But He does promise to provide an escape in the face of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). In addition, we have a case through Christ by which we can boldly approach the throne of grace to seek God’s help in our sinful struggles (Hebrews 4:16). And when we succumb?—He offers this fail-proof procedure for disentangling from our transgressions:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Confessing our sins to God? That may be the easy part. (At least that’s what I think.) The hard part—the part that helps us redeem all the times we’ve been bad examples as mothers—is mustering strength to admit our wrong and ask our child’s forgiveness.
It may be hard, but… admitting when we’re wrong is so important because…
- It shows our kids we’re just as much in need of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and saving grace as anyone else.
- It teaches them, by example, how to go to God to confess their sins.
- It keeps us from presenting bad behavior as good thus preventing hypocrisy. (Because we aren’t condemning them while excusing ourselves for the same poor behavior. Rather, we condemn all sin as sin while offering God’s grace to cover our many offenses.)
And don’t forget the key ingredient in every struggle: prayer! Jesus said without Him we could do nothing (John 15:5). So it stands to reason that any sin habits we face should be taken to Him in prayer. When our children witness our struggles—particularly those that hurt them, like an irritated tone when we’re impatient—why not also let them witness our prayers for God’s help—which also bolster our authority to lead them in praying for their sins?
The Problem of Perpetual Unspiritual Chores
When mundane chores choke out our capacity for awe while also stifling our passion for life, it’s difficult to maintain a buoyant attitude. We all want to do something of value, but our flesh would groan and gripe that changing diapers isn’t it.
It’s almost as if we believe our life is on hold until we return to a spiritually high-profile purpose. Or perhaps we miss the intimate fellowship with Christ—like Mary and Martha in reverse. We’d love to still the chaos, to sit at Jesus’s feet and just receive, but even when we have the time—when our outward environments are still—our brains are too frenetic to focus on Scripture. I could blame the kids, but quarantine had this effect too.
For a long time I wasn’t able to concentrate, let alone string enough thoughts together to craft a coherent post. During those hollow-headed times, I always felt restless for something more. Restless for the kind of quiet times I once enjoyed with God. Restless for any kind of creative expression or inspiration toward “the new and novel.” Restless for any escape from the same—the mundane. The arrival of my sweet baby girl brought a fresh injection of “the new”—along with a quadrupling of chores to keep her happy and healthy.
I don’t know about you, but those early days with a child—before they can grasp our words—often seem like the most unspiritual of times. There’s no instructing them. No nurturing their faith. Not even a demonstration of our Christlike love for them to remember. They’re blessed, of course—and so are we as we behold the precious beauty of God’s creativity—but in those days, their physical needs take precedence over the spiritual. So too our own physical and spiritual needs seem to take second place to the endless upkeep.
Feedings and diapers are, of course, very necessary parts of being a mother. After a while, though, it’s easy to feel these all-consuming tasks drain every ounce of our spirituality. And yet, as Paul suggests in Colossians 3:17, nothing is unspiritual if done for Christ: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
We mustn’t forget, either, how Jesus set an example, washing His disciples feet to show that we should serve one another, even with mundane tasks—maybe especially (John 13:12-17). It’s a good reminder that we, like the disciples who tried to shoo the children away from Jesus, fail to align with Heaven’s heart whenever we downplay their significance (and ours as mothers). Besides all this, we can find hope from our Lord’s promise in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do for the least, we do for Him.
So, while serving children may be the least glorified of jobs, it involves service to those who are great in God’s eyes. As such, I believe Jesus’s words for mothers today would be something like this: “Let the little children come—runny noses, incessant questions, and all. And mothers, don’t minimize your eternal impact.”
The Problem of Poor Progress
How many times do we fight the same battles and teach the same lessons—only to turn around and have to teach them again? We want to see progress equivalent to the intensity of our efforts, yet the transformation doesn’t seem to come.
We all want to see our children grow and succeed—to become productive members of society, especially of God’s kingdom. Yet, it can be hard to continue fighting for positive change when the fruits of our labors look so small.
Last week, God spoke to this weariness of heart through several avenues.
One reminder came while watching an episode of Superbook last week with my older daughter: The Sermon on the Mount. In this episode, Chris Quantum sets out to obey Jesus’s teachings, expecting an easy time of it. Instead, all his efforts end in disaster!
Near the story’s end, Chris confesses his frustrations to his pastor: “I understand about following Jesus, but all those teachings and stuff—just from that one sermon—who knows how long it could take to actually live all that—to get it all right.”
In response, the pastor flips through the Bible and points to a verse, which Chris reads aloud: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10).
What a great encouragement to remember that even such small inklings of progress are pleasing to God!
Seeds for Thought
God also brought to mind Galatians 6:9 (and confirmed it again as it cropped up in one of my daughter’s devotions): “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And it goes on, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (and to our own family, as well).
The analogy of reaping a harvest relates to sowing seeds. After seeds are planted, it takes time for them to grow. And even once they’ve sprouted, they require water, nourishment, and nurturing. They need constant exposure to the light, continuous connection to the root, and frequent watering.
…to see God in action (through us): that is, to observe the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) in addition to seeing His light as evident in our actions—our lives (Matthew 5:14-16).
…to relate to Him: that is, to maintain connection to the Root of Jesse, the True Vine, the Source of all nourishment—an abiding relationship with Christ.
…to hear the truth: that is, receive the washing of water by the word, for continual cleansing (Ephesians 5:26, see also John 15:3) in conjunction with a Divine Relationship in which they lean on Him (Psalm 139:23-24).
Knowing all these seeds take time to grow, we need to live by faith rather than sight, leaning on God’s promise to see it through (Philippians 1:6) and refusing to lose heart.
The Burden of Results
Finally, it takes faith to work toward accomplishments for long seasons without obvious results. As verbalized above, we are called to continue—to neither grow weary nor lose heart. But there’s another side to this challenge.
Sometimes, it’s tempting to agonize over the approach we might take in discipling our children. When one path doesn’t seem to work, we struggle to find a better one. This alone is enough to make us weary. No matter what we attempt, it’s never that hoped-for ideal. We want exciting inspirational tactics for engaging our kids—but what do we do when the presence of mind to plan such activities has long since vanished? When all our best efforts only seem to fall through?
We…pray. This is one of those duh suggestions. We know to pray, of course. But if we have been praying and still feel we’re lacking results, we often grow weary in prayer.
Personally, on the topic of discipling my kids, I’ve found it helpful to pray for teachable moments. Not the lessons I plan ahead, but the ones that crop up instead. They don’t come along every day, but God has been faithful to provide scattered moments.
However, whether or not we feel successful in discipling our children—or in prayer—is not the point. The real point here is to distinguish between God’s role and ours.
We are called to obey—to prove faithful to His word—not to strive to bring results. As 1 Corinthians 3:7 says, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Our job is to keep planting and watering seeds (by word, prayer, and example) and to trust God to do what only He can do.
I don’t know about you, but I find this truth incredibly freeing. No longer need I worry if I’ve made the whole truth clear to my daughter every time I speak. But if I keep sharing devotions, songs of worship, and prayer, I’m bringing clarity incrementally as I open new doors for God to work. I share instruction, but just as importantly, I share myself—my imperfect love as well as failures and life lessons. In this, my daughter learns that being a Christian isn’t all about toeing the line. It isn’t born of rules—but rather finds its life in relationship with the living Christ.
I share instruction, but just as importantly, I share myself—my imperfect love as well as failures and life lessons. In this, my daughter learns that being a Christian isn’t all about toeing the line. It isn’t born of rules—but rather finds its life in relationship with the living Christ.Tweet
Does my constant failure to be Christlike render my mothering fruitless? (Is God unhappy with these meager exhausted attempts?)
When you sin, don’t be hard on yourself—but make sure you’re not stuck being hard-hearted. Confess your sins to God, and apologize to your child, if relevant. Repent and pray for God’s help to do better—even in the presence of your child. That way, you set a good example they can follow when they inevitably sin. And don’t worry, as long as you keep confessing, repenting, and leaning into God for help, you can be sure you’re not displeasing Him.
Is there value in being relegated to such endless mundane tasks? (Or should I add more impactful goals to my to-do list?)
Looking to Christ as our perfect example, it’s clear He valued servanthood and also elevated children above society’s dominant view. Whereas the disciples saw children as distractions, Jesus viewed them as among the most qualified to enter His kingdom. Since Jesus lived among men as one who served the least (Matthew 25:40), even with mundane tasks like washing people’s feet (Luke 22:27), why should we downplay our motherly ministry, no matter how humble it seems? So, while we shouldn’t refuse additional goals if Christ is leading in that direction, we can also rest assured that our acts of maternal nurturing are near and dear to the heart of God.
As slow as my child’s progress seems, am I really making any difference in his or her faith walk?
Here’s the truth: There’s no such thing as immediate payoff in mothering. At least not where our children’s hearts are concerned. After all, rather than one instantaneous transplant, we’re looking at years and years of planting seeds and watering new growth. The bad news is that character comes slowly. But the good news is better: We don’t have to bear up under the pressure to bring those results—God does, and He will. Through tiny acts of faithfulness, as we guide our children along the way, God grows them into the people He created for tomorrow’s “today.”
The bad news is that character comes slowly. But the good news is better: We don’t have to bear up under the pressure to bring those results—God does, and He will.Tweet
So remember, the value of a ministry isn’t measured in ease or immediate success. It isn’t marked by grandeur or showiness… by perfection or lacking messiness. It doesn’t matter how seemingly ordinary it appears, if it’s done for and with Christ, then it brings Him glory and carries His promise to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28).