I had such great plans for today.
Asher and I were headed to University Place, the next town over, for a slightly indulgent shopping trip to Trader Joes and to check out the the preschool story time at the amazing library over there. Two of the kids were off to school, the third waiting for the bus. I went to grab the jogging stroller for my morning walk with little dude, and Oh. No.
The sliding door to the minivan was open. Left open all night, probably by me. The battery was dead. So much for my great plans. (fail)
My husband, in his brilliance, purchased an idiot-proof battery charger and showed me how to use it.(this isn't the first time this has happened). So I hooked it up, but the battery was low enough it would take a couple hours to charge. Oh well. (succeed)
Asher rolls with the punches, so we found a project and started purging toys and extra junk for the church yard sale on Saturday. Of course every toy found in the attic became "I YIKE DIS!" and had to be stealthily hidden in the back of the minivan. I also found a lot of messes, like a toddler potty with pee still in it and my wrapping paper all torn up for little girl craft projects. Sigh (fail). But eventually we made headway. I still needed a few things from the grocery store, so I hopped on my bike and put him in the trailer. I made it both ways without even breathing too hard pulling about 60 lbs of kid and groceries. (score!)
And now I have a lot of things I should be doing like folding laundry and working on tonight's dinner, but I need to get this out. So here it is.
I feel like a failure as a mom. Every day. I fail to meet my own expectations and my kids also fail to meet my expectations. None of us comes close to the holiness and joy and freedom that I know is ours in the gospel. What is the deal?
I mentally go through my days something like this: Kid 1 is getting A's and B's (win!). Kid 1 is also copping a really disrespectful attitude and spending computer time in which they are supposed to be typing up an English assignment looking for unrelated photos on google instead (lose). Kid 2 is affectionate, sweet, and happy (win!). Kid 2 is also satisfied with D's or failing grades in school and blames everything on someone else.(lose). Kid 3 is creative and writing all kinds of stories and plays, illustrated beautifully (win!). Kid 3 is also completely overwhelmed, crying, and defiant at the prospect of one page of math homework and two chores to be accomplished in less than an hour (lose). Kid 4 is charming and playful and cuddly and potty trained and naps well (win!). Kid 4 is completely wild, destructive, and rude out of no where to random people and to me (lose).
And then there's the way I grade myself. Made yummy dinner from scratch (win!). Gained six pounds in the last 4 months (lose). Accomplished grocery shopping in record time and picked up things Gabe needs for work and stuff kids need for school on sale! (win!) Look around at my messy overly cluttered house and multiple projects collecting dust (lose). Spend time with a friend getting to talk, pray and encourage each other (super win!). Get a little gossipy and don't repent til a few days later (lose.)
You get the picture. Looked at through my human perspective, its pretty discouraging.
But how does GOD see me? How does HE see my kids and all our success and failure?
"Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21-22
"And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and sin, by no means clearing the guilty…" Exodus 34 6:7a
"As a father (mother) pities his (her) children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:13-14
I think God isn't like me. At All.
He has GRACE for my failures. He lets me feel the sting of the consequences, but He doesn't reject me over them. He loves me. He suffers alongside me. He forgives me again and again, every time I repent. If i choose not to repent, I feel the pain of a strained relationship with Him, because my sin and pride is separating us. But not because He's stopped loving me or rejected me.
I don't parent this way. But I want to. I need to.
I heard a sermon not long ago in which the pastor was speaking at a pastors' conference on the topic of how to recover when you've failed miserably in a ministry. He was speaking candidly from personal experience. I could relate to a lot of what he said. Especially this quote: "Every problem in my ministry is a problem of my own heart."
Oh, I so resist admitting that. If only this kid would straighten up or that one would lighten up or things would just be easier in this situation..then it would be okay. But no, that's not how it works.
God's heart towards me doesn't change based on my performance. He loves me the same when I "win" and then when I get prideful and "lose". He loves most of all when I seek Him and forget about all that performance stuff for a minute and just soak in His love and grace and let that drive me, rather than my own selfish pride. And He is patient with my immaturity. He doesn't withhold love because I frustrate Him. He doesn't change. He parents me through circumstances in my life and wisdom from His word and others. But His love is a constant.
In 2 Samuel 14, David misses this in his relationship with his son Absalom. Absalom murders his brother Amnon after Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar. And David doesn't discipline Amnon, so Absalom takes vengeance. And is banished. A wise woman comes to David and says this: "Yet God does not take away a life, but He devises means so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him." David allows Absalom to come back to his hometown but doesn't speak to him for two more years. Absalom eventually tries to take this fathers kingdom in a coup and ends up dead. A tragic ending to a story in which David fails to teach his sons in the first place and then show grace for his failure.
I want a different end to my story. I don't know how to begin except with prayer.
"Father, forgive me for my hardness of heart towards my children. Forgive me for not accepting your grace in my own life and then passing that performance-driven ideology on to them. Help me. Help me to forgive as you do, again and again. Help me to love them regardless of their behavior, while gently and firmly correcting the behavior. Give me Your wisdom. Give me Your grace. Amen"