Saturday, October 22, 2016

22. Don't Find Your Worth in Your Kids

If you're a businessman, your success is measured by how well your business is doing. If you're a teacher, you're judged by your students' test scores. So it makes sense that if you're a mom, your effectiveness is measured by how your kids turn out, right? It's a trap I fall into too often. So when my kids inevitably don't live up to my expectations, I declare myself a failure. 

I am a rule-follower. I read the instructions. I like knowing what's expected of me, meeting expectations, and being rewarded. I was the teacher's pet, straight-A student, goody-two-shoes all through school. It's where I placed my identity. I floundered a bit when school ended for good, but assured myself that I was meant for motherhood and that's where I would shine. Boy, was I wrong. Haha. Over the past 6 years, I've been astounded by my lack of mothering prowess. I expected it all to come naturally to me (like school did). I expected to enjoy every second and reap the rewards of well-behaved, pleasant children. In short, I was arrogant about my perceived abilities. And we all know that "pride cometh before the fall."

My kids are not terrors. They are hilarious, kind, loving, and sweet. But they're also whiny, moody, belligerent, and kind of annoying. It's humbling to realize that I'm not as good as I thought I'd be. And it's more than a little frustrating . . . and embarrassing. But this quote has been a game changer for me:
No child should have to shoulder the weight of her mother's glory and reputation. 
(Gloria Furman, in Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full)
Wow. I am trying so hard to find my identity and worth in my kids' behavior that I'm making them carry the burden of my insecurities. 

I think there's been a shift in our society over the past few years. Stay-at-home-moms are less looked down on, and more lifted up for their tireless, thankless work. There has been an influx of books and articles lately about the high calling of motherhood. I'm thankful that it's being seen in a more positive light, and I don't for one second demean the gravity of our responsibility as moms. But I worry that what was meant to encourage us (Your job does matter! It's the most important job in the world! You are molding and shaping lives - both now and for eternity!) has added an insurmountable amount of pressure. 

And Christian parenting is especially difficult. We're tasked with an overwhelming responsibility to point our kids toward Jesus and lead them to a saving relationship with him. And if, by the grace of God, that does happen, we're then responsible for discipling them and teaching them what it means to be a follower of Christ. It doesn't matter how many Christian parenting books I read. I will never be fully equipped for such a daunting task.

So when my kids are willfully disobedient, when I don't understand in a moment of frustration how to show grace, when I see their sin and my sin and feel helpless to overcome either, I feel that I've not only failed my kids, but I've failed God. He's given me this mission field in my own home, and I'm just messing it up. 

But then, I remember this life-changing quote: I am NOT my child's Holy Spirit. I wish I could remember where I first saw that quote because it has been monumental in my understanding of Christian parenting. I'm s.l.o.w.l.y learning that there is only so much I can do as a parent. I can pray for my kids to know Christ, I can do my absolute best to incorporate him into our daily life, to use everyday instances as teachable moments, to show my faith by example, and to be the love of Jesus to them.  It's still a huge responsibility, but it's not the ultimate responsibility. 

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Again, my pride comes into play. I feel like I am in control of my kids' salvation. It is my job to save them. It's almost like saying, "You can't handle this, God. I'll do it." When the whole point of salvation is to realize our utter dependence on God. Here's another quote from Furman that says it better than I can:
God's sovereign grace releases me from the worry that I'm doing a haphazard job of orchestrating my children's lives for them. The gospel reminds me that a mother's plans are not ultimate: God's are. God is the one who has created these children, and he has far more intentional intentions to glorify himself through these kids than I could ever dream up (93).
In Sally Clarkson's The Mission of Motherhood, she puts it like this: "All that God requires from any of us is a desire to serve him and a trust that he can make up a difference for the things that we lack" (83). I remind myself of this often. I can't be my kids' Holy Spirit. I can do my best and trust God to fill in the rest.

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Knowing this should free me from an identity crisis every time Lena throws herself on the floor in Meijer to throw a tantrum. [I say "should" because I'm still a work in progress in accepting this truth.] My worth is not found in my kids' behavior. My worth is found in the gospel of grace that allows me to be called God's child. 

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Romans 8:38-39 says, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including my rebellious children], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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