I pictured myself as a mix of Mary Poppins and Carol Brady. We were welcoming in two new kids (ages five and two years old), and I was going to show them what having a loving mom and being part of a family was all about. I’d been a good mom to my other four kids (ages 2–23 years old) … better than average, I’d say. At our adoption classes the trainers gave numerous warnings about the multiple issues these types of children come with, but I was certain I could spread love and, like butter on warm bread, the problems would melt away.
Alright, I wasn’t that naïve, but close. And within 24 hours, I questioned why I thought I could be a good mom to children who’d faced multiple neglects and abuses and then were sent from home to home in search of a forever family. Tantrums erupted over minor, minor issues and lasted longer than my patience. The littlest child spilled milk (gallons), laundry detergent (big warehouse size), and paint (mustard yellow on white carpet).
I didn’t make dinner for more than a month because all my energy had to be focused on two new small people. The house crumbled around me if I even dared to scramble eggs. And then there was the sweet toddler who seemed as confused by the actions of the other two as I was. It took everything within me not to make her my favorite. After all, she listened and obeyed, and we already had a bond.
This is just a glimpse into our first month of adopting from the foster care system, and my vision of offering a spoonful of sugar and willing everyone to get along with my 1970s smile fell flat. I was overwhelmed, often angry, and tired. I did my best in my new role and fell painfully short.
Doesn’t that happen often in life? We feel called by God and step out with visions of success. If God asks us to do something (not audibly, but deep in our hearts), then everything should work out great, right?
No. Not always.
The morning we were to pick up the kids from the social worker, our daily Bible reading “just happened” to be this:
“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world,” James 1:27 (MSG).
I was serving God the best way I knew how, but when put to the task I realized my abilities weren’t enough. I fell painfully short.
And you know what? That’s OK. God used this time to remind me of a few things.
1. Following God’s call isn’t easy.
2. I can only be strong when I lean on His strength.
3. God doesn’t expect me to succeed … He asks me to try.
4. I will often fall short, and God’s love will melt over everything like butter on warm bread and my insecurities will melt away.
In the nine months since we brought these two kids home a lot of things have changed. With the help of professionals, the tantrums and destructive habits are mostly gone. I’ve learned how to parent kids with these pasts, and they’re learning to open their hearts a little more each day.
Falling short has been one of the best things that happened to all of us. It’s OK to strive and fall short because Jesus is there to make up the difference.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4.
God’s calling wasn’t just about rescuing two kids but also allowing me to see my true colors—see my continual need for Jesus—so that I can become mature and well-developed.
Friend, do you know that thing God’s calling you to? You will try and you most likely will not be Mary Poppins/Carol Brady in the process, but that’s OK. Faith is stepping out. Your maturity grows when you see Jesus filling in the gaps with His grace and love. Falling short leaves you with the need to fall into the arms of Jesus … and there is no more wonderful place to be.