We’ve all had them. Sometimes you can see them coming, as if watching a sippy cup of red juice fall on someone else’s beige, suede sofa in slow-mo.
Maybe you burn the eggs, singe your finger in the process, and in the meantime snap at your toddler for singing the same Daniel Tiger song for the sixth unrequested encore at full volume.
Maybe you verbally unload on your husband in some way that ends up sounding shrill, unforgiving, ungracious, and emotional. Because, well… maybe you were all those things.
Maybe you lost your temper at the UPS guy, shouted at the kids while all the windows were open, and totally forgot you were supposed to bring the snack for your daughter’s class until the teacher called you. Maybe you told your teenager exactly what you thought about her attitude, and ended up sounding just like the mother you vowed you’d never be.
Maybe you embarrassed your husband at work, or missed your own deadline.
I was lamenting to a friend over the phone regarding my own motherly shortcomings (because let’s face it, they multiply like bunnies). I may or may not have mentioned how I hoped my children wouldn’t grow up to be felons because of all the ways I royally screw up.
That’s when I could hear her smiling on the other end as she said, “Yeah. But isn’t that the point of mothering? Not to show our kids how amazing we are, but how much we need Jesus? I mean, that’s success, right?”
Mentally, I came to a full stop. Because I knew this, but God knew I needed someone to say it to me that day. On the day that you turn your son’s favorite shirt lavender in the laundry or forget Wear Orange day at school—or, with more gravity, grandly display your lack of self-control, modeling impatience and injustice and selfishness—success still looks like pointing our kids to the cross.
When my daughter grows up, I don’t want her to think that the great mom is the one who makes whole-grain bread from scratch, sews every costume for every play, or never spaces out on a promise nearly as much as I want her to know this: She needs Jesus, and I do, too. There are times, when I’m closer to the mom who does everything right (who, BTW, does. NOT. Exist.), that my heart can also be closer to Gee-I’m-Fabulous Pharisee Mom. But what I really want is to be Have-Mercy-on-Me-a-Sinner Mom.
Yes, it is crucial that we act in patience, graciousness, faithfulness—and all of the rest. Loving our kids well, becoming like Christ in His holiness from the inside out, is part of our worship. Jesus Himself said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). Yet even on the day when we’re on our game, there’s only One who’s perfect, One who supplies our goodness. (Hint: Not you. And definitely not me.)
So on the day we’re rude to the cashier because the kids have acted up the entire grocery shopping trip, perhaps we go back to the cashier, kids in tow, and apologize. Perhaps after we’re all strapped in the minivan, we ask forgiveness from our kids, and pray together for Mommy’s heart, because that’s where our words come from.
I am not my kids’ Savior. I just need one.