A couple years ago, I was at my friend Amy’s house, and after about three hours of zero conversation because we had between us eight kids (ages two, three, seven, seven, eight, eight, ten, and ten — like whoa), I was beginning to think we would never even finish a coherent sentence. But then the Lord carved out about twenty minutes of solid conversation between us, which went like this:
Me: “I feel like I’m always failing at motherhood. I just keep dropping the ball. And I have a lot of fear . . . I just don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”
I started crying, and we talked about how we missed our mothers — she lost her mom, and my mom was never a mom. And in the lament and remembering the importance of grieving, she said something profound:
“You were never given what it takes to set the table, and so here you are trying to serve, but you’re still figuring out what linens to get and where to find them.”
Now, Amy has said a lot of wise and kind things to me over the years, but this thing about the table really struck me. For some of us, we were never taught or had it modeled to us how to be mothers. Motherhood doesn’t come naturally, and it’s a real fight sometimes. It isn’t that we don’t love our children and want to raise them well. It’s that we’re a bit behind trying to “find the linens.” And it was this realization that helped us, helped me, do two things:
One, we grieved the very real loss we’d had. If you weren’t taught or shown how to be a mother in the day in and day out, that’s a loss. And if you don’t have a mother or you didn’t have one who was involved much or had her own wounds to contend with, it’s a loss. And these losses are significant. They matter, and they matter to God.
To grieve our losses is the process of facing reality. We let the pain have its process so the truth can set us free.
Two, we realized just how weak we are and how much we need God.
I can’t mother without God. I need His strength, His wisdom, His power, and most of all, His gentleness. He is so kind and such a gentle Father. My heart accuses me, but He is greater than my heart. He is the One working all things out for good — thank God! What a relief! I really can’t do it without Him. And that’s okay because when I am weak He is strong and His grace is sufficient for me.
If you feel like you keep dropping the ball as a mom, go before the Lord, hands up, and say something like this: “Help me. Tell me the truth. Teach me and lead me and let me know I can trust You in all things.” He knows you. He sees you. He loves you.
We will never get it all together as moms, as women, as humans, and that’s okay because we were never asked to get it together. We were only asked to believe and receive and follow by faith. He holds us up when we can’t do it, and He gives us what we need to keep on.
I’m holding onto Him with all I’ve got, believing the truth that I am not condemned, that I am loved right now, and that He is doing the work in me that needs to be done for me to be holy. And my kids, who I adore so profoundly, I am also holding up to Him because I will fall short, but He never will.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
God holds us up when we can’t do it, and He gives us what we need to keep on. -@sarahmae: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
One comforting truth that keeps me swimming in this big ocean of mothering is that my weakness is a powerful claim on God’s mercy. In a way, Sarah, we are almost in a privileged position–no illusions on our part that we’ve got this thing! Our failures have already sent us running to God, so we KNOW that we need Him to parent us as we parent our kids.
Resting in this truth today!
Beth Williams says
I’m the youngest of four children. When I came my parents were older (40s). They didn’t show or teach me how to do basic stuff – cooking. I learned how to clean a house & keep a budget, but that’s it. No long talks about anything. Parenting in this day & age is tough. God doesn’t call the qualified He will qualify the called. He will be there ready willing to help you in your times of need. I’ve never parented little ones, but I did have to parent my parents. There is no self help or how to book on that. Each one is different. I learned by doing & praying a lot. When times got really tough praise God He was there providing strength to carry on.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I recently bought I new toaster and it came with an instruction booklet….lol! This was not a one page guide, but a booklet. When I walked out of the hospital with my first child…there was no booklet, instruction manual, anything…just here you go and good luck. There have been times when I have pulled the covers over my head and said, “Lord, save my children from me!” I have asked Him why He chose me, of all people, to be the mother of my particular children. Sometimes I think they needed a stricter hand – someone not as emotional as I am. God has reminded me that He specifically chose me for my two and He knew what He was doing. There were many nights when, after they fell asleep, I would sit at the side of their bed and I would pray, “Lord, please fill in the gaps where I have fallen short today.” This became a nightly prayer and it helped me to believe that God does, indeed, fill in the gaps where we fall short. They were and are His children before they were ever mine for a temporary time.
Bev, your line “Lord, please fill in the gaps where I have fallen short today.” really resonated with me. My adult children are on there own and one of them has a family and are seeing how difficult it is at times to parent. I, too, often prayed “Save them from myself”. Even years later I have to trust that God is still filling in the gaps! Blessings, Cathy
Wow. I love that prayer and I need to start saying those words out loud every single night.
Jennifer Metz-Walsch says
I cannot express how much your words mean to me. I certainly do not feel like I am equipped for many areas of my life. It is comforting to know that I am not alone.
DOROTHEA CASSADY says
God shows us “how to set the table” in everything we do, if we surrender to Him and ask Him to dinner.
That is so true and I know that parenting is HARD!!! I just wrote something similar to this on my new blog but its more about parenting special needs kids. ALL SO HARD for sure and without the Lord I would totally blow it!
Pearl Allard says
Amen. I will totally raise my teacup to that! I had a beautifully wonderful mother but I can’t live up to my own expectations let alone how great I remember my own mom being. Chronic illness also complicates things… The truth still applies even though I mourn only how much I’m not. So grateful I’m not called to be amazing; that’s God’s job. Which is nearly exactly what you said, “I will fall short, but He never will.“ I hang onto that. Thank you, Sarah Mae. May God continue to lavish His grace on desperately needy moms just trying to raise their kids for Him.
Thank you for this! I truly never knew how much I needed God until I had a child.