Motherhood, Shame, and a God Who Saves
This particular day my friend Vanny was over at my place for a playdate with her two girls. We had known each other for a couple years now and always seemed to naturally connect. I felt like I needed to be more vulnerable and share with her my recent struggles. They were affecting me and my clan.
We stood in my kitchen slicing pieces of chocolate chip banana bread for our kids and I decided it was time to share. My heart raced, and I let it out:
“I’ve been struggling with cussing to myself and sometimes out loud from all the pressure that’s on me as a mom and feeling so overwhelmed.”
She was now the first to know, along with my husband.
Vanny looked at me with eyes of understanding and compassion, not judgment which I feared.
“I get it. I do too, at times.”
I couldn’t believe it. She struggled with this too?
I slowly felt the burdens of guilt, shame, and fear being lifted. I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t a horrible mom. The truth was that I didn’t just have a cussing problem. I had a heart problem.
Spewing careless words from my lips revealed a deeper struggle with control (okay, major struggle!) and anger over things not going my way. I felt I just couldn’t meet all the needs of my children at once, and I became the kind of Mama I never hoped to be.
From the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks – Luke 6:45
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? – Jeremiah 17:9
I knew that I desperately needed mom friends who I could lean on for hope and encouragement. The kind of friends you can deeply share how:
We aren’t sure if we’re doing this whole thing right
We caused a World War II in our kitchen with our kids and husband
We struggle with yelling and impatience
We wish we still fit into that old pair of jeans
We feel like we live in the kitchen and nothing else gets done
We wonder at the end of every day if we showed our kids enough love…
We also need the kind of friend who will:
- Speak the truth in love, even when it’s difficult
- Extend grace in areas where your views are different
- Sharpen you to be a better wife, friend, and mom
- Let you drop off your kids for a few hours to save your sanity
- Tell you you’re doing a great job
- Laugh and cry with you
- Check in and see how you’re really doing
We need to be that kind of friend too. I believe that in these kind of friendships, we see the hand of God in our life and we’re given greater hope. We realize that God cares about us in our deepest moments of struggle and he uses others to assure us that we can do this.
When I joined my first Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) group three years ago, I was seeking encouragement on how to be a better mom but I realized later that I was also seeking friendship. My life has been so rich because of the mamas who have loved on me, brought meals when they had their own kids to take care of, babysat my kids when I was going crazy, wrote letters of encouragement, texted to say they were praying, and more.
Through that process of sharing life and being there for each other, it has become natural to share our struggles. I have experienced what it means to be known by another person and still fully loved. I’ve experienced how God sees me and loves me even when I fail and fall short.
Every day I still struggle to do things right, but God is helping me to control my tongue and to ultimately understand his unconditional love – which changes how I view myself. I’m a mess, and he loves me still. But he doesn’t want me to stay where I’m at. He wants me to surrender and depend on his guidance because I can’t do motherhood in my own strength.
God gives us the gift of friendship as a tangible tool for love, hope, support, and encouragement in our life. He uses our relationships in incredible ways to help lift our heads from despair. And because of that, we should be all in when it comes to embracing authentic friendship with others even when it requires a whole lot of bravery.
Cheering you on from the trenches,
The salient question for those of us who are aware that we were created by God for a purpose is “What actually is that purpose?” When we are imparted the answer to that question we will then know what is the true value, the one by which both we and our God must measure ourselves throughout our existence, both right now and in eternity if we are to assume our rightful and intended place in the life for which God ultimately created us. Few of us are able to perceive the continuity between our lives here on earth and the one intended by God for us in Heaven. For most of us, we believe our entry into eternal life with God will begin just after we die and will be like falling off a log rather than our life with God being a continuity of our life with Him on earth. We look at ourselves as ultimate victims of physical death while overlooking how it is that Jesus Himself provided for us, by means of His death and resurrection, the restored connection enjoyed by our first parents before the fall between life on here on earth and life in Heaven. We hope by our good behavior and our attempts at faithfulness to become established in sanctity but not only does that sanctity elude us, by the end of our lives we are little more the emulation of our Creator than when we were first born. Have you ever asked yourself, “Of what genuine value is my good behavior to God anyway when so many towering figures of the old and New Testament exhibited such shameful behavior? If they are now with God, was it really their sin and their performance by which they were measured by God or was it something else? Having ultimately failed to “measure up” myself on so many occasions of my earlier life, on one particular occasion long ago I was encouraged by God to ask myself this question. What is it that God is really after in having created us and subsequently in His demonstrably relentless pursuit of us? As I recall, at that time, I had been accused of once again failing to measure up in what was regarded as my duty to successfully rear my children in righteousness by example when I myself so often stood accused by others and by myself of blundering into failure of virtue. I had been encouraged all my life by my Church since early childhood to measure my “spiritual progress and success by my good behavior, which would then be confirmed by their good results. I expected those good results to show up with some regularity and consistency in my life and that of my family but the result of my efforts always seemed to me to be one step forward and two steps back. Try as I might, pray as I might for strength, courage, and vision, I would ultimately find myself desolate, defamed, and in my view, quite alone.
It was then that I first notice a glaring flaw in the manner in which I responded to God. I had assumed a habit of distinguishing in my behavior toward God between the times when I felt steeped in virtue and when I was aware I was steeped in sin. When felt the guilt of my sin I would avoid the presence of God, not hoping even to meet eyes with Him, hoping over time to once again become worthy of His presence by my restored virtuous behavior. In this manner part of my life was spent pursuing God with all my heart and the other avoiding and ignoring Him. Although I conducted myself in this manner without purposeful evaluation of what I was doing, this behavior toward God seemed entirely appropriate at the time. It was then that God said three words to me which changed my life. He said simply “Attend to Me”. There was no qualifier like “when you feel virtuous” or “When you pray”. I understood immediately what He meant. Enter into sustained, attendant and eternal communion with Me, at every moment of your existence and determine to never fail in that attendance to Me no matter what your circumstances, where you are, or how you feel. I was being imparted the knowledge that no matter how I regard myself or my behavior, my communion with God, by which the actual value and purpose of my existence are determined, never changes. I had to make up my mind at that moment that no matter how I felt or what I did that I would never again shy away for a moment from the disposition of being immediately present to God, prostrate before the throne of the Father and consummately vulnerable to Him. I never looked back. It was clear to me from then on that what God was after in me was not performance or good behavior, but consummate communion with me. That was the missing link between Heaven and earth for us, restored and enabled by Jesus’ death and resurrection. I went before God soon after and declared that if I never became virtuous, successful, or well behaved it was of no consequence; I would never again determine to shy away from communion with Him alone. I determined that hereafter I would allow for no impediment or constraint in my pursuit of being joined entirely to Him. I also determined that if I ever did become well behaved or successful in spiritual endeavors or virtuosity, it would only be as a result of my destitute and consummate communion with Him. As you may guess, I never became outwardly virtuous. I never became all that well behaved and although my children turned out just fine, I think it had little to do with my competence at becoming a good example and a responsible parent. What is clear to me is that I have the desire of my heart which is sustained communion with God and the true path to Heaven before me now that I am in my later years. If I am obedient to God, if I embody any virtue, or if my behavior has improved at all, it is because these are no longer goals of my life but there result of the passion for God which arises from communion with Him, a communion which I am now aware will never cease.
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