It happened again today.
There I was, running stringers for my pole beans, minding my own business, when that familiar unfriendly voice crept into my spirit.
"If you were a better Mom..."
Oh, how I hate that voice. It creeps in at the best and worst times, undermining everything I do, forcing me to face my fears of parenthood and draining me of the faith that gets me through the day without coming unglued.
"If you were a better Mom, your kids wouldn't sin."
"If you were a better Mom, your kids would know more Scripture."
If you were a better Mom, your kids wouldn't fight."
"If you were a better Mom, your son would use proper punctuation when he posts on Facebook."
"If you were a better Mom..."
You get the idea. I have a feeling we've all been there. And if I'm right, the conversation continues the same way for each of us.
"If only you had..."
Now this little doozy is a kick in the gut every time. It doesn't even matter what you finish the sentence with, because no matter what you blame your failing parenthood on, you can't go back and fix it.
Just a few months ago, my husband called me from work and shared his "If only" with me. He was tired and we had been digging weeds in a rough parenting patch for about a year. I could hear in his voice that the enemy had done a number on him, and my heart broke when he finished his sentence.
"If only I had taken my son on that mission trip before he graduated high school."
And there it was. Guilt. Fear. Sorrow. Shame. Regret. And because his "failure" happened in the past, there wasn't a single thing he could do to make all that emotion go away. And so the enemy had him exactly where he wanted him. Slipping down into a pit for which the only rescue had expired about two years prior.
"If only I had been tougher on sin..."
"If only I had shown more grace..."
"If only I had spoken more openly..."
"If only I had shut my mouth..."
We've all entertained this stranger's voice. And sometimes, he really gets us because he makes a lot of sense, but let's be honest; sometimes he's a foolish enemy spouting foolish lies, and yet we still buckle beneath the accusations.
"If only I had bought that __________."
"If only I had let them play ball."
"If only I had taken them to the beach."
Or, God forbid, the dreaded "If only I had sprung for the iPhone."
He's a rascal, for sure- that enemy that whispers lies and makes us feel like failures, but I hate to tell you- we gave him permission. The minute we decided that parenthood was pass or fail, we opened the door to a spiritual warfare that would keep us pacing the floors, accusing ourselves and passing the buck in the mirror 'til the end of time.
We give him permission to wreak havoc on our faith when we say things that make us believe that we are either perfect parents or complete failures.
"Mom of the year..."
"Failure as a mom..."
"Worst dad in the world..."
I hate to be the bearer of hard news, but until we change our vocabulary, our enemy ain't about to change his. Until we look at parenthood through the lens of Biblical truth and take a stand against the culture that tries to speak louder than the Word of God when it comes to parenting advice, we will always fall in those pits with antique shovels for rescue tools. Until we "faith" the facts, we'll always be dreading the next onslaught of accusations of failure.
It's time we were honest with ourselves, our spouses and our children. It's time to speak the truth into empty rooms and empty hearts.
Parenthood isn't pass or fail. It's simply trust and obey, or not.
We're not perfect. We weren't meant to be. And yet God blessed us with babies that grew into kids that kept us up at night with their antics, anger, and addictions. We have to quit trying to become a perfect parent and tell the truth! We'll never be perfect. That's why we are daily in need of the precious Holy Spirit to speak through us, make us strong, increase our faith and open our eyes and hearts to the spiritual needs of our children. If I'm looking at life through the light of the Word of God, and I truly want to be a better mom, then I'll focus all my heart and attention on becoming a better daughter. The more I try in my own strength and wisdom to be the "perfect mom," the more clearly I tell my Creator that I think I can handle this task without His help.
The only thing we can withhold from our children that has any merit or value on their futures is the opportunity to love Jesus, know God and obey the Holy Spirit.That's it. It's that simple. Forget sleepless nights worrying about whether your child is going to grow up to hate you because you didn't buy them a trumpet and sign them up for band. Forget the hundreds of dollars we rob from our budget to make sure they get a better tag on their blue jeans than the kids they sit near in school just so we can feel better about ourselves. No more asking our spouses for the thousandth time, "Do you think this is a good idea?" How about instead of driving ourselves crazy worrying about the right curriculum, the right dating strategy, the right discipline plan, the right devotional, the right floor plan, the right short length, the right social life, the right tone of voice or the right percentage of non-gmo foods, we worry about what really matters.
The questions we should be asking and the answers we should be worrying about:
Do I have an opportunity to teach my child how to repent of sin?
Do I have an opportunity to show my child how to place others above themselves?