More often than not, I fail as a mom. Sometimes countless times in a day, playing out a much different version of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “How do I Love Thee?” Instead, my life as a parent could be titled, “How do I Fail Thee?” Let me count the ways…
I forget to sign important papers. Break promises. Yell, scream, shout—lose my patience. Discipline the wrong child. Would rather clean baseboards than play Candy Land. Give in too many times. Selfishly fulfill my own desires before theirs. Miss teachable moments. And say things I should never say.
Should. Never. Say.
The list stretches out across a vast desert, leaving me parched and thirsty.
I fail because I am human. But failing as a mother terrifies me. It’s the stuff of black nightmares and dark waters.
My list of failings is as atrocious and long as the line at Disney’s ride, It’s a Small World, in the middle of summer.
For example, my daughter walked around on a broken foot for five days before we took her to the doctor. True story. Mom of the Year I am not. Another confession. I hate—hate—to play pretend games. And sometimes, I give in to the whining because I’m just so tired.
And so the list of questions rises to the surface. Bubbling from deep within, where insecurities lurk. Like failure licking at my heels.
What if I don’t play with my children enough? Will this scar them for life? Are they going to feel a void that I didn’t fill? Do I push too hard? Not hard enough? Am I present enough in their lives? Is their character shaped by my mistakes or by my victories?
The questions never seem to end. But there is one question that plagues my heart. And I must battle, must wage war, to discover its answer.
How on earth do I raise Christ-loving children in this evil-loving world? I can fail in countless ways, but I can’t fail in this—teaching my children to love God with their whole heart, soul, and mind. And in this instruction, I know failure is not an option.
Yet, how do I raise my children to love Jesus when they can see shades of my sinful heart as few others can? My hands are dirtied with mistakes and regrets. But still. I must dare to try.
While I don’t pretend to have the answers, I know one truth. I. Can. Not. Fail.
I must be willing to be battle weary for the souls of my children. Because trust me, the world is doing it’s part to steal them away. It seems I need only turn my head one way and then the other to discover countless vile schemes devised by the evil one to destroy our children.
Sound the battle cry. This is war—A war worth every bloody battle.
All too often we leave this war to our churches and our private schools. But this war is not theirs alone. It is ours. And it is one we’ve been called to fight. Did you know, as parents, God has given us one command? Only one.
“Father’s don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Ephesians 6:4 MSG
“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Our only task is to teach our children to love our Jesus. And there, in the profound silence of this command, is the beauty of God’s grace on our lives as parents. If I am I teaching my children the way of the Master, I am not failing.
But to teach my children the way of the Master, I must be following. Following His steps. Willing to make the sacrifices. To lay my own desires aside. To devote myself so completely, so fully to the task God has given me, my children see my Jesus-love.
When my own Jesus-love overflows from my heart into the lives of my children, when my own cup pours out of my cross-purchased soul and spills onto their tiny feet, then nothing else matters. Nothing.
Because this is not failure. This is success!
My mistakes are daily. They will continue throughout the lives of my children. Because I am human. But this fight—this teaching my children the way of the Master, is a battle I will forge. But I cannot do it on my own.
Because war is never won alone. God has promised to fight this war with us. He allows the battles to draw us close to Him, recognize our unquenchable need for His strength—His grace. The battles will be plenty. The wounds will be deep. But failure is not an option.
The souls of my children are worth the cost.