I have a good friend who gave birth to her first baby just a few days ago. She and I had lunch a week or so ago during which we chatted about all sorts of topics, including, as you might guess, the incredible and daunting task (and privilege) of motherhood. As we walked to our vehicles, sated with both chicken salad and conversation, she challenged me to write a post sharing all the wisdom and sage advice I've gained over my seventeen plus years as a mom.
I must admit I laughed a little at her request, not because I thought it inappropriate or humorous, but because, really, I have so little to share. After that conversation in the parking lot, and after reading another friend's blog post that wondered why it seems that seasoned moms are so reluctant to dispense advice, I've decided that my hesitancy has the following motivations:
1. I'm still not done here. The jury is still out, so to speak. Sure, my kids can now bathe and dress themselves (yes and amen) and have all reached a certain age and level of (sometimes disputable) maturity. All in all, they are great kids but if seventeen years have taught me anything it's that there are no guarantees and assumptions can be misleading. I'm still in the trenches; the fight so to speak is as intense now as ever.
2. My memory is bad. Those days when my kids were babies and toddlers and preschoolers (and all at the same time) passed by in a blur, a virtual whirlwind, and I honestly can't remember what worked or what didn't; I just know I survived, and then only barely! :) Interestingly enough, I think I probably would have been more apt to dispense all sorts of advice THEN than I would NOW. Oh, yes, then I was full of all sorts of convictions and judgments about good parenting and bad parenting what constituted each. Now, not so much.
3. I messed up, bad. I failed, many times over. In fact, the older I get, and the older my kids get, the more I realize how many mistakes I made and how many things I did wrong, sometimes out of ignorance, most times because I am a sinner, plain and simple. I know that I should have messed my kids up royally and it is that knowledge that tempers my dispensing of advice.
However, just because I am hesitant to speak as one who has emerged victorious in the mommy experience doesn't mean I have nothing to say. So, for my friend: what I have to offer isn't advice so much as it is lessons learned. Here's a few things, among many, that motherhood has taught me...
The biggest thing I've learned: I need grace. I am desperate for it. Truly, nothing has taught me of my own inadequacy and desperation like being a mom. I can't do this, a fact that has had me crying myself to sleep at night more times than I care to admit. I mess up, as I've already confessed, and I keep messing up. No matter what standard you choose to define a good mother by, I can't meet it. I need the Lord. I need the gospel. I need grace.
Also, there are no guarantees in parenting. My kids are sinners, rebellious, depraved; only the Lord can affect transformation. Yes, we the parents are the primary influencers in our child's life but their salvation does not depend on me. It is the work of the Lord. This is hard. It took me having more than one child (more than two, more than three...) to realize that I could not follow a recipe in order to gain the sort of child of my choosing. So many believe they can--perhaps they would not assert such in so many words but the subtle implication is there, whether you're discussing home versus public school, athletic ability, or salvation.
Oh, but the Lord is faithful. He sustains, He provides, He protects, He blesses, He teaches, He convicts, He answers, He saves. I am unspeakably grateful and humbled by the outpouring of His mercy on me, a needy, desperate mom. I well remember those weeks after my fourth baby was born, one of those blurry segments of memory I mentioned earlier, those days in which my fatigue was so overwhelming, my struggle with the baby blues teetering toward a dark, cavernous depression. I would fall into bed in the wee hours of the morning begging the Lord to find me because I had no idea where or how to find Him. His Word promises that He will surely be found by those who seek Him, and, glory to God, He was. He is.
Surely I've learned many other truths, truths like my kids are far more resilient than I deserve and that the stomach virus will invariably wreck its havoc in the middle of the night. However, as a mom who, like I confessed earlier, has messed up far more than she cares to admit and who's still in the trenches pleading with the Lord for the sake of her children, I am more than comforted by the fact that there is grace and the Lord is faithful.
So, here's my words of wisdom for new moms like my friend, older, more seasoned moms like myself, wives, sisters, daughters, friends, fellow believers and sisters in the journey: Remember the gospel. Preach to yourself the truth that Jesus saves sinners. Persevere. Stand firm. Seek mercy. Trust His faithfulness. Rest in His gracious provision. He is enough and He is everything, and He will show Himself strong on behalf of desperate women humble enough to seek Him. Run to Him, sister, and find in Him all that you require. Glory to His name!