I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution person. Otherwise I’ll have a laundry list of “to do’s” and “to do betters” at the beginning of the year that overwhelm me and make me not even want to get started. However I am a goal setter and a planner. If I make that list of unattainable resolutions I know I’ll be a perfectionist about it and anxious on how to make it work. If I then do not hit those goals I will feel defeated and like a failure. It is a vicious cycle in my life that can only find rest in the freedom of the gospel.
I see this play out in the eyes of my seven-year-old. She is in a season of feeling burdened by being a big sister to three siblings who always want to play with her and copy exactly what she’s doing. She’s put the weight on herself to be a good example and she easily gets frustrated with herself. I’ve seen this growing and festering in different ways the last few months.
God has given me a radical shift in approaching her as her mom. I see my response to failure in her response. I see my childhood struggles to reach perfection to make my parents proud and be liked in her current struggle. I see my older sister in her as she held the weight of her somewhat self-induced role of caretaker and protector much to the detriment of herself.
A few weeks ago I pulled her aside as she was crying after getting frustrated with her sister. She wasn’t crying because her feelings were hurt. She was crying because her response to her frustration with a sibling sent her into shame and guilt and frustration. Her feelings of failure and inadequacy overwhelmed her and she would not even look at me fearing I would only push further condemnation and pressure on her to do the right thing. It was in that moment I decided to shift my discipline to discipling. I knew that was a pivotal and critical moment for me to either point her to Jesus or continue to strengthen her default- to be a robot of people pleasing. I said a quick prayer and asked God to speak his words to her and not mine because I knew my wisdom was beyond lacking of what was needed here. Thankfully he answered.
I sat her down and snuggled her in and shared my struggle. I told her how easily I get frustrated with myself when I mess up, when I raise my voice at them, when I am impatient or disengaged. I told her about how I will think on my mistake for weeks, letting it spiral me into shame and deep frustration in myself and how this only furthers my sin because I operate out of trying to fix myself and the same problem worsens. I then told her some version of the following.
Did you know God loves you the same amount the moment where you are shouting and pushing your sibling as the moment where you are hugging them and making good choices with kind words? He looks down and loves you the same in those two moments. Because when he looks at you he sees Jesus in your place and the perfection of His life covering up the sin of yours. God is not some far distance away shaking his head at you sarcastically saying ‘I told you so, you should’ve made a better choice.’ No, he is so close, cheering for you, delighting in you, encouraging you in your heart to find your value and freedom in him, choosing to believe his grace and mercy over Satan offering guilt and shame.
I don’t say this all so you can know that God loves you the same as if you made a good choice so why not go on making bad choices, but that the grace we find at that broken place should point us to our design. We were designed to love like he did. That is why we get so frustrated at ourselves when we mess up. But we shouldn’t let our shame take us down, but instead find the grace that I don’t have to meet the standard of perfection, it has already been met for me in Jesus. That truth should free me up to be who I was created to be.
It should release me from guilt and shame and allow me to lean on Him for strength to battle my sin. Because the more we try to ‘not sin’ we will find ourselves doing it more and more, because our own strength is not enough for that battle. God says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 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. If we aren’t weak then we aren’t a candidate for Christ’s power, so don’t get frustrated that you are broken and messed up. But in that lean on his grace, ask for his power, and he has promised it will be given to you.
Thank you Jesus for that truth that you reminded me in the midst of my child’s struggle. He spoke to me as I spoke the words to her. I felt myself tear up as I felt a renewed sense of his grace wash over all the places I have been so frustrated with my shortcomings as a mom, wife, and woman of God. I don’t have to be perfect, his power is made perfect when I am at my worst.
God, help us to steer our children right to your heart. Help me as I mother these 4 blessings and teach them about the relentless grace you offer. Help me rest in Christ’s perfection and power and stop striving on my own to reach unrealistic goals. Help me lay my list of ‘to do’s and to do betters’ at your feet and let you infuse your power into making me more of who you created me to be.