As it turns out, parenting is just as much for me as it is for my kids. We have, yet again, entered a new season in our household. Parenting is no longer just dirty diapers and nursing sessions. On top of those things, parenting now includes getting homework done, consistent discipline and a realization that we are helping to form future, sufficient adults. I can be so tempted to try and just push through the monotony of it all. But if I’m being honest, doing life that way makes me sad. I don’t want to miss the goodness of God before me or the lessons he is asking me to learn right now. The question then becomes, how do I recognize and grow through the hardships this season brings?
There is freedom in weakness.
Last week at a speaking event, a beautiful, tired mother sat in the front row. Poised for me to finish, she hurriedly asked, “How do you do this with three kids? I’m so exhausted—all the time. How is your brain even functioning?” I admitted to her that often I am not sure it is. Sometimes I do things very poorly. And when something is done well, it is only because God’s power is displayed in my personal weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). Truth is, I love boasting in my weaknesses. There is freedom in my weaknesses, freedom to bask in the perfection of someone else. Jesus’ perfection gives me the freedom to have joy regardless of my downfalls because he doesn’t have any. His perfection frees me with hope when everything around me feels like it’s falling apart. Nothing can truly fall apart outside of the sovereign hand of God.
My kids do not rely on my perfection.
Full disclosure: sometimes my crazy friends and I talk about our moms. We love our moms. We all have fantastic moms. But, we still talk about them. Now, I have three daughters, and without fail, when I fail, I think about what seeds I am planting in them that will show up in group texts with their friends years from now. I pray I am planting seeds of repentance by asking their forgiveness when I fail. I pray I am pointing them to our need for Jesus through our failures. I pray the seeds that take root will be of the love stories I tell them, the dance parties, of reading the Bible to them and praying over them. But maybe they won’t be. Maybe the seeds that will take root in their memories will be recollections of my anger or my impatience. Regardless, I get to trust a God who is more concerned for my children than I am. I get to trust the Lord as I work hard and repent often, knowing that my kids do not rely on my perfection. Our job as parents isn’t to be perfect. Our job as parents is to display God’s unending faithfulness to those around us amidst our own failures (Ps 86:15).
We all rely on God’s perfection.
The best part of being an exhausted mother is that I get to rely on God’s perfection on my behalf. The gospel frees moms and dads from performance and allows us to bask in God’s grace. In fact, the very purpose of Jesus dying and being raised on our behalf is in and of itself about Him (Eph 2:7). God can do nothing other than glorify himself, this is true even through our personal exhaustion. The parenting exhaustion is one way he accomplishes his perfection and will. This truth should sustain us when as we endure the work he has prepared for us to do. Relying on Jesus, the perfect one, is way more comforting than relying on me, the imperfect one. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Ps 18:30). He provides stability in his perfect work and character; this is a certain hope that I desperately need in the midst of motherhood.
Relying on Jesus
What does “relying on Jesus” even mean? In Psalm 18:30, to take refuge means to shield yourself from attack, to take cover when things get scary, and to get help when a battle is brewing. We use God’s Word to help our minds take refuge in Him. We must align our thinking with truth rather than fickle feelings. This is not because feelings do not matter, but because they matter a great deal. The one thing that will stick to our bones when fighting exhaustion, trying to keep anxiety at bay and battling fear-fraught thoughts, is foundational truth from God’s Word. While exhaustion will affect your perspective, nothing should determine how you view your life and those around you more than God’s Word. This is because God’s Word establishes a Christian’s present status and future hope. A Christian with the Spirit of God then can be steadfast with kids because Jesus was steadfast on earth and is steadfast in heaven.
Truth Applied to Parenting
Parenting can feel like a slow death, as we so often think about it primarily as a giant, personal sacrifice. There are joys to be sure, but the everyday of dying to self in order for a child to live is a real thing. However, being a mother is just as much about me living as it is my child living. When the baby is screaming and the toddler is coloring on the walls and your kid is asking for something for the umpteenth time, it's not for nothing. It's so that you can be made perfect and complete lacking in nothing (Js 1:4). Because God does everything with great purpose, we can know that the exhaustion in parenting is for our good (Rom 8:28). Because God made me a mom, I need motherhood to be who God wants me to be.
I may be exhausted, but “this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him” (Lam 3:21).
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.