Cars whizzed past me on the busy interstate and the whoosh of wind from each passing car knocked me unsteady as I tried to stay firmly seated on the bumper of my car. Sunlight, setting in the early September evening sky, blinded me. Yet, despite the heat, the blinding light, and the speeding cars, all I could do was put my head in my hands and say to myself, “You blew it…again.”
Such was my day six short weeks ago when I abruptly veered over onto the shoulder of the interstate somewhere in Alabama and hopped out of my car. With nowhere to go, I made my way to the bumper and sat down. It truly was a pathetic sight. Who in her right mind decides to sit on her bumper alongside an interstate?
A desperate mama…that’s who.
It had taken my three kids approximately .5 seconds to start arguing/demanding once we got into the car after a family day at the Space Museum. Our time at the museum was your typical family fun day. Everyone liked one another, there were plenty of smiles, and life was good. However, all of that changed in no time once we loaded up to head for home.
In all fairness, it started with me. With a huff in my spirit from being asked to drive the long way back home so daddy could take a nap, I begrudgingly got behind the wheel. Then, the dinner demands started. Then, the music demands followed. Then, volume. Then, air conditioner. Then, blanket. Then, pillow. Want, want, want! Each child was trying to out demand the other child by amplifying their demands. Arguments about who deserved what began. Our wheels had barely left the NASA parking lot and voices were already at a crescendo. Mama started going mad! And, what do all mad mamas do? They yell.
As I added to the noise level, one discernible thing became obvious – nobody was being heard. My spirit, which was calm, cool, and collected not five minutes earlier, was now cranked up and full of fury. In the heat of high emotions, I forgot every good parenting rule in the book and joined into our three-ring circus. And, because I’m not a big fan of circuses, I took the nearest exit out - my car door.
My bumper, while being a sad and pitiful place for a mama to find herself sitting, provided me the escape that I needed. Thoughts tumbled out of my head as emotions tumbled out of my heart. “Why can’t I do this mom gig better? Why can’t I keep it together? Why do I blow it all the time?”
Instant regret hit me and the dreadful pang of failure settled into my mind. If only I could rewind those five minutes and have a do-over! But, there was no doing it over. My present reality, sitting on my bumper on the shoulder of the interstate, told me that I had indeed blown it again. With nowhere else to turn, I cried out to the Lord.
A few minutes later, I casually got back into the car as if to say, “Everything’s okay kids! Mom was just checking out the traffic.” My middle child wasn’t buying the cool mom approach and blurted out, “What were you doing out there?” to which my daughter curtly replied, “Be quiet! You know mama was out there praying!”
They know me well.
I would like to say that this incident was a rare and isolated event. If it were, that might make it all better. But, it wasn’t. The occurence of mama meltdowns happens with greater frequency than I’d like to admit. In fact, this past Saturday night found me sitting by myself in a dark garage talking with Jesus about yet another mommy mess-up. They seem to follow me around.
I jokingly say that my children are my ongoing sanctification because, honestly, they are. Parenting is the area in my life where I realize that I need Jesus the most. I need His grace. I need His mercy. I need His guidance, wisdom, forgiveness… I need it all. Sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus. It is a process that will not be completed until we reach heaven. My children expose the sin that resides in the darkest crevices of my heart unlike anyone or anything else. They expose my selfishness, pride, stubbornness, vanity, and the list goes on. When all this bubbles to the surface, I hate who I see in the mirror. I realize how woefully ineffective and sinful I truly am. It is in these moments when I also realize how much I need Jesus and how much I need for Him to show me the way back.
In the book Parenting by Paul David Tripp, Paul states, “Parents who admit that they are inadequate and run to God make the best parents.” If this is true, I must be the best parent out there because parenting frequently finds me running to Jesus time after time after time again. Oh, the miles I have run!
Paul goes on to say, “We parent in the middle of our own sanctification… Although the power of sin has been broken in the beautiful justifying mercies of Jesus Christ, the presence of sin still remains with us. So God’s present zeal is to progressively deliver us from the remaining hold that sin has on us.” It's this remaining hold that pulls at me, grabs me, and twists me into knots. The only rescue that I have from it is Jesus. He is my escape from myself. He is my help in times of trouble. He is my Anchor, my Rock, my Strong Tower, my Deliverer. He is my only hope.
In no greater way than in parenting can I relate with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.“ And then, in verses 21-25, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
I do not understand what I do. What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. What a wretched mama I am! Who will rescue me?
When I need rescuing, I can confidently approach the One who forgives us all our sins:
Having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. Colossians 2:14-15
The Cross is the only reason I can casually get back into my car and try again. The Cross is the only reason I can leave the garage and walk back into my house after yet another mama meltdown. The Cross is the only reason I can walk down the hallway, go into my child’s room, pull their little body into my arms, and whisper, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me again?” into their ear. I can do this because all the sin that continues to seep out of me bears one crucial feature…a big nail mark.
Perhaps Peter taught us best what this human propensity to veer off the straight and narrow looks like. When told by Jesus that he would deny Him three times, Peter replies, “Never!” And, sadly, we know that Peter was wrong. He denied Jesus when the going got tough just as I do. But, here’s the hope that Peter brings us. After the rooster crowed, Peter wept bitterly for having denied Jesus and then Jesus was crucified. Three days pass by and here comes Peter onto the scene again. What is Peter doing?
“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running.” John 20:3-4
He was running to Jesus.
Run, dear mama, run! Run with me! When we mess up, He will be there to help us!
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children Romans 8:16. Our Father is always there to help! As Paul Tripp states, “In every moment as you are parenting your children, the heavenly Father is parenting you.” And, as God parents us, we become well-acquainted with His tender mercies and we learn how to exercise the beautiful gifts of confession, repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace. These gifts are what our children need from us the most! I know that mine get a steady dose of all five as I go back to them again and again and model what each one looks like. They know mama messes up. But, as one of my children once stated, "Mom always asks for forgiveness."
As this sanctification process continues on, my prayer is that one day I will be able to say of myself, “I understand what I do. For what I want to do I do and what I hate I do not do.” I don’t know if that day will come anytime soon – I pray it does – but I do know that until it comes, my feet know where to go.
Run to Jesus mamas. Run to Jesus wives. Run to Jesus sisters-in-Christ. Lock arms with me and let's allow Him to continue that beautiful sanctifying work.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.