The Best We Can Hope For

Forgiveness is really the best any of us can hope for.

And that’s only because perfection isn’t really an option, right? I mean, if I’m being honest (feel free to be honest along with me) my hope most days – as a mother, a wife, a friend, a homemaker, a Daughter of the King, as a person – is be as perfect as possible. Which is hilarious because only crazy people chase after a thing that they can’t ever actually catch… right?

It’s pretty jarring when you actually look it in the face, and it’d be cute to tell you that this obsession with perfection is a product of a difficult childhood (some of it is, yeah sure), or to just pretend like it’s not constantly trying to hijack my parenting or my peace, but apart from good old fashioned self-reflection and confession there is no real possibility of change. And change is what I’m after.

Also hilarious: how the jolt into motherhood makes certain things very clear very fast. One minute I’m working hard to bring this baby girl here, and the next she’s on my chest screaming loudly, wriggly, and soaking wet. I am immediately convinced of two things: (1) this is not about me, and (2) I want to do this perfectly.

Which brings us right back to the problem of chasing after perfect motherhood. And I think it inherently comes from a place of instinct, a super-naturally planted desire to protect this tiny person you’ve just been handed, a recognition of the weight that comes with the title of “mom.” And then the weight gets bent and our prides pokes its head out, winks at us arrogantly. Stand back world, I’ve got this one.

It’s only through the growing side-by-side that we realize how wrong we were, how impossible perfection actually is. Those first nine months of making room for each other are nothing compared to the first nine years. I age and she ages. I learn and she learns. I hurt her and she hurts me. I fail. Is this what I signed up for?

Human relationship? Painful? Yup.

If children are “natural born persons” as Charlotte Mason says, and you just welcomed one into your life, you can bet that there will be plenty of room for heartbreak, and if you’re lucky plenty of opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

I remember the moment that I found out we would have a second baby girl, and the thrill at realizing that my first baby was getting a SISTER. And then the panic that surged up hot immediately after that when I realized that my daughters would undoubtedly hurt each other, maybe even a lot. They’d have a whole lifetime together after all. I hadn’t even gotten up from my seat in the doctor’s office when these thoughts came crashing down on me one after another. Someone I love is going to get hurt.

To be human is to be in constant need of forgiveness. It’s just kind of part of the deal this side of heaven. The trick is to make friends with this need, to see it not as a weakness, but as a gift.

In order to see it as a gift, you need to put your pride down (just put it down, Mama), and pick up the cross, the visible image of both our lack and His longing for us.

I know this sounds like the hardest thing in the world (Jesus called it DYING to yourself, so yeah that kind of hurts), but if you’ll choose to put your imperfections front and center in your relationship with your children it will actually make everything better. It is giving them the gift of truth. They need to know (i.e. to experience, to witness) that we need Jesus too. And if we’re not comfortable with our need, how on earth can we expect them to do this very hard thing called “dying.”

What they don’t need is a mom who is going to single-handedly raise beautiful kids, make beautiful meals, and live a beautiful life. When we attempt to shove our imperfection into the nearest junk drawer, we communicate to our children that grace is something to be ashamed of, that it’s a last ditch attempt to salvage perfection on the rare occasion that you can’t hack it.

This is not truth. And, dear ones, don’t we want our homes to reek of truth? Don’t we want them to reek of the glorious gospel of grace?

Grace is as vital to my Tuesday afternoon as oxygen is – without one I don’t get the other. Grace is the privilege we get to celebrate every single second, third, fourth, and fifth chance we get to try to love each other better. Grace is rejoicing in our deep need for a Good God that came to us when we needed Him most, that stays with us and dwells with us even now, knowing exactly who and what we are. He is not scared of our imperfections. In fact they drove Him towards us, not away.

And it’s Love Himself who teaches us how to mother best. He teaches us how to look sin in the face, douse it with the radical forgiveness of a Faithful God, and then nail it to a tree.

“Love keeps no record of being wronged…” (1 Cor. 13:5)

What if we actually didn’t?

What if we gave and accepted forgiveness as often as we needed to, without exceptions or excuses or cold-shoulders.

What if perfection was never designed to set us free?

Only dependence on Love can do that.

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