I’ve been a mother for over 10 years now, and I can honestly say, I think I was a better parent before I had kids. My perfect parenting ideas came with perfect children. The ideas came with smooth routines, scheduled bedtimes, full nights of sleep, organic and home cooked meals. My ideas included a meticulously clean home (and vehicle) children who admired me and obeyed. I had this parenting thing completely figured out… until I became a mom.
If you opened the door to my car right now, you’d have a pretty good idea of what hell might smell like. Sulfer and brimstone anyone? Actually, it’s just the lingering scent of popcorn my kids left in the car over the weekend. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that smell out and that definitely contradicts the meticulous idea I had.
There have been lots of things over the last 10 years that have contradicted my idea of what parenting would be like for me. Our first child was born just a few weeks before I turned 21. Although we were young, she was a planned baby and we were intentional about her little life on this earth. There hasn’t been much about being her mom that has gone according to my plans. She was born VERY small. She didn’t nurse as well as I had hoped, nor as long as I had hoped. She had colic for 6 months, she was a sassy toddler, and then she became a small child with anxiety. She slept with us pretty much every night until she was 4 years old (even though she started out in her own bed) and didn’t sleep through the night until she was around 6 or 7 years old. None of that was a part of my plan. When I thought about being a mom I never imagined being frustrated, or angry. I never thought about being anxious or overwhelmed. I never imagined that I would feel helpless or cry at times. I never thought I would yell at my kids… I thought I knew exactly how to parent but my first child taught me that I knew absolutely nothing, other than I desperately loved her, and needed the Lord to show me how to be her momma.
My biggest worry of all as a parent is that I will fail my children. My biggest worry is that they will grow up and doubt how much I love them. I fear they won’t see all of the times I’ve tried so hard (even when I got it wrong) and they won’t see that I want the very best I can offer to them. I’m afraid that they won’t see the part of me that is a reflection of God’s love towards them, or that their view of His perfect love will be skewed because of the imperfections in the way that I love them. I pray they won’t run from His face because of something I’ve done. I worry all the time that I’m getting it wrong as their mom and only time will tell if I did my duty in His honor.
In contrast, if you asked me to weigh in about someone else’s child, I’d definitely be a perfect parent. It comes so easy to know exactly how to parent someone else’s child from the outside looking in. I have opinions on feeding, sleeping, self-soothing, baby wearing, you name it. I can easily look at someone else’s life and know exactly what to do, yet somehow in my own life I’m terrified that I’m getting it all wrong… Why is that? Why am I able to so easily evaluate the lives of others, but struggle to earnestly evaluate my own?
This is something that doesn’t pertain strictly to just parenting, but to all areas of life. I can see where other people struggle. I can see their heartaches, their conflicts, and sin and somehow it seems easy for me weigh in on what they should do. “If they just did this or this, it would help. If they stopped doing this or that it would help. If it were me, I’d make this decision…” yet when it comes to my own life it’s not as obvious to me. There are so many times I don’t see my own issues so clearly, I find myself stuck not knowing what to do, or even don’t see the places that need addressing at all.
Let me say, this is different than counseling with a friend or mentoring someone who has asked for advice, discernment, or wisdom based on my own experiences. Those evaluations come from a mutual place, and are productive. The evaluations that lead to picking apart the lives of other people and overlooking the flaws of my own heart aren’t productive at all.
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Luke 6:41-42 NKJV
I can see the speck in the eyes of others, sometimes as though I’m looking at them through a telescope, yet the plank in my own eye stays completely undisturbed. I’d dare to say I’ve got more than a plank of wood in my eye; there are times it’s like a full lumber mill in there. How can I be walking around with a lumber mill in my eye, and focus on the speck in someone else’s? Am I blind because of denial, is it my pride? This lumber isn’t useful to anyone when it’s still in my eye.
I need God to help me remove the lumber mill in my eye, treat it, sand it, stain it, make it something beautiful, and use it for His glory.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV
Do you struggle like I do with worrying about yourself? Do you find yourself easily taking notice of the concerns, flaws, struggles, and sins of others but have a way with ignoring your own? Do you feel like you can always offer advice (whether solicited or unsolicited) as to what others should do, but struggle to navigate your own circumstances? I pray that we will each work towards removing the lumber mills in our eyes, and in turn will be more purposeful with how we see the lives of others.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10 NKJV
In His Love,