I've only been a mom for 2 years (not counting pregnancy), but so far I've had no trouble finding out that parenting can be really frustrating sometimes. Yet even in my limited experience God has been doing a huge work on my heart and lately I haven't been nearly as frustrated as I was at the beginning. I've found that the advice "It's just for a season" isn't all that comforting because I hope to have lots of little kids, so this "season" might be a decade long. Nor am I always encouraged by "just keep your head up" or "You've got this, girl!", because a lot of times I find myself laying facedown on the floor, crying into the scratchy carpet, realizing I don't got this. I need deep encouragement about God's character---from scripture---ingrained on my heart when I'm going through something hard, and that includes when I'm going through frustrating moments in parenting. I'm a firm believer that there are no unworshippable circumstances. So here are 8 yucky parts of parenthood and how we can worship God through them.
When we see messes around the house, we can praise God that a living human being with his/her own thoughts and goals---as simple and/or devious as they may seem---made those messes. A little mind decided to move a roll of toilet paper from one room to another. A living being’s own hands picked up LEGO’s and managed to scatter them throughout every nook and cranny of the house. Psalm 128 is a beautiful picture of blessedness in which “your children will be like olive shoots around your table”...making messes, no doubt. What a gift liveliness and youth is! Proverbs 14:4 encourages me as well: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.“ There are productive, wonderful things going on in our sub-tidy homes. How amazing!
If Satan had his way, there would be no crying because there would be no babies. Can you imagine how horribly silent the towns or villages would have been in the days of baby Moses or baby Jesus, when Pharaoh and Herod commanded all babies to be killed? We can praise God for the life that produces those tears. (Russell Moore’s chapter called “Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood” on this topic in Adopted for Life and a blog post by a similar title really drives this point home.)
3) Unwelcome Wakings and Boo-boo’s
As Abraham Kuyper has famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Or, as God’s own Word says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” The sovereignty of God is a precious truth to me; not because I’m a stuck-up Calvinist but because I need to know that every nighttime waking, every sickness, every skipped naptime, every ER visit, and all the other unwelcome surprises come to me from my God who was not snoozing and is not bummed about it. He is the perfect Father working everything together for our good. Even small and frustrating life events may not be for our immediate happiness but they are definitely for our greater joy. (By the way, Romans 8:32 has been one of the most deeply meaningful scriptures to me for many reasons, one of them being that my son didn’t start sleeping through the night until he was 2.)
4) Missed Quiet Times
I’ve talked to a lot of Christian moms about this and one prevailing observation I have is that our babies apparently don’t want us to get in the Word. Knowing that we need to spend time with Jesus every morning, we’ll set our alarm for 6:30 and one of the kids will get up at 6:25. We’ll set the alarm for 5:45 and baby will start crying by 5:46. So we have the privilege of, by necessity, making the most of every bit of our time. Hour-long prayer walks in solitude are usually not an option, so we must learn to try to pray while we walk our kids. We need to learn how to glean from the Word in 5-minute segments throughout the day (for a season) when we’d much rather be able to sit down with our commentaries and journals. We get to work really, really hard on our spiritual disciplines. What a refining privilege! (But, boy, do I long for the privilege of uninterrupted time in the Word again!)
5) Naughty Behavior
God is kind to provide means of discipline. One of the biblically supported methods of driving away foolishness from a child---when done correctly and in love---is a gift from God and we must see it that way. If I wasn’t a Christian or if the Bible didn’t speak so bluntly about this subject, I would never dare to discipline my kids in this way. However, now I see that if that were the case, I would have absolutely lost my mind trying to figure out how to parent my strong-willed child. I would yell at him all the time and loathe his rebellious little self. But when I’m actually consistent with discipline, everyone (including my child) is happiest. A right understanding of who's in charge is most peaceable for everyone. I’ve seen John Witherspoon’s saying to be very true: “Those who keep the strictest discipline give the fewest strokes.” How kind of God to give clear direction in how we can discipline our kids.
6) Missed Opportunities
Since there are now so many limitations on how we can serve others, we might feel ineffective for the kingdom. Going on a mission trip when our kids are small is usually out of the question. We can’t be very involved in the ministries we might be quite interested in because we have a family and naptimes to worry about. It’s not easy at all to just meet up for lunch with someone. But we must remember that God’s hands are not tied by our situations! (And He actually considers children to be gifts!) He’s not saying “Drat! I had so many ways I wanted to use you, but you’re too busy changing diapers and doing puzzles.” He will accomplish His purposes for us (Psalm 138:8) and we will walk in the good works He’s prepared beforehand for us (Ephesians 2:10.) It might just look different (and probably more boring) than we imagined for a season.
7) Embarrassing Moments
Before I had kids I was already an awkward person quite prone to embarrassing moments, but blush-worthy occasions have multiplied exponentially since my womb got filled. I’m not sure if---as a mom---I have ever walked into a room looking cool, calm, and collected. I either have a huge snotty-nose stain on one or both shoulders (and pants, sometimes), or I’m trying desperately to pick up my screaming child up off the floor while attempting to stay modest. But in these moments we can praise God that He alone is who we are trying to please. Of course we need to care about others and seek a good reputation for His sake, but we can do that flowing from a solid understanding ofHis acceptance of us through Christ and a knowledge that He knows far more shameful things about us than our peers ever could...yet He still presents us before the presence of His glory without fault and with great joy (Jude 24.) Embarrassing moments from our kids helps us get over the fear of man and directs us to a right fear of God.
If I had to describe parenting in one word, oftentimes it would be “?”. A big fat question mark. I have no idea what to do. I thought I’d be a pro by Baby #2 and I’m definitely figuring things out better this time around, but nope, after countless conversations with experienced mamas and even after reading over 23 books about this new stage in my life, I’m verifiably a parenting noob. I think everybody is. Yet it’s wonderful to find ourselves in a place where leaning on our own understanding absolutely got us nowhere so we have no choice but to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. When we come to the end of our own wisdom (which parenting quickly does), we become much more quick to cry out to Jesus, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3.) We end up begging the Holy Spirit to show us what to do. We look to our perfect Heavenly Father to see what parenting should look like. And it’s beautiful.
I hope keeping these thoughts in mind helps lead you in worship this week!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today