Burnt umber oil paint is a curiosity to three-year-old boys – particularly when the little boy is in his room without adult supervision. It becomes even more of a wonder when the tube is opened and little fingers are busy squishing the oily stuff into a light brown carpet.
Eventually the little boy’s mom realizes that the house is too quiet and she runs up the stairs to check on her young son – well, she runs as fast as an almost full-term pregnant mom can run.
And what do you suppose her reaction is when she sees her boy’s lovely dark brown masterpiece on the light brown carpet in the house she and her husband are renting?
No need to guess. She was me and I know just exactly what she did. She went ballistic, almost postal. She yelled at that little boy and then she tried to clean up the mess. Next she yelled some more and tried to clean some more. Finally, she gave up in despair, yelled a little more and sat at the top of the stairs and cried her eyes out.
Sound like a crazy person?
No, but definitely a person who had lost sight of what being a mom was all about.
I knew God had given us our sweet little babies and I knew that He had chosen us to be their parents, but I really did think the rest was up to me.
I had to perfectly discipline them so that they would grow up to be good kids. I had to be a perfect example of a Christian so that they would grow up to be godly kids. Somehow I had to make sure that they loved and served God. If they didn’t, it was because of something I had done wrong.
Was it any wonder that when they showed their human, sinful natures I lost it?
I felt guilty because I wasn’t the perfect mom and I tried to make my kids share my burden of guilt.
Grace? I’m not sure that I knew what it was. I knew that I was saved by grace, but I had never made the connection that we live by that same grace. I didn’t know that I needed the gospel every day. I didn’t know that every time I tried to do better, I was slamming the door in the face of God and His offer of love and grace.
The apostle Paul told the Galatians that he was shocked that they were turning away from the gospel of grace that he had preached to them. They were wandering back into the Law and trying to earn their own righteousness by their works.
They were trying harder to be good Christians and their reward was despair and guilt and anger because they couldn’t do it.
They had forgotten what I had forgotten. I was already loved and approved by God because of the sacrifice of His Son. I did not need to seek approval from the members of our church or from my family or even from myself.
I needed to follow Paul’s example:
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:19-21
So what do you need to do to be a good mom?
Throw away the “good mom rule list” and rest in the grace of the God who died for you and loves you with an everlasting love. And offer that same kind of grace to the other sinners who live in your house.
photography by Joseph Barrientos from Unsplash