Tropical heat, malaria risk and swollen feet characterized my first pregnancy. It’s not a rare equation for a lot of the world, but it was for me and my Canadian roots. Deep in the African bush, I learned to take care of my pregnant self, and then later the beautiful bundle of sweaty joy that we brought back to the village.
This week, it’s 8 years ago I became a mom.
Becoming a parent is a transition in life where I believe you can learn so much about the Gospel.
The self that you give up to care for the needs of your baby, the sacrificial love you offer by seeking their needs above your own. This is the Gospel. Christ’s sacrificial love given to us, seeking our need for reconciliation above any need of his own.
As we become parents, we model this for our kids. It’s a beautiful, practical picture of God’s love for us.
The parenting journey is filled with love...and it shapes our endurance, perseverance and who we are becoming. The pathway of our journey, however, is something we don’t control; the terrain we travel, the roadblocks we encounter are unforseen and sometimes surprising. How we react to this journey brings out stuff in our own lives and we can learn to become aware of it and respond rather than react.
Think about your last road trip. How did you react when you (or your spouse) missed a turnoff? Was Google Maps fast enough to redirect you, or did you have heated moments in the car, trying to navigate how to turn around?
How do we react when our plans don’t hash out the way we want them to, or imagined them to? It can be hard. And that’s ok. We hold our expectations in our hand and by faith we move forward into the unknown.
In my young twenty-six year old mind, I probably thought the kids would be the ones to learn and grow the most, but the tables have turned and I'm so grateful for what this journey has taught me.
So, here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
I will never do it perfectly and that's ok.
This is somewhat my theme song, if only to remind me that I’m a recovering perfectionist.
I begun to learn that perfectionism is not a good thing. That "Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: if I look perfect, live perfectly and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement and blame." (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)
Brene's quote packs a punch and has helped me understand a lot about myself. Striving for perfection is how I was raised, a behaviour I adopted as I grew up. Now, I see how it has hindered my ability to recognize God’s grace in my life.
It’s been a challenge to let go of my mistakes and imperfections, and turn to Christ and His beautiful Gospel that teaches me confession, repentance and restoration. That I don’t actually have parenting (or life) all figured out; that, yes, I am going to make mistakes; God’s love for me does not change, His Spirit does not leave me, rather He desires to use those circumstances to bring me deeper into His love and who He is.
The Gospel reminds me that there is much grace for me. I have been set free from bondage, and I am so grateful!
My children are a gift.
They have been given to me graciously by God. I don’t earn the right to be a parent, I don’t control their existence (as much as I would like to sometimes). They are held by me with an open hand, allowing God to form and shape them through their circumstances, as I prayerfully and diligently come alongside to love and disciple them.
It was the first mosquito who made his way inside my baby’s bed net and I worried about her getting sick with malaria. Or when she was a toddler and ran right beside a puff adder (poisonous snake), like a literally a foot away from it, in her toddler running bliss. Playing with other kids under a tree and a snake fell out of the tree right beside them. My son fell into a garbage pit. My youngest became really sick and needed a bone marrow transplant.
These are a few of the reminders to me over the years, how God has been faithful in the scary, anxious times, and that He is in control over the circumstances that I am not. He has a purpose and a plan in each moment, and I have learned to practice holding my kids with an open hand and trust God’s sovereignty.
You can coast, or you can sail
Being a parent can be a noun, or a verb.
It can be passive or intentional. I can sit by and let life happen, or I can be active in it.
I can choose to stay where I am in my own life. Accept my imperfections and behavior as status quo. Coast on through the toddler, elementary and teenage years. My role as a parent can be a noun, it’s the person who I am. I can leave it at that.
I can choose to continue evolving, growing and developing as a person and pursue who God is calling me to be. Embrace my imperfections, confess my mistakes to my family, in humility consider them better than myself, and pursue an abiding life in the Lord towards all that comes my way. This is sailing. It’s active. It’s intentional. It’s being aware of the weather, putting up the sails and navigating the waters.
In 8 years being a mom, I’ve not got it figured out. But by God’s grace, He helps me figure it out day by day. Without the Gospel, our parenting is just like everyone else’s, but with the Gospel, we are empowered to bring life and fullness into our families, whether the path is straight & paved, or if there’s switchbacks and roadblocks.
Parenting can bring out the best and worst in us, may He help us in our time of need, with the humility and grace to seek Him above all else.
So, remember today that you are loved. You have not failed as a parent, or as a person. There is a good plan and purpose for your life, there is a road to reconciliation with the One who created you and loves you.
What have you learned on your parenting journey?