Raising kids with hearts for Christ may be the hardest thing you ever try to do, but it’s also the most important thing. My friends, Dave and Ann Wilson have brought great encouragement to me in the areas of marriage and parenting. They don’t pretend to have it all together. But what they do have is a deep well of insight and experience. It’s a joy to welcome them to the farm’s front porch today…
It was my new companion, nestled comfortably between my two shoulder blades. Weighty. Hefty. Sometimes it took my breath away as I clomped through the early years of being a mom.
Where did this heavy backpack of burden come from? I had never before wrestled with the weight of it to this extent.
It had become my ever-present luggage—a weight I never welcomed and never anticipated would so severely hinder my movements as a mom.
But it did…especially on this day.
The day was typical, starting off with high hopes and enthusiasm.
I was ready to tackle whatever lay ahead. Bring it on world . . . I’m ready to rumble!
My husband Dave had a busy day ahead of him too, so he was already off to work before any of us had awakened. Breakfast eaten, kitchen cleaned, lunches packed, all three boys in the car, and we were off to school.
I patted myself on the back, feeling accomplished and confident.
By dinner time I was thinking, Heck, I’ve finally got this mom thing down, as I congratulated myself on the high quality of my mothering skills.
Job wrapped up for the day. Grocery shopping accomplished. Calls made. Lists checked off. Kids home from school. Dinner made. Children fed. All the boxes checked.
Hmm, where is Dave? I thought he’d be home by now.
Horseplay and roughhousing had begun to ramp up in the family room. It was getting loud. This was the part of the day when frenzy and craziness would often envelope the house in a crescendo that was sure to end with someone getting hurt and tears . . .
The kids sometimes cried too.
“CJ, we need to practice your spelling words for your test tomorrow. Let’s go to the kitchen to do it away from the distractions.”
Distractions? More like complete and utter mayhem, I thought to myself as a pillow was hurled at CJ’s head.
Where is Dave?
For the next thirty minutes, CJ and I went over each word with painstaking slowness. He was distracted by everything, while I was distracted by Dave’s absence. Officially, I was starting to get mad. He should have been home hours ago. Why hasn’t he called? Why am I doing this all by myself yet again?
CJ was trying to knock the saltshaker over with the edge of his eraser. We had been on the same dumb spelling word for fifteen minutes. This was not going well.
Where is Dave?
CJ was unfocused, so I tried to stay focused on the task at hand. “CJ, come on. Pay attention! Let’s get this word right this time. How do you spell _______?
Just as the question had left my lips, his eraser achieved success and the saltshaker tipped over, spilling salt all over the table. That’s it! The screaming and salting and waiting and trying—it was suddenly all too much.
“Ohhhh myyyy goshhhhhh!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.
And without thinking, I swung my leg back and kicked the wall as if I was David Beckham kicking the winning goal for the Olympic gold. The impact was surprisingly fierce as my little five-foot-one, 115-pound frame gave it everything I had.
My foot was successful in pounding a hefty hole in the kitchen wall. It was less successful in being retracted out of said hole; that is to say, it stayed there, stuck in the drywall.
You know how you often can’t scream loud enough to get your kids to come to you? Well, like baby bears to a dumpster, my three suddenly attentive fans ran to where I was in the kitchen, watching my every move as I awkwardly tried to unhinge my foot from the broken array of drywall that had entrapped it in shame.
Shock and astonishment radiated from their faces alongside fear and wonder, as if to say, How could this miracle have been accomplished by our mere and mortal mom?
Cody’s little four-year-old face looked at me with total wonder and admiration. He was impressed that I had kicked all the way through the wall, which was no doubt inspiring him to find ways to do the same.
Shame, guilt, fear, and horror began their treacherous group ascent to my mind, carrying with them ample supplies of accusations. Their cleated boots of unworthiness dug into my soul, piercing me with each step.
What kind of mom are you?
What kind of mom could lose her temper like that?
What will your kids remember about you?
What will this do to mess up your kids?
You are a failure!
I heard it over and over in my head. The backpack I thought I had finally mastered was suddenly full of bricks again, heavier than ever.
I felt a sense of panic as I quickly realized that Dave, my husband (and my pastor), would be walking through the door at any minute. What would I tell him?
My mind was racing when a brilliant thought surged through the middle of the pack. I sprinted up the stairs two at a time, racing into my closet, eyes searching for the box of leftover wallpaper. Yes! I foraged through the box, finding my prize, and sprinted back down the stairs, only to find three sets of innocent eyes peering thoughtfully into the eight-inch cavern of broken drywall.
Whipping the scissors out of the kitchen drawer, I commanded my now coconspirators to step aside as I began to cover up the crime scene before “Pastor Dave” walked in the door. This was working perfectly! No one would ever know. Ah, the cunning mind of a mother!
As I was contemplating my next move in the whole diabolical cover-up, the sound of the garage door suddenly interrupted my thought patterns, and in came Dave like “Dad of the Year.”
All three boys rushed to him with glee. “Dad, you won’t believe what happened tonight! Mom is wayyyyy stronger than we thought!”
“What do you mean?” Dave looked questionably at me, innocent curiosity twinkling in his eyes. I could feel my face redden with shame.
Then like a perfectly trained musical trio, all three boys blurted out the truth in simultaneous, harmonious merriment: “Mom kicked a hole in the wall!”
And there it was…Mom Guilt & Shame.
I had apologized to the boys telling them that I was wrong to lose self-control, wrong to not handle my anger more constructively, and I had reassured them this had nothing to do with them or spelling words. I asked them to forgive me, and as most kids do, they each promptly reassured me of their love and forgiveness.
Looking back, I regret my nights of shame…feeling like a failure, and even comparing myself to the mythic perfect moms. There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect kids! But there is a Perfect One who is cheering us on and offering grace!
The Bible says to take every thought captive. Jesus said, if you are weary and heavy laden, come to him and he will give you rest. The boys forgave me quickly, but I had a hard time forgiving myself.
I also needed to do some work on my marriage. I had been stuffing my feelings and frustration for so long that at some point I was bound to explode with pent up frustration, not at our kids but at Dave.
I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for Jesus who forgives my many mistakes and gives us do overs. I’m thankful for a husband that can laugh with me (later) at my not so perfect parenting mistakes.
I’m thankful for kids that forgive quickly and think an apology is all that is needed and not the many letters I wrote in the middle of the night to relieve my shame.
I’m thankful for a God that will take my shame, fear, and guilt, and remind me (and you) to rest in the comfort of His forgiveness.
I’m thankful for His resurrection power that prompts me to lay everything at his feet as he walks with me each and every day.
And…I’m thankful for wallpaper!
Dave and Ann Wilson cofounded Kensington Community Church where they served for more than twenty-five years. They are hosts of FamilyLife Today, have a national speaking ministry, and host their own marriage conferences across the country. Dave and Ann will let you into the real, even raw, struggles and joys of raising kids that can impact their generation in a powerful way.
Their new book, No Perfect Parents is an inspiring and resourceful guide that covers essential topics like learning to discipline without losing your mind or causing more chaos, the parenting guilt trip, the teen years, and the top five parenting mistakes.
Raising kids with hearts for Christ may be the hardest thing you ever try to do, but it’s also the most important thing. Packed with funny and honest stories, compelling illustrations, biblical insight, and practical steps you can put into practice today, this hands-on parenting manual will encourage and equip every parent through any stage. For parents and couples preparing to have children, Dave and Ann offer hope and strategies that really work, and some that didn’t.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]