I remember the first time I called a friend from the floor of my bedroom in the Philippines and confessed I wasn’t fit to be a mom. Someone needs to come get Nicole and bring her to the kind of person she deserves, I said over the phone through tears. Surely anyone would be better at this than me.
It’s embarrassing to write that and read the words back now, but those were very real feelings from a very real place inside of me at that time. And that’s not the only time this harsh inner critic inside of me has gone there. Being a mom to Nicole revealed in me what plenty of other areas in my life had tried to hint at for a long time – I was worshiping an idol of perfection.
Because when you put the quiet expectation on yourself as a mother to never fall or fail them, to never show when you’re scared and never feel angry – then somewhere along the way you’ve stopped acknowledging God and decided you can be a good enough god to the people you love instead. We may never say it that way, but the exhausting way I was living and striving exposed me. I expected myself to always be able to love and care and be everything for Nicole perfectly.
Nothing had me chasing impossible standards more than motherhood.
I was so consumed trying to do things for her that only He can, and then beating myself up whenever I’d fail. I had to reach the end of myself and the idol had to be exposed so I could repent. Only God could save her, heal her, comfort her, and give her what that special heart of hers truly needs each day. Only God was with her for those first 9 years of her life, and when she turns 15 next month only God knows what her future days hold. All the redemption that fills her story is from God and any glory there is his.
I love Nicole so much, more than I ever thought possible, but I cannot be her savior. And when God entrusted her to me he never asked me to try. There’s actually power and strength in humbly acknowledging this limitation each day.
If I’ve learned anything from the past 5 years it’s that I’m going to keep getting it wrong. I’m going to fall asleep some nights wishing I had held more space for her pain or been more patient with the ways she’s learned to cope in this world after trauma. I can always listen better or respond differently when I’m frustrated. Just this morning I lost it when she let the dogs run inside all over the freshly mopped floors. (This particular fight will likely happen again next week, if I’m honest though.)
I am not enough for her. But I know the One who is.
My work as a mom, as a friend, as a Christian, as a leader, is to do the best I know how to right now and then as I know better, I can do better. There is grace upon grace for every moment in between.
If you’re doing the good, holy work of mothering right now (in any form) then there’s space at the table this weekend for you to rest from your striving and be celebrated just as you are. Far more important than anything our people will ever receive or learn from us during the years they’re in our care, is what they gain from being near the One in whose image every one of us was made.
I am so lucky to get to love Nicole and to be loved by her. I couldn’t have known all the ways this love would change me or how my heart would explode out of my chest each time she smiles. Watching her grow, thanking God every time she’s safe, seeing her overcome the impossible – her life is a miracle and I’m simply a witness. I’m still very much learning what it looks like to be a good mom to her. But I know now that I want to be the kind of person who brings my brokenness and imperfections as an offering every day instead of endlessly striving and beating myself up when I fail.
I’m committed to doing the best I can with what He’s given me and trusting God to do all that I can’t- in Nicole and in me. That’s all He’s ever asked from us anyway.
Sisters, Christ is in you. I hope knowing that helps you rest in grace this weekend.