I’m in a season of life right now that is much akin to being on a roller coaster blindfolded: motherhood.
Just when you think you’ve soared down the highest hill and can breathe, you are jolted sharply to the right, and then to the left. Just when you think you can get used to the speed, you are slowly clicking your way up the next hill, never knowing when you’ll drop again.
Yes, that sounds right, doesn’t it? We all feel like that. We can be as prepared as any one human can be, but when our jobs are to nurture little beings that we cannot control, unpredictability is an inevitable part of our daily equation.
This unpredictability, this unpreparedness, this wild ride is par for the course. Every one of us sits in the seat, harnessed in for dear life, with our feet dangling below. Though we all have different experiences, different children, different environments, one thing is the same: we all have nurturing hearts and the desire to do our very best for our family. This, my friends, should unite us. This should provoke each and every one of us to make every effort to encourage each other. Sadly, though, I feel we often walk around discouraged, watching other moms “do it better,” or so we think. We read articles about what we should be doing for our sons to make them into solid leaders, or for our daughters to be confident young women. We are inundated with advice on what we should be feeding our kids and how often. We are scolded for letting them have too much entertainment, and yet criticized for sheltering them. Public school is too rough, private school is uptight, and home schooling is just weird. Get them involved, but don’t have them in too many activities.
The world in which we live in sets us up for failure. We will never please everyone, will never parent like everyone, and most certainly cannot adapt our parenting techniques as quickly as the latest expert advice and trends change. So what’s a mom (or dad) to do?
Thankfully, we don’t have to do this alone. Thankfully, we have someone who sits at the controls of the roller coaster, and who assures our safety. Thankfully, we have someone who has promised to lead us through this journey, and that someone loves our kids more than we do!
One of my favorite verses to fall back on when I feel like I can’t take the twists and turns anymore is Isaiah 40:11: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
In Sunday school two weeks ago, I taught my kids about the name of God Jehovah Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd. We talked a lot about sheep. The kids loved to tell me all about how stinky they were, how they were loud, and how they wandered off all the time. We made the analogy clear that we are like sheep, always running away, and God is our good shepherd, always bringing us back. But then we read Isaiah 40:11 together. “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” They thought it was gross and inconvenient to lug a big, old, smelly sheep that close. You know what? I agree. The love of God, though, is so amazing, that He sees past all that. He, being holy, righteous and just, makes himself our humble shepherd. He’s not just “doing his job” but is doing it with extravagant love. He isn’t struggling with us as parents, wondering when we’ll ever get this right. He is lovingly, gently leading us.
Why do we criticize other parents? Why do we criticize ourselves? Don’t we trust our Shepherd to lead us (and others) to green pastures and still waters? The love our children need, real, agape love, doesn’t come from attachment parenting, organic food, play dates, or soccer trophies. It comes from the very heart of God. We can have the best intentions and can lay down the best plans for our little ones, but without God’s love poured into our hearts as mothers and fathers, we are unable to pour it into our little ones. We can co-sleep, puree kale, teach Chinese, and run a co-op, but without love, we’ve gained nothing.
With this in mind, why not encourage each other rather than tear each other down? If someone is a working mom, let’s encourage her…that’s a tough calling! If someone is a stay at home mom, let’s encourage her…those days are long and discouraging. If someone feeds their kids happy meals once a week, let’s encourage her…she’s making bellies full. If someone wants to live processed food free, let’s encourage her…that is a huge time commitment. If someone sends their child to public school, let’s encourage her…she doesn’t have to cover her child in prayer by herself. If someone home schools their children, let’s encourage her…it can be challenging and frustrating. This is not a contest, this is not a game, this is real life, and we can live it together.
Let us not compare and wear ourselves down. Let us not criticize and confuse the gentle leading in someone else’s life. Let us not be silent and watch others struggle along. Let’s be life givers. Let’s accept one another’s different styles and different leadings. Let’s celebrate the roller coaster ride, knowing that just as one of us coasts down a hill, another one of us is taking a twist, hanging upside, or screeching to a halt.
I am a good parent. You are a good parent. Let’s stop beating ourselves up and start being confident role models for our children, future parents in the making. After all, our gentle Shepherd has us close to his heart and wants the same thing we do: the very best for our young.