Saturday, May 11, 2013

Am I a Mother?

It seems most fitting that on Mother's Day I personally define who I am.

I scan the pages of an old journal covered in teddy bears and pink ribbons and bows.  The words on the page are quite sobering.

September 9, 1990 (that makes me 10 years old)
" I know that nobody likes me, I wish that someone had."
"I want to be cool and have a friend."
"I wish I was good at sports like all the other kids."

23 years later and it's amazing how some thoughts still creep into the deep crevices of my heart. 

I've spent some time this week reflecting on Mother's Day and reading about the history of Mother's Day.  Most profoundly are two thoughts:  from a personal, reflective perspective Mother's Day forces us (me) into one of two categories- 1.  I am a good mom, and therefore deserve a gift, respect, a breakfast in bed, cards, flowers, etc, etc.  or 2. I fail as a mother, I can't get my act together, my children are heathens all condemned to hell, my house is a mess, I can't ever keep up with laundry or dishes or dust or anything!

It is in neither of those places I am comfortable.  To say I am a "good" mommy never bodes well with me.  As one of my favorite writers says- "I ain't no hallmark mother."  I know the truth.  I know how many times in today alone I raised my voice.  I know how many times I said the wrong words.  I didn't listen to the tender stories being told by my babies, I didn't rock away tears, I didn't speak of the gospel, I didn't play, I didn't teach, I wasn't a good mommy.

Yet, to name all my failures seems to send me into a downward spiral.  A frenzy of pain, guilt, shame, loathing and despair. 

And yet, I desperately want and desire to be a "good" mommy.  I want to be good at what I do.  I want the world to see me as a good mother.  Yet, I am not.  I can't.  No matter how early I awake.  No matter how hard I try.  No matter what I do.  I. Can't.  I. Fail.

How?  How do I, as a woman who spends nearly every waking hour of my life tending to little children , define myself in any other way than a mother?

And to be honest.  If I got a report card on my mothering abilities.  "F."

Big fat "F."

Oh the world might catch glimpses of me.  They might see me calm, or not raise my voice.  They may see me with all my children peering into a basket of newborn puppies, while we all giggle and laugh and relish the joy of new life.  Some may sit at our dinner table and listen to each of our children pray.  They might think they've been taught well.  They may see me hold a crying child and whisper words of comfort.  They might see a lot of me, but what no one sees is all of me.  The truth.

I told a child today they were a "snotty, crabby. whiney, brat, that no one wants to be around."
I rolled my eyes.
I punished out of anger.
I distanced myself from a child that doesn't want to love me.
I didn't listen.
I didn't kiss their skinned knees.
I thought more about my needs than anyone else's.
I didn't tell each and every one of them I loved them over and over again.
I chose myself over each of them.

If a mommy is who I am.  I fail.

To be even more honest.  I am exhausted.  I find "mommy-ing" exhausting.  The potty-training, the temper-tantrums, the learning disabilities, the handicaps, the anger, the tears, the crying, the late nights, the whining, the whining, the WHINING!!!!!

The performance.  The behavior of my kids at the grocery store I feel directly reflects me.  The behavior of my kids at Sunday school directly reflects on who I am.  If my children have manners.  If my children eat all their vegetables, if my children know their ABC's and their colors and their constant vs. vowels.... the performance of my children seems to directly reflect on me... on my skills as a mommy.

And it's all exhausting.  And on Mother's Day I'll wake up exhausted.

I'll feel like I am drowning.  My natural instinct in the words of another favorite author " it is natural to paddle harder and kick faster when you feel like you are drowning."

And I'll wake up tomorrow and feel like I am drowning.

My expectations.  What I expect a "good" mommy should look like, I won't be able to meet. My performance is clearly not that of a "good" mommy.  Tomorrow morning, just like every other morning, if I look on the performance of me as mother, I will see all that I didn't do, and all the areas I failed.  I will see what I wish I was, and see what I am not.  I will feel the burden to be something that I wish I was.  I will feel the burden because my very identity as a mommy is at stake.  I feel the burden because I am a prisoner of my own demands.

Luke 4: 16-19   When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.  The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come

So, how do I celebrate Mother's Day then?

By realizing that Jesus came to set the captive free. (that's me)

Free from my own demands.
Free from the pressure of having to make it on my own.
Free from the burden to get it all right.
Free from the obligation to fix ourselves.
Free from the need to be right.
Free from the need to be rewarded.
Free from the need to be respected.
Free from the need to perform for my worth, identity, or value.

Jesus transferred HIS performance to me when He chose me as His daughter.

Jesus won for me by dying on the cross. 

Because Jesus won for me, I am free to loose.
Because Jesus was strong, I am free to be weak.
Because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no-one.
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.

The gospel liberatingly declares, that in Christ we already ARE a winner, strong, someone, and already successful.

Then who am I?

My identity is not in what I do, but in what Jesus has already done for me.

Before I am a wife, before I am a mother, I am a daughter.  A daughter of the King.

My life will no longer be judged on the performance of me as  mother (or wife, or friend, or sister or "_____")  My life will no longer be about what I do. My life will no longer be about what I do not do.  My life is about what Jesus has already done.

My life, my identity, has nothing to do with what I do, my identity has nothing to do with my past, my future, my strengths my weaknesses, how clean my house is, how good my dinners are, how much I weigh, my family background, my education or my performance as a mother but instead, my identity is firmly anchored in Jesus' accomplishments not mine. 
 On this mother's day I am free.  Free from what other's think of me, and free from what I think of myself.

My happiness will not be found in anything other than what Christ has already done for me.

May the JOY of what Christ has already done for each and every one of us be what motivates my heart today.