Tomorrow, mothers everywhere will be greeted with sentimental expressions of love and appreciation. We’ll be treated to breakfast in bed and handed bouquets of freshly cut flowers. Church leaders will honor us for the roles we play in shaping our children’s faith and for modeling the compassionate, unconditional love of God. If you’re like me, you’ll receive all this gratitude and sentimentality with a smile but also with some lingering guilt. Mom guilt won’t even relent for Mother’s Day, it seems. There’s this ideal standard of motherhood in our heads, on TV commercials, and in Hallmark cards that for all our exhaustion and labor, and all our all guilt and comparing and striving, we’ve yet to reach.
Several weeks ago I introduced my kids to the Ultimate Beastmaster. We watched in embarrassed disbelief as each contestant spoke with increasing degrees of bravado and bluster about his physical acumen and how she IS the next BeastMaster! Despite all this self-assurance and training, fewer than one quarter of them made it through the first round and no less than four crumpled at the very first obstacle. It reminded me of motherhood. Whether we enter the arena with self-assurance or a healthy fear of what we might encounter, whether we enter the game with training or with only a prayer and a hope, nothing can fully prepare us for what we might find there. And each of us is more likely to be tamed by the beast than to master it.
As it turns out, none of us has what it takes. Maybe our legs aren’t strong enough to jump that high or we simply don’t have the arm strength to climb that rope or the energy reserves it will require to make ten back to back eight-foot leaps. My kids had barely reached toddlerhood before I realized I didn’t even have the mental and intellectual capacities to answer all. the. questions.
Not only are we deficient physically and intellectually, but we’re also forced to confront a deeply-rooted selfishness that is incongruent with the self-sacrificing, unconditionally-loving mom of our ideals. We feel the ugly selfishness when our tempers flare at a chronically fussy baby. Sin rears it ugly head when that sweet bundle of joy passionately hates his car seat and screams at every stop sign, light or if he even suspects you’ve let off the gas pedal (true story). That selfishness bubbles up in resentment when runny noses and fevers keep us cloistered at home for weeks without end. And as our children age, that selfishness surfaces in countless other ways—irritable and angry words, unreasonable expectations, impatience, neglect, emotional withdrawal, or fill in the blank with whatever feeds your guilt monster. We aren’t what we want to be; We aren’t what we should be. Like those would be beastmasters, we don’t have what it takes.
But for all this and more, there’s Jesus.
Jesus, who bore our sins in his body, so that we no longer suffer the guilt and shame of them (Hebrews 9:13-15). Jesus, the one whose blood continues to cleanse us as we daily repent and turn away from our sins (I John 1:9). Jesus, who stands ready to forgive. Jesus who even now prays for us in his Father’s presence (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus, the one whose image we are being re-made into (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 2:10). Jesus, who in his bodily resurrection made our souls alive, so that we can shake off the deadness of sin, resist temptation and turn in love and mercy to our own children (Ephesians 2:4-6, 10).
Jesus, who beckons us to come, lay our burdens at his feet and find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus, who understood human frailty and looks on us with compassion. Jesus, who calls us into God’s very throne room, imploring us to ask for the mercy and grace we so desperately need and then liberally dispensing it (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Jesus, who walked this road before us and is now in heaven preparing our eternal rest (John 14, 3-4; Hebrews 4:9). Jesus, the one whose face we’ll look for when we follow him there, now made perfect and complete like Him (I John 3:2, I Corinthians 15:48-49).
Jesus, who brought us peace with God, so that even while we wait for that day, our troubled souls and weary bodies call out:
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5
We may not have what it takes to be that ideal mother, but this self-knowledge, rather than giving way to despair bids us look outside ourselves to the one who is enough. And our lives are now bound up in his. (Colossians 3:3-4) This Mother’s Day receive your thanks and love in hope, knowing that the one who is enough stands behind you and with you, empowering and upholding you.