It was a Sunday morning, and my teenage children and I were together at church. My son Gregory was in the worship band, rocking it out on his bass guitar. He was swaying back and forth, almost dancing, and belting out the song lyrics with a strong confidence. Later, during communion, I found a quiet place to pray with my daughter Hannah. I let her pray first, and she prayed so long that I didn’t think I would get to have a turn. She prayed a beautiful prayer that touched my heart.
It was later in the day as I was relaying these events to my husband that I realized that in spite of myself, my children had turned out well – they are hard workers, they have tender hearts and they unashamedly love Jesus.
I was surprised. Not surprised that THEY had turned out well, but that they had turned out well having ME as a parent. I was probably not the easiest mom to have. Besides being human, which brings in selfishness and pride, I have a whole list of other faults, imperfections, and failures.
I have VERY high standards. I homeschooled my son as if he did not have a disability. I taught my daughter as if she was at the same educational level as my son. Although I told them that a B was okay, they knew that in her heart of hearts, mom really wanted them to make an A. I’m an overachiever and I expected my children to overachieve as well. After all, their father has a Ph.D.
I am OCD about a lot of things. When they were younger I was a perfectionist in my housekeeping which meant that messes were not to be tolerated. Toys had to be cleaned up often and mom freaked out when there was an accident. I struggled with “Cherries in the Snow” nail polish being spilled on Hannah’s new creamy white bedroom carpet, and I’ve promised her that when she sees the therapist for that tear-filled event, she can send me the bill. It is a moment in time that we would both prefer to forget.
I have struggled to let them grow up. When Hannah got a boyfriend, I really messed up. It was not in our plan, and I handled things horribly, even chewing out the dear boy. More than once. I learned how to admit my mistakes and make a heartfelt apology in this season. Likewise, it has hard for me to let Gregory, who has autism, to become an adult and do things on his own. Slowly I am prying my hands off my children to let them go and be the unique people God made them to be.
I parented out of fear and control and manipulation. I can see now that most of this was because I felt completely out of control, so I tried to control my environment because it was the only thing I had power over. I wanted quiet, clean, planned, and no surprises, which is impossible when you are raising young children. My children often experienced the brunt of me feeling out of control. We still joke about the the orange throwing episode. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Although my children would often find me reading my Bible, I have struggled in my faith. When they were sick, I called the doctor’s office first and prayed later. I did not often respond to crises with great faith but with reason and intellect and knowledge. I did not always model unconditional love and quick forgiveness. But I did try; it was always my goal.
It’s a wonder that they even lived through it.
Through all nineteen years of my parenting, I have known Jesus. I have sought Him, I have prayed, I have walked closely with Him. But I’ve been imperfect anyway. My children didn’t turn out well because of anything I did. In fact, based on my performance, they should be a total disaster. My children turned out well because of the grace of God, and nothing else. Only the grace of God can take the imperfect offerings from a selfish, OCD, fearful, and controlling woman and make something beautiful out of it. Only grace can do that.
The beauty of my story is that it is your story, too. If you are raising children, you are probably struggling with your own imperfections. You might yell or control or freak out or just lose it all together. You probably worry and you are selfish and you make decisions out of fear. Being a parent pushes you to your limits, that’s for sure. And in your failures and imperfections you probably feel like you are ruining your children, preparing them for a life in and out of the therapists’ office.
Grace can take your imperfect offerings as a parent and bring forth something beautiful in your children. It can undo harsh words. It can smooth over a mommy meltdown. It can bring love and understanding when there have been divisive disagreements. It can even help a controlling, OCD mommy learn to relax a little bit.
God takes our best efforts and works something miraculous with them. He creates the children that we longed for, but we were unable to shape on our own.
He takes our brokenness and produces something beautiful.
To God be the glory.