I just received a voice message from a lovely new friend. It was a bit over the top as she praised my ability as a woman, a mother, foster mother and person in general. She expressed what an extreme honor it was just to sit next to me at a training and that it was an almost "spiritual" experience for her! I was glad it was a message because I would have hated to seem ungrateful as a giggled my way through the message knowing what mistakes I've made just today that would catapult me right off of that pedestal she has me sitting on.
It's funny, as a foster mother I get all sorts of praise from people I've never met before. When they find out we foster babies, and not just babies, mostly drug exposed babies...well I'm suddenly right there next to Mother Theresa (no offense Mother Theresa). I'm a: saint, angel, blessing, strong woman, amazing, uniquely qualified mom. They way they talk it's a wonder I've not won Mother of the Year or the Nobel Peace Prize!
I am truly not deserving of such praise. Even those like Mother Theresa, as a recent example, or most Saints throughout history, are well aware of their wretchedness and their great need for Christ. I am aware of my many many faults. I spend too much time doing this or that. I yell sometimes. I ignore other times. I put off or push away. I get angry and frustrated. I let things go around the house even when I do have the time to take care of it. Any good that might be seen in me is ONLY by the grace of our Lord.
Man is not and can not be "good" in and of himself. We certainly do not want to pity ourselves or beat ourselves up for our fallen state. We don't want to give in to false humility and place prideful expectations on ourselves that we won't be able to meet. Neither do we want to try and live up to the opinions and expectations expressed in the multitude of parenting books, seminars, videos etc. that are out there. I've often gotten frustrated with myself because I couldn't live up some expectation I'd created for myself after reading some wonderful parenting book. It's usually a great book full of inspiring examples of how to do correctly all the things I'm currently doing wrong :) Now I'm not saying those books can't be useful tools, but the methods used in most of them were unique to that specific family and may or may not meet the needs of the children the Lord has placed in my care. In fact, they may add more stress and chaos if the Lord is not first sought to bring light to the situations we face in our homes.
When Mary the Mother of Jesus went to see Elizabeth and Elizabeth praised her she didn't shrink back and tell her to stop. Of course she was carrying the God of all creation in her womb, but she praised herself. She declared that yes, she was blessed among women, ALL women! Our calling to motherhood is a high calling and we should be seeking to do our best and train our children well. Our society, in my flawed opinion, makes it very hard to keep from being a "yo-yo mom" with all the new information and research out there to support new methods. In past generations there seemed to be more of a "standard practice", at least on the surface, that households across the nation knew to be acceptable. Of course there were lots of children who felt unloved or without purpose leading to the great rebellion of the 60's, but with this smorgasbord society we live in now, it's very challenging to know what the heck we're supposed to do.
Now when someone compliments me on the job I'm doing I can, and should, say Thank You, always acknowledging God's amazing grace which is responsible for anything I attempt that works out well. I should accept kind words and take them in for the edification of my soul. But those kind words should serve two purposes in our lives and hearts. It is important to have kind words to lift us up, but they should also ALWAYS bring us back to our knees in Praise to our Lord for His mercy and as a new opportunity to seek His direction for the specific child or children He has place in our homes. That posture of kneeling also encourages the humbling of our hearts and is a confession of our lowly state so we can continue to receive His grace and strength for the journey. If ever I receive praise, may it be with thanksgiving to the One who has enabled me to stand.