Last night was rough as my last daughter shared her thoughts with me about her childhood. I cried. I felt like a complete failure. I thought, "I don't want to be a mom anymore. I still have no clue what I'm doing after 21 years!" No, I wasn't abusive. I didn't neglect my children. I didn't belittle them. And yes, their perspective might change when they have children, but I own that I didn't learn how to nurture their hearts in ways they could soak it up the best.
I'm sure you've all heard of the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it he discusses 5 different ways we receive love. Often we give love the way we receive it. The problem with that is we may not be giving love the way our children or our spouse receive/understand love and our great efforts sometimes don't produce the fruit we were intending to produce. When we give from our love vault, their "receiving department" sometimes doesn't register as many deliveries as we've made. Sometimes we discover how to get a good sending and receiving routine going when our children are young. Sometimes it's not until you ask the hard questions of your older children. And what does it mean if we are near or beyond the end of our parenting journey? What then?
Joel chapter 2 has a lot to say to us. The book of Joel is a book of prophecy focusing on the need for judgment and repentance. It's only 4 chapters long but has so much to say. He first calls Gods people to repentance.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm." Joel 2:12-14
And then he offers God's hope:
"Fear not, O land;
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvelous things!
Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
For the open pastures are springing up,
And the tree bears its fruit;
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the Lord your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you—
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.
The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." Joel 2:21-25
When we "fail" it is so easy to fall into despair. Family is a BIG part of working out our salvation. Motherhood is a marathon we run. There are good running days and bad running days. There are days on the course we just sit down and weep because we're so exhausted. Right when I was in the middle of a good cry completely doubting my abilities, my 14 year old came upstairs. He had no idea I was crying. He just came to get water, but his presence reminded me that I'm not done. I have a lot more years left. I have more opportunities to repent, confess and press on. I have a lifetime of this family marathon to run well, run poorly, sit down utterly exhausted and then run, crawl or drag myself through over and over again. The mistakes I've made with my oldest children may not be the issues my younger ones have, but I am confident they'll have their own interpretation of their childhood that didn't meet either their expectations or my hopes. But we press on with perseverance the race set before us!
Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, "you are a saint," the other, "you won't be saved." Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins. -St. Silouan the Athonite
Dearest Lord Jesus, show me how to be a loving mother to my children. You know the desire of my heart is to mother my children in a way that will draw them to You. Forgive my shortcomings and help me not to sink into despair, but to rise up in faith with the knowledge that Your holy power is strong enough to sustain me and guide me to be the mother my children need. Help me to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and quick to forgive my children of their faults. Grant me Your vision for my children that I may know how to train, encourage, and pray for them. For You are holy, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
We need to be gentle with ourselves, dear mothers, and embrace the life of joy, sorrow, repentance and humility we are called to as mothers and followers of Christ.