Once upon a time I thought I knew everything I needed to know about raising children. Then I had kids. And every year since I’ve been learning a whole lot of things I didn’t know and couldn’t have known without these four humans who have the courage to call me mom.
Here are just a few things I wish I’d known right from the start.
1. That every child is made in the Imago Dei… the image of God.
Not in the image of me. Nor in the image of someone everyone thinks they should be.
God created that little one to be an unhindered expression of who He is, highlighting specific facets of His beauty in surprising combinations. No two will be alike. Not one of them will fit a mold. They are incomparable and impossible to define.
Because of that, we must approach each of the children in our lives with deep respect for the One who created them. To be rude or harsh or disgusted or rejecting of one of these little ones is an affront to the One who crafted them uniquely in the womb. To deface His masterpiece in any way is to dishonor God.
It is therefore a mother’s honor to go on a quest to uncover her child— not to force him into a mold of her own making. It is her honor to spend the rest of her life helping him to discover those unique contributions to the kingdom only he can bring.
2. That I am exactly the one God wants to mother my child.
Not someone better, wiser, calmer, richer, more patient… or more anything.
Somehow, in some way I cannot understand, He wants me to be the one to help my child become fully herself. So instead of cowering in fear or hiding in shame, I can listen confidently to the Spirit of God within me for specific ways to mother well and wisely.
It is therefore a mother’s honor to believe that He has given me all that I need for the job, along with His heart wide open to pour out more love and more wisdom than I’ll ever come up with on my own.
3. That nothing I will ever do will compare in importance to my role as this child’s mother.
Not a career or a clean house, not achievements or riches, nor the esteem and approval and friending of anyone. All those things that crowd my time and leave me stressed and worn out will never compare to the monumental impact of my role as this child’s mom.
Somehow I thought that maybe I had to prove something to someone in order to be important. Little did I know that the only ones who need proof of anything are those little ones in my own home. And the only proof they’re looking for is my unbudgeable love for them.
It is therefore a mother’s honor to sacrifice the more urgent but less important to see her child impact his world in unfathomable ways.
4. That the mundane moments matter most.
When your child is sick and finds comfort in your arms.
When your son is stressed and finds relief in your words.
When your daughter is afraid and finds safety in your presence.
Those are the moments when you insert earth-shattering truths about God deep into your child’s soul.
It is therefore a mother’s honor to be alert to her child’s needs. To meet those needs with all the loving flourish of the Father— laying a ground work for that child’s faith to be real, honest-to-the-bones, felt faith.
5. That the busiest mother can still be bored.
And boredom is exhausting!
A woman who is not engaged in creativity that meets the challenge her own soul needs will wear out from all the work motherhood demands. There is always room for the busiest woman to squeeze in the pursuits that fill her full and energize her for more.
Whether it is learning or art or writing or fashion or science or order or beauty or design, there is time. There must be time.
Therefore it is a mother’s honor to keep feeding her own intellectual/creative/people needs so that she is in a place of thriving while she is busy growing her children into thriving adults.
6. That our kids need to know that we like them.
Somewhere in all the correcting and training and disciplining and warning that happens from the moment our children are born until we wave them into their future, we inadvertently give off the impression that we don’t like them very much.
Our kids are haunted by the sense that we would like them if only… or when…
They grow up in good, loving, well-intentioned homes convinced that they are not enough… or too much.
It is therefore the honor of a mother to shower her children with affirmation. It is our mandate to assume nothing— to use our love for words and conversation to drill into our kids that we like them RIGHT NOW.
7. That what we don’t say is often more harmful than what we do say.
Silence is not golden to a child. Or a teenager. Or a young adult.
The withholding of interest in what interests your child suggests somewhere deep inside that he is not interesting.
It is therefore the honor of a mother to be interested. To make a concerted effort to loudly proclaim that interest. To see her child and then to say what she sees. To offer her approval on a silver platter. To give voice to all the beauty she sees in her child. And then to keep that conversation going through every episode of that child’s life.
8. That a specific, no-excuses apology from a mother opens floodgates of grace and forgiveness from a son or daughter.
That in fact, our shame-filled history of failure can be rewritten into stories of delight and joy if only we will own up to our mistakes. Our kids want to remember the best times… and willingly overlook the mess that we were so sure would mess them up forever.
But only if we admit the truth. Pretending just doesn’t cut it with kids.
It is therefore the honor of a mother to humble herself on a regular basis. To point out her mistakes and missteps and purposefully ask her child’s forgiveness for blowing it so badly.
9. That my children would one day grow to be my most intimate spiritual brothers and sisters.
No one told me this! I’d only heard the horror stories of fractured relationships and rebellious teenagers. At best, I’d heard, children raised in “religious” homes might settle into an uneasy compliance to the standards set by rigid parents.
No one mentioned those exquisitely vulnerable moments when the people who know every hidden corner of my soul dish up wisdom and grace and reminders of our Redeemer’s mercy.
When the daughter who sees right through me refuses to allow me to stereotype teenagers with tattoos and piercings and mohawked hair. Instead, urging me to see hearts courageously declaring a war on sameness.
Or when my son grows up to be my pastor, teaching me and opening my heart to worlds of wisdom I knew nothing about.
I had no idea the joy waiting for me.
It is therefore the honor of every mother to be taught by her children. To listen and to learn and to joy in the mystery of being joint heirs together.
10. That my success as a woman does not hinge on the success of my children.
Because what I really want for my kids, the thing I hope for more than anything else is not health or achievement or good marriages or fat paychecks. It’s not even a good life.
What I long for more than anything, is that my children will know the incredible riches of God’s grace. That they will long for Him.
What I really want for my children is for them to spend every day of the rest of their lives reveling in this Redeemer whose shocking choice to love them in the midst of their ugliness brings them to their knees in worship.
And for that to be true they’re going to have to mess up. To fail. To make mistakes big enough to embarrass them— and me.
It is therefore the honor of every mother who has been covered in that grace to cease the strutting and pretending and Christmas card cuteness and to allow our children to fail. And then to weep and worship with them when they discover the riches awaiting every one of Christ’s redeemed ones.
The truth is, I didn’t know any of this on that day my firstborn son came rushing, red and squalling into my arms. And he loves me anyway. They all do.
John Mark and Beks and Elizabeth and Matt you’re more than I ever dreamed possible. You’ve led me in the way of grace straight to the Father’s heart. And for that and a million other reasons, I love you.
From my heart,