It’s just me and my wiggly daughter stretched out on our bellies on her bed, under a purple patchwork quilt with my Bible open in front of us. These bedtime devotions are a new thing for us– Boys downstairs, girls upstairs.
My daughter is seldom the one expressing deep theological insights, asking piercing questions about the nature of God, or overflowing with compassion for the needy as a result of whatever we’re reading in Scripture that day. She wants to know if it’s going to storm again or if she can go get a drink. She wishes she had more of the quilt or was wearing cooler pajamas or hadn’t left Bear downstairs. In the middle of my passionate discourse on the nature of God’s forgiveness, she is distracted by the realization that she may have forgotten to brush her teeth that morning.
We’re reading in John, but she has decided it would be better to discuss Jonah or Jude or Junie B. Jones.
“Mommy,” she says, “today I drank out of the hose at my friend’s house and her daddy told me not to but not until after I did it and I didn’t mean to be naughty.”
Or possibly, “Mommy, I wrote with Sharpie on the wall. See, over there?” That was three years ago, but apparently it fills her with great guilt because she confesses it regularly. Hence the discourse on forgiveness.
It’s no different when we sit at the dining room table and I show her how to regroup numbers or review the definition of a noun or how to count by threes. My firecracker daughter’s mind moves six miles a minute and seldom on the same track mine is on.
Parenting these three kids of mine has been so much different than I expected when I was expecting. My dreams were all rocking babies to sleep and taking them to ride on roller coasters and singing with them in church and idyllic afternoons of reading on the couch. I had no idea what I was doing when I started. Sometimes I feel like I have done nothing but make mistakes.
It is very easy for me to look at the mothers around me who have children with different flaws than my children have, and to think those mothers must have the secret, that I must be doing something wrong, that maybe I’m just the worst mom ever. And if that’s true, then I’m probably the worst wife ever, the worst pastor’s wife, the worst person. Of course that’s all very melodramatic but I know it’s not just me. We are all so prone to insecurities.
I think motherhood brings those out more than just about anything else. So much of what we do is unseen and seems to have no real effect on anything. And then we look at that mom at church or at the grocery store with all her neatly-dressed, quiet children in a row with their hands to themselves, and we look at our own pew or aisle full of what seems to be four times as many children as we actually have, squirming and fighting and dropping things and basically looking like we tried to bring a family of octopi to church instead of a family of human children. And we think we must be doing something wrong.
2016 is filled with so many voices telling us what we are supposed to do, look like, act like, think. This is true for everything, not just parenting– for our marriages, our jobs, our friendships, our churches, our physical health. There are a million people all shouting for our attention in their blogs and social media posts, on the news and even in our Bible study books. And sometimes those voices can be helpful– obviously I think that or I wouldn’t be adding my voice to the cacophony. But if we listen to too many voices, we are going to become confused, frustrated, and eventually despairing. Because the voices don’t agree with each other, and they seldom have any idea of the whole story of our personal situations.
There is only one Person who knows the full truth about our lives, our families, our personal situations. One Person who also knows exactly what is the next right step. One Person who created us, planned our lives, delights in us, walks with us, leads us, and has more than enough grace to cover every mistake, every failure, every grievous sin.
That’s why I keep saying this here– Eyes on Jesus. Because He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Because He is the Creator of our lives and of our children. Because His is the voice we are to listen to and follow.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
It takes work to hear the voice of the Shepherd, because His voice is quiet and gentle and doesn’t usually yell above the voices of everybody else. If I am to hear my Lord, to recognize His voice, to know His approval and His plan and His love for me, then I have to quiet myself with His Word, shut out all the other noise, and listen.
Eyes and ears, all for Jesus.
Not looking to the super homeschooling mother with her color-coordinating lesson plans and her amazing brilliant children.
Not looking to the super fit mom with her super athletic children in their matching 5K t-shirts, eating celery sticks and hummus.
Not looking to the amazing woman with her immaculate house and immaculate kids and immaculate fingernails.
Not looking to the soft-spoken mama who somehow never raises her voice yet manages to keep all eight of her children in perfect order at all times.
Not looking to my friends with the fabulous careers, the fabulous vacations, the fabulous abilities, the fabulous abs.
Looking to Jesus.
Friends, God puts voices in our lives– people to listen to and model ourselves after, people to advise us and to lead and guide us. But the enemy puts voices in our lives, too– voices of condemnation and comparison and just NOISE that drowns out truth.
The only way we’ll ever know the difference is to look to Jesus, to learn to recognize His voice, to humbly ask Him to teach us and guide us, and then to welcome with open hands the gifts He gives, even when they wiggle and ask inappropriate questions and struggle with spelling and bait their siblings and seem so imperfect.
I am so imperfect too. How glad I am for a God who loves me anyway. Why would I want to turn my eyes away from Him, even for a second?
Eyes on Jesus, everyone!