Motherhood is a gift. But it’s the most challenging, humbling, “put you flat on your face” kind of gift. As wonderful as it is, with each new season that throws me into uncharted waters, I come face to face with my limitations, weaknesses, and sinful nature.
What’s more, when I look around me, I see other moms making different choices and navigating different circumstances than I do. None of us has exactly the same answers for how to best feed, educate, and nurture our children. Watching other moms sometimes makes me question whether I’m doing things right.
The one thing I can say with confidence after 17 years of parenting is this: I am not enough.
Thankfully, I’ve learned to realize that God is.
The apostle James tells us, “[God] gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6).
Motherhood is a humbling business. But the soil of humility is where grace comes to full bloom. It’s not a grace that excuses our sin or shortcomings as moms but one that enables us to live in the freedom of God’s all-sufficient grace. By grace, we realize the Lord doesn’t expect perfection. He calls us to repentance and dependence as we lean into his strength and control instead of our own.
I’ll be the first to admit, however, that it’s far easier to preach this than to put it into practice.
The soil of humility is where grace comes to full bloom.
Whether we’re in the exhausting years of infancy, the physically demanding toddler and elementary years, or the mentally and emotionally taxing years of tweens, teens, and beyond, each season draws to the surface our inadequacies, weaknesses, sins, and limitations.
While we tend to assume we’re the only ones who can’t seem to get it all right, God makes it clear this isn’t what he expects of us. Instead, he calls us to humbly acknowledge our humanity and run to his plentiful grace as we navigate the ups and downs of motherhood.
But what does this grace practically look like?
While there are countless ways that God’s grace meets us in motherhood, here are a few that I believe all moms can relate to.
Grace in Strengths, Weaknesses, and Sin
Like our children, we’re uniquely wired. The strengths, weaknesses, and sinful tendencies we experienced before motherhood will find their way into our lives as moms.
One mom may be more structured, have a higher capacity than others, and thrive on order; another mom may be more bent toward creativity and flexibility, and more easily drained by the physical and emotional needs around her. One mom may find charts and schedules to be a helpful way to teach her children; another may use conversation and teachable moments as her children experience the world around them.
Some moms are strong and healthy; others navigate motherhood with weakened bodies or minds. Some moms had godly examples as they grew up; others have to work through past trauma or negative examples that were left for them.
All of us are battling sin. We’re in different places spiritually, striving to point our children to Jesus while we’re still in the process of sanctification.
The beauty of God’s grace is that he already knows our weaknesses, strengths, and battles with sin because he intimately knit us together and knows us better than we know ourselves (Ps. 139:13–16).
Instead of boasting of our strengths or beating ourselves up over our weaknesses, we can see them redeemed and used by God’s grace as we humbly submit them to Christ, acknowledging he alone is the giver of our strengths and he alone can be the strength in our weaknesses. Instead of being paralyzed by our sin, we have the gift of the gospel that allows us to seek not only the Lord’s forgiveness but the forgiveness of our children when we sin against them (1 John 1:9).
Grace in Our Parenting Styles
God’s Word gives many black-and-white instructions for parenting: We’re to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). We’re to teach our children the truth of the Word (Deut. 6:6–7). We’re to always strive to grow in Christlikeness as we point our children toward the same end (Col. 1:10).
But much of motherhood is lived in the gray: what kind of diapers we use, whether we breastfeed or bottle-feed, what type of schooling we choose, what activities we get involved in, how much screen time we give our children, the methods we use to teach the truth to our children, and so on. For every choice we make, we’ll see another mom making a different one. And unless it’s directly going against God’s commands, we have the freedom in Christ to make such choices.
Humility requires we acknowledge that much of motherhood is made up of personal convictions. It guards our hearts from pride over our way being best and from insecurity over getting it wrong if another mom chooses differently.
In the end, God’s grace in how we parent gives us the confidence to walk in the freedom of Christ and the humility to remain teachable as we continue to seek guidance and wisdom from the Lord and those around us.
Grace in Our Circumstances
Each one of us has been given unique circumstances to navigate as a mom. Some are navigating complex special needs or chronic illnesses that affect every part of motherhood. Some are living in difficult marriages; others present a united front with their spouse. Some are surrounded by a healthy community; others are in a season of loneliness. For all of us, our circumstances are like the shifting wind, constantly changing and influencing how motherhood may look in that season.
God’s grace in how we parent gives us the confidence to walk in the freedom of Christ.
During times when our son’s special needs were at their height, it affected what I could be involved in, how I could discipline, the energy I had for relationships, and the way family time in the Word could look. Some days I was 15 minutes late to church and braving the judgmental stares. Some days I had to cancel a playdate because of challenges with my child or a health flare. It was tempting to feel ashamed when I looked at everything I couldn’t manage—but God’s grace tells me he knows the specific challenges I’m facing, and humility means accepting my limitations.
As difficult as it may be to feel frustrated or ashamed about our circumstances and the limitations they bring, this is where we learn to throw ourselves on the grace of God. He doesn’t call us to live a perfect life as a mom but one of dependence on him.
Sister, may this truth strengthen and encourage your weary heart today. If motherhood is exposing your limitations, weaknesses, and sin, you’re right where you need to be to receive the grace and forgiveness Jesus has for you and your children. Being a mom isn’t about getting everything right or being everything our children need. It’s about leading ourselves and our kids to the only One who’s truly able to be and provide all we need.
For it’s in that place of humility and dependence that we’ll come to know the joy and freedom of being an imperfect mom who finds her confidence and strength in the all-sufficient grace of her perfect Father.