In my last post, I shared the three most common responses to our failures in motherhood. As I prepare to share this follow up post, I find myself needing this message more than ever. I find myself in the midst of one of the busiest months this year (and that’s saying a lot because it’s been a busy year!). I find myself almost eight months pregnant. And I find myself edgy, cranky, and generally uncomfortable. Making it a challenge to walk out peaceful motherhood. So, even today, I have had to remember the truth about failure in motherhood and walk out God’s design for what to do with it: repent.
Following on the heels of my last post (click here to read), let me just share that I was the classic justifier for so long. But as I began to see how wrong I actually was, as I began to admit my failures, I so often found myself stuck in the wallowing category. I’d feel such pain and regret over my mistakes…specifically my mistakes in motherhood. The moments that I have failed one or both of my boys are some of the most painful, weighty moments of my life. The last thing any mom wants to do is fail her child. The ache is so great.
Only in the last year or so have I discovered the hopeful and freeing reality of repentance. The restorative reality of praying for healing amidst my failures…healing in me (to be transformed from those places of failure) and healing in my boys (for the places I have failed them, hurt them, or let them down). It’s not that I don’t feel sorrow over the times I let my boys down…I do…but I have somewhere to go with that sadness, with that regret, with that pain. The process I am learning is simple, but it is bringing me hope that maybe, just maybe there will be healing in the places that I mess this mom-thing up.
I thought I’d share some of the practical pieces of what I do to walk in a reality of repentance and transformation (specifically in the realm of motherhood). In everyday life, this repentance reality doesn’t necessarily follow in the specific order I am about to lay out or even play out as formulaic as it looks below, these are just all the pieces that mesh together as I process, repent, and pray over my failures. These flow from the following truth:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
What Living in the Repentance Reality Looks Like for Me:
I identify and name the failure. I am specific about it (whether in prayer or in journaling). I admit to myself what I did wrong.
I repent…always to God. Often to the child also. I say what I did wrong, where I messed up and I express that I don’t want to keep doing that thing. There are things that I’ve done or looked back on, though, that wouldn’t make sense to my child at his specific stage, so those places of repentance (at least at certain stages) are between God and me. I’ve journaled them and hope to share them someday in the future at a more appropriate stage.
I ask for forgiveness…always from God. And again from my child, too, if the topic fits his stage. I am quick to ask my children for forgiveness, even for the smallest wrong. It sounds like this, “You’re right, that was wrong of me to _________. Will you please forgive me?” or “I am so sorry that I hurt you just then. Will you please forgive me?” Sometimes it’s simply a harsh word that could have been said so much more gently. It is so humbling and at the same time such a powerful experience to ask your young child for forgiveness.
I pray to Jesus for healing over that area of my life and in my relationship with my child in regard to that failure. Sometimes I pray alone for healing, journaling my heart-longings to not stay stuck in that messed up pattern I keep exhibiting. Praying for Jesus to heal that part of my relationship with my child, knowing that my mistakes cause areas of brokenness in mine and my child’s relationship. Sometimes I pray with my child, usually a simple prayer asking for Jesus to heal what I did wrong and to reconnect my child and I.
I pray that Jesus will change me, transform me on a heart level. This is huge for me. This is not me just trying to be a better mom, but me asking Jesus to actually change my heart.
I make every effort to live in line with that transformation, attempting to listen to the Spirit to give me insight about how not to walk right back into that same broken pattern, that same way of messing up.
When my heart is still breaking, even after repenting, asking for forgiveness and healing and transformation, and I am tempted to wallow and not move forward into hope, I will often ask God to speak His truth over me…how He sees me, how He is at work…I have even asked Jesus to show me where He was in that moment that I failed my child (and doing so is such a powerful experience of knowing that He never left me nor my child). This is the faith part of walking out repentance: trusting that God is actually engaged in the process of healing your failures when you hand them over to Him.
What This Looked Like Today:
Yesterday was not my best day. My husband is the middle of a 70+ hour work week. I am almost eight months pregnant (tired, cranky, and super, super uncomfortable). My boys (2 ½ years old and 4 years old) are reeling a bit from all the chaos in our life lately…and now are both sick…again. I was short-tempered, cranky, snappy, and irritable yesterday. I was not a patient mom. I did not act with kindness well yesterday. So. As I noticed myself losing my patience, raising my voice, getting irritated with my little boys, I worked hard to stop and apologize to the boys in those moments: simply admitting what I did wrong, saying it was wrong, and asking for forgiveness. I said so many silent prayers yesterday for Jesus to help me make it through. Then in the middle of the night last night, I lay awake thinking through the day. Thinking through my own soul chaos in the day. Thinking through all that is going on for my boys right now. Listening to the Holy Spirit point out where I am failing. Admitting to it. Asking for His help. And then this morning, first thing, sitting with my boys (and my husband) explaining that it was wrong for me to be so cranky the past few days and apologizing and asking for forgiveness. In this conversation, I also expressed how hard it is for me to be this pregnant right now and that I need their help as I work on not being cranky. I talked with the boys about being a team together while I don’t feel good. We talked about me working on not being cranky (and even them working on obeying). It wasn’t even a half hour before I could have become cranky (with both boys not feeling well, the whining and demands and edginess surfaced almost immediately in our day)…but having repented, I was free to walk forward in peace…depending on the Spirit to help me be different than cranky. My repentance didn’t remove the opportunity to struggle, it simply freed me from being stuck in the struggle.
That’s what living a repentance reality looks like in my everyday life. I’d love to hear stories of how you have learned to live this way! If you’ve walked this out in your family, what does it look like for you to live a repentance reality with your kids?