Our monthly “From the Heart” blog is designed to aim holy enCOURAGEment into the hearts of moms and daughters like YOU. One of the quotes my sweet southern mentor repeated to me as a growing believer was, “Darlin’. Remember, God can hit the mark with a crooked stick!” That simple truth is such a relief to the hearts of mommas like me who strive relentlessly to keep it all straight only to be reminded daily of our crookedness. The author of our July blog is an All-Star momma not because she is perfect, but because she is graciously “perfectable.” Lisa Stogner lives passionately receiving God’s grace for herself—then lavishing it upon those in her home and spheres of influence. She has led heart groups of moms and daughters through the Heart of Womanhood Bible Studies. If our hearts are the target, these words will hit the bullseye to bring grace and freedom to YOU as God’s beloved “girls!”
For more than half of my life I have struggled with being a perfectionist. If you’re familiar with the enneagram, I am a 2 (The Helper) with a 1 wing. As with all numbers on the enneagram, there are strengths and weaknesses. As a 2, I am relationally driven and have an innate desire to serve others. My 1 wing allows me to stay focused and strive for perfection. When I am in a healthy state of mind, I am able to balance others’ needs with my own needs, do things well and give myself and others grace. However, when I am not in a healthy state of mind, grace often gets replaced with shame.
Shame on You
Shame is an emotion common to all human beings, but the enneagram types in the heart triad (2, 3 & 4) can experience a more chronic sense of it. For instance, I often struggle with the lies that I am not enough and I have to earn God’s love. Truth be told, in Christ I am enough and loved. Nothing that I do can ever change my identity in Christ.
This morning when I was running suicides at the gym, my inner-perfectionist critic was saying things like… “make sure you touch the line; no one likes a cheater; if you mess up everyone will judge you; move faster; you’re not doing this well.” Each and everyone of us judge and shame ourselves and others daily. We have thoughts and actions that reveal how broken we are in this fallen world. We fall short of God’s glorious standards.
Romans 3:23-24 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
All of us miss the mark at times, and we don’t just do it at the gym. For us moms, motherhood might actually be our most significant shaming venture.
After my first baby was born, my body did not make enough breastmilk. A week after I brought my baby girl home from the hospital, a college friend stopped by for a visit. Once he got wind of my milk shortage, he kindly suggested supplementing and even helped me make a bottle of formula. I am grateful for his nonjudgmental act of love. As a new mom, it’s easy to feel judged and shamed by all the ideas and opinions surrounding you, but at the end of the day all of us moms just want a healthy child. Months went by and I tried everything under the sun to increase my milk supply, but my body never made enough for me to stop supplementing with formula. In my mind, my body had failed. I had failed. My baby girl wasn’t even a year old, and I had already ruined her life.
You could argue that I set myself up for failure and that my expectations were too high. Nobody expects me to be a perfect mother. But like millions of other moms, I have been bombarded by a powerful message that insinuates that I am responsible for every aspect of my children’s well-being, and their future is dependent on my ability to be a perfect mother.
As the years passed, I gave birth to two more children, nursed them without any problems, and quickly discovered shame is inevitable in every aspect of motherhood. The lie that we have to be perfect impacts most moms. Some moms struggle extensively with feelings of guilt and shame. Other moms try to minimize these feelings by attempting to control every waking hour of their children’s lives.
Shame from Others
Partly to blame are the tsk-tskers: the barista who challenges your coffee order when you’re pregnant, the mother-in-law who asks why your child still sleeps in your bed, the neighbor who makes a sly remark about your ketchup not being organic, or your own mother who announces on social media that your family would be healthier and happier if you gave up your career and started homeschooling. We have to stop thinking that we know what’s best for every person on this planet. What works for you, may not work for someone else and that’s okay. There is no shame in doing things differently.
What I’ve learned as a mother is there are some things you can control, but there is a lot you can’t. As Christians we are called to raise our children to know Jesus, but we can’t control their relationship with Him. We have to give ourselves and our children grace. We are not and will never be God. Nor will we ever be able to see the entire picture of our children’s lives like He can.
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” -1 Corinthians 13:12
Did you have a bad morning with your toddler? Did you lose your temper and say something that you now regret? Did helping your elementary child with homework make you want to gouge out your eyes? Did your gift of sarcasm enter into a conversation when your middle schooler volunteered you to drive carpool for the next decade? Did you ask your high schooler all the wrong questions about a romantic relationship? Did you offer unwanted advice (tsk-tsk) to your adult child regarding a topic that is none of your business? Did you hide behind a screen because you were too tired to engage in a difficult conversation? Did you forget to show up, return an email, make an appointment, pay a bill, fill out a form, pack a lunch, make dinner or order pizza?
Replace with God’s Grace
It happens! Missing the mark in motherhood doesn’t have to be something that you and I need to fear. Jesus’ sacrificial, unconditional and perfect love gives us the grace to try again and make things new. Jesus doesn’t want perfection from us. Instead, He wants a personal and authentic relationship with us. The Portraits of Womanhood Bible Study series provides a grace-filled way for moms and daughters to grow in that authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other.
Grace enables us to love better and encourages us to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves and others. Grace gives us the ability to walk in freedom knowing we are forgiven, accepted, and redeemed by the God of Love.
“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” -John 3:17
Because of Jesus, moms and daughters can live today “marked.” Rather than “missing the mark,” we live “marked” as ones who are saved from shame—lavishing God’s love and grace!