It is 3:49PM on a Sunday. I am between times that I am “on”, because I work in the mornings and the evenings on Sunday, with a long stretch of what feels like waiting in between. And every Sunday afternoon I think I will exercise but all I want to do is nap. And then my youngest asks to watch a movie and I am too tired to say no. And then I am sitting in the playroom scrolling through Netflix and anticipating my pillow and blankets and it hits me.
I look at his eyes while his eyes look at the screen and I think to myself, “what am I doing to this child?” And in that split second I jump on the guilt train, and it chugs along, me thinking about what this second movie of the day is teaching him, and what he will remember about his childhood, and how this television is poisoning his brain and sucking his soul right out of his eyes into the vaporous mist of cynical and empty media, and how he’s probably getting ADHD from watching so much TV and not breathing fresh air, or eating organic veggies.
All this, while surfing Netflix.
And I walk away from him, little and curled up and alone on the sofa, and I think about how I should be playing a card game with him or initiating an art project or building a fort or telling him a winsome parable that will point him back to spiritual realities. But I am too tired to act excited about cards or art or forts, and I really don’t know how to tell five year olds really great parables, especially when I just feel guilty about it.
Guilt doesn’t lead anywhere good.
The train picks up speed and the thoughts don’t stop, and my heart jumps in my chest and I feel a lump in my throat, because I realize how I am deeply lacking–how my ideal and my reality–in mothering, in loving, in leading–are so, so far apart. And then I am sad, because I want to be all and do all and I want to do it really well, and sometimes I wonder if I get confused about what really matters, and I get all twisted up in identity and desires and the vast chasm between my reality and my ideal, and it feels so heavy and burdensome and I am more tired and now I feel defeated.
It is late and school is cancelled, and so I ask my oldest if he wants to go to the grocery store with me, and he surprises me by saying yes.
And he is older now, he is old enough to venture down an aisle alone and pick out doughnuts, and he is old enough to have normal conversation with, and in the privacy of the dark car I ask him about school, and he tells me with an almost adult tone about how he thinks school is good, and he talks maturely about how he is “taught really well”. And I remember that earlier this week my heart was pierced with guilt because I thought school was going so badly. And here, in the comfort of darkness and side-by-side conversation, I get to hear his heart, and I get to receive grace.
Being a mom is a scary proposition. Sometimes I am causing wounds. Sometimes I am mending them.
My pastor said today that in Isaiah 40, when God comforts his people, he proclaims the good news that we’ve “received from the Lord’s hand double for [our] sins,” and he told us that the double God offers is not only forgiveness, but using our broken places to bring beauty to our lives. And that God is the only one who can take what is broken and painful and sinful and not only forgive it, but redeem it into something good.
And somehow, in between the movie watching and the grocery buying, there was a sweet picture of that redemption. Because every day I am not enough as a mom. But every day God is enough. And in those guilty moments, I plead for his grace, and he provides for me. I won’t do it right, I just know I don’t. But I don’t do it alone. Our God is there, shaping, working, redeeming.
And the truth of grace is deeper than guilt, so I let the truth wash over me.
Grace trumps guilt every time.