Have you ever been in a restaurant or a store or a plane, and a child decides that they are done and expresses it to everyone within a half mile? I saw this last week while at a restaurant. It was a quiet place, and out of nowhere there was screaming. Everyone turned to look at the mom sitting with her kids, and she tried everything to distract him for just a moment.
We all find ourselves, especially moms, in situations like that. You’re at the playground, but your kid doesn’t want to go down the slide. Or everyone is at the pool, but your child doesn’t want to swim today and is not cooperating. Inside, there’s a sense of inadequacy. “Am I not a good mom? Am I not a good parent? What’s wrong with me?” Other parents are talking about how well their kids are doing in school, and yet your child isn’t.
Recently I heard an ad on the radio for a learning center. It starts off with a mom saying, “I used to think I was a good mom, but then my son started struggling in math.” It goes on to talk about how the learning center rescued her and brought back her identity as a mother. The commercial was appealing to the mom’s sense of worth and identity.
We can get our identity from things that we don’t even have control over. We tend to want our children to succeed because it affirms our identity as a good person and as a good parent. We want our son to be the star baseball player or our daughter to be the star softball player. If we’re honest with ourselves, we often push our kids because it makes us feel good about who we are – that’s where we’re finding our identity. We all want to find our identity in the things that we do and in performance.
Being a mom is not about performance. Motherhood is not a competition with other moms. We buy the lie that says a good mom has obedient kids and a good mom has kids who do well in school. None of these things are bad to strive for, and it’s good to help your child achieve good grades and be engaged in sports or social endeavors. But that’s not where we derive our identity, or where your child derives their identity.
Your worth as a person is not found in how well your child does. Your value as a parent is not found in how well your child does. Whether your child gets an A or a C or lower, your value as a parent is not based on a performance in a particular classroom, or on the sports field, or in some social endeavor.
And being a good parent is no guarantee of good students or great kids. I know kids who come from difficult backgrounds who love God and are solid individuals because of God’s grace. I’ve also known kids with attitudes and behaviors that are twisted up and sideways, yet they come from amazing homes with parents who truly love Jesus and model that well. There are no guarantees, and so when we put our identity in our kids, we’re putting our identity in shaky ground.
So what makes a good parent, and where should moms find their identity? This morning, we ask ourselves where we put our identity and what that looks like. If God was going to choose a mom for the Son of God, who would He choose? He chose Mary:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. Luke 1:26-31
When the angel addressed Mary, he called her the favored one. The word favored is a variation of the same word used for grace (Charis). The greeting literally reads, “Greetings one who has been given grace.” When she wondered or pondered at that expression, the angel said “Fear not, for you have found favor with God.” The word favor is the same word used for grace – Mary was chosen as the mother of our Savior because of grace.
She wasn’t chosen because she came from the best family or had the best parenting skills or the most experience. Why would God pick her to be the mother of the Son of God? Because of grace! The calling of motherhood starts with grace, pure and simple grace. It is a high calling, and you may think you aren’t qualified. That’s probably true, and it’s true for all of us, too. We are all called to live by grace.
We all parent by God’s grace. It is God who gives life and forms that life in the womb (Psalm 139). That is God’s grace, and it is God’s grace that gets us through each and everyday – not perfection, not performance, not making all the right decisions. Moms, you make thousands of decisions everyday, and you aren’t going to make them all perfectly. We all parent by grace, and it’s going to be very difficult to parent and truly love your child if you don’t understand the idea of grace.
How did Mary respond to the angel? The news of her having a child as a virgin would have devastated her reputation. She was engaged to be married, and this would have been seen as a betrayal of her husband. According to the law, he could have ordered her stoned to death. She was a young girl, and her life as she knew it would be absolutely over. But how did Mary respond?
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Without regard for herself or her reputation, Mary presented herself as a servant of the Lord. It was by grace that she was chosen, but it was her heart of faith that enabled her to receive the gift of grace. She believed in God, she trusted in God, and her eyes were on the God of Israel. Mary had a heart of faith, a deep belief in the God that she knew and served.
We parent by grace, but it is our faith in God that the grace flows through. Motherhood is not a performance or a competition. It’s not about conforming to the pressures of this world; in fact, the Bible tells us not to be conformed to the world, meaning the systematic thinking and values of the world (Romans 12:2).
If we raise our children in Christ, they will have different values from the world. More is better, bigger is better, you deserve, you’re number one.. none of these things are Biblical values, yet that’s what we teach our children because that’s what they learn in school. Biblical values are found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 – how to love, how to forgive, how to show mercy, how to show grace, how to turn the other cheek, how to pray for our enemies, how to love those who hate us. Those are Biblical values, and those are what we should be teaching our children.
Your child’s value comes from being created in the image of God. Your son, your daughter, is an image bearer of God Almighty. You are an image bearer of God Almighty. We are created in the image of God and we were knitted together (Psalm 139). The heart of the issue is that we don’t want to be doing things or teaching our kids that it’s the way they look or the way they perform that gives them value. They shouldn’t have to have the latest and greatest just so that they can go to school and fit in.
As a mom, it’s hard when your kids don’t fit in. It’s hard to hear your kids cry and be rejected. But those are amazing times to sit with them, share your faith, and talk about grace. Your Savior who died for them was rejected and He did nothing wrong. He lived a life that was on the edge. Conforming to this world is not living on the edge – living on the edge is living for Jesus.
Motherhood is a calling to display the love of God by grace through faith to your child. Each and every child is unique, with their own bent or disposition, and has been placed by God into the care of their parents in a specific way at a specific time for a purpose. That purpose is not temporal, that purpose is eternal – that they may know the and understand the amazing love and grace of God.
Your children, moms, are in your home to see His grace through you. They watch faith through your prayers, through your generosity, and through your hospitality. They see God work as you forgive and are forgiven. It’s not about performing, it’s about living out Jesus in your life in front of them. It’s about experiencing what it means to be fully loved and fully known by God. You as moms will know your child better than anyone else. You will know them, and you will love them, and it’s a picture of God’s love for us.
God knows everything about us, and yet He still loves us. God knows our thoughts, our intentions, and every part of us, yet He still loves us. By knowing and loving and accepting their children, moms give a glimpse into the love of God. A child should learn about the unrelenting love of God and faith through their parents. When Paul writes to Timothy, he said:
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:5
Timothy’s faith came from his grandmother to his mother to him. They lived out their faith, and probably prayed for him. He saw their faith, and it compelled him to believe. The greatest legacy one can give their child is a life lived by faith. Paul describes it this way:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20
This is the life we are to model to our kids. It’s about Jesus, and what He wants. Faith is understanding how much God loves you, and then acting on it. When He calls you to do something, you do it because you know God and His character. He withholds no good gift and does everything for His glory and our good.
Many people struggle at Mother’s Day for many different reasons. We want to honor our mothers because it is a sacred calling, and God uses moms. Some people struggle with Mother’s Day because they want to be a mom and haven’t been able to be a mom. The same idea of grace and faith applies to you – God’s love for you is not second, His love is first. He loves you more than you will ever understand, and He only has good for you. Jesus gives life and creates life in the womb. God knows your situation and knows your desires, and yet for whatever reason has withheld that for your good and for His glory. As difficult as it may be to rest and to trust in Him, that is your calling now. Wherever that road leads you will be a good road because He loves you and has only the best for you.
Other women struggle with Mother’s Day because their life is filled with regrets over the past. I want to encourage you that being a mom is not about performance, it’s about grace. It’s never too late to rest in His grace. None of us are perfect, and we’ve all made parental mistakes – that’s where grace comes in. God is not out to destroy us but to help us and to lead us by His grace, and so we look to Him. There is no failure and no sin that is greater than His grace and deeper than His love. His love for each one of us (mother, father, child) is not based on who we are but on who He is.
God is not about performance. There’s nothing we can do to earn His love, and there’s nothing we can do to lose it. Mary was not a perfect mother, but she was called by grace and she lived by grace. We have been talking to moms here but this actually applies to all of us. No matter where we are in our life journey, married or single, with or without children, young or old, it is in Jesus that we live and move and exist. It is by grace through faith that we find rest in His love. It is by grace through faith that we share that love with others. And each of us like Mary cry out, “My soul exalts in thee,” because that is our ultimate purpose.