When motherhood and I were just getting acquainted, I thought I could approach her like taking a test. If I prepared well and made few mistakes, I could ace this thing and therefore send my children into the wild blue yonder with nary a carry-on size bit of baggage. I assumed good parenting would fit nicely within my hard work ethic and efforts, and the results would be few mothering mistakes.
Let’s all just take a moment to roll our eyes and say, “Bless your heart” to my younger, clueless self.
It didn’t take long to discover this parenting gig brought more trick questions and multiple-choice answers than I ever dreamt. I didn’t know all the answers then or now, not by a long shot. Some days, I was certain I didn’t know any. I made (make!) mistake after mistake after mistake, and I was sure I got everything wrong. I became afraid of my weaknesses, certain the more I messed up parenting, the more I messed up my kids.
Discouragement sat beside me and continually asked me one question: Why can’t you get your act together?
And the answer came like a song on a breeze,
Because it is through your mess I most teach you about Me. You are a great mama — not in spite of your mess, but because of it.
The longer I work through this parenting gig (nineteen years and counting!), the more I see it’s true. Because while we all have our hot mess moments and feel like we don’t often have our act together, we have a God who brings good out of everything all the time.
So, here are three reasons your mess makes you a great mama:
1. Your mess sends the message we’re to rest in promises, not perfection.
I know in my heart perfection is an unrealistic and downright bad ideal, but how often do I act like perfection is attainable and acceptable?
Perfection should never be the goal of parenting because a perfect mom is not an excellent mom. A perfect mom – if she could exist – is an unapproachable mom. How could our kids be close to us if we demanded perfection from ourselves or them? Our kids aren’t perfect, and they know they aren’t. They know we’re not. It comforts them to know Mama doesn’t expect perfection, either in themselves or herself.
So instead of resting in perfection, we rest in promises such as these:
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart, he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
It doesn’t say He spends energy on raising perfect little lambs but gathering, carrying, and loving them.
2. Your mess sends the message that you are just the right mama to raise your babies.
If you spend quality time with your kids, love God, and talk to them about Jesus’ love for them, you’re a good mama regardless of what you feel like. Regardless of what you see that mom doing over there that you aren’t doing over here and think you should be doing to be a good mom. Remember, it’s not good mom/bad mom. It’s good mom/different kind of good mom.
Often I tell my children that if God lined up all the kids in the world and told me to pick only three, I would pick them — the three I have. What if we turn that inside out and imagine God lining up all the mothers in the world and picking just one to mother your particular children? He picked you and only you. Since God placed your children — with their distinct personalities, character traits, and interests — into your life, you are the best mama for your babies, period.
We all have different kinds of messes, but we can all still be good mamas in the messes because God fills all our different gaps.
3. Your mess sends the message that mistakes are allowed and grace is welcome.
Our messy parts hold the opportunity to teach our children one of the most important lessons they can ever learn: grace.
Every parent blows it from time to time, but it’s what we do afterward that stays with our kids. When we mess up parenting, we look our kiddos in the eyes and tell them we’re sorry. We ask for their forgiveness and remind them that Mama needs grace as much as they do.
Proverbs 3:34 says, “The Lord gives grace to the humble.” When we apologize to our kids, we show humility and invite grace into our homes, and heaven knows everyone wants to reside in a house where grace lives.
Imperfection is the prerequisite for grace. Light only gets in through the cracks.
It is inside the imperfections, the weaknesses, and the cracks that light escapes. It is where Jesus is what we cannot be, so we can be the great mamas God designed us to be.
This article first appeared on (in)courage on February 9th, 2019.