Confessions from a Mama of 8
This may come as a shock to you, but I’m not a perfect mother.
I’m not even terribly patient – which seems counterintuitive for a homemaker with a slew of eight littles.
Wait for it: My children are also imperfect, as incredible as that may seem.
And sometimes after a “situation” erupts, the child who has done wrong and is clearly at fault often becomes hard.
It’s like a grim, defiant varnish falls over their face, mind, and heart, and they stand there, refusing to apologize or make things right. They are clearly miserable, but unwilling and apparently unable to make the move to the safer, higher ground of repentance and reconciliation.
Often the initial problem is actually overshadowed by their belligerent attitude while being corrected – to the point where they experience the interesting phenomenon of receiving a consequence for their ongoing attitude rather than the initial wrongdoing.
It’s difficult for me to fight a natural justice-driven instinct: I want to remain hard and cold to the one at fault as if I think any softness on my part will seem like encouragement or a reward for the bad behavior or choices.
The worrier in me anxiously frets that the child will have some kind of permanently flawed character if I don’t react with appropriate, cool sternness. I fear that if I don’t address their error in an appropriately punitive way, they will become a shallow, entitled, willful adult who mocks at upright living. And I will be seen as a weak, capitulating parent unworthy of respect or attention, world without end, amen.
Yet most of the time, any hardness, harshness, or strict reproach from me, even if totally justified, usually tends to bring out only more hardness in my child.
In fact, it often escalates the situation, igniting more conflict rather than bringing any sort of resolution, much less the kind of heart-change I hope for.
One time I found myself again confronting a defiant, unrepentant, and stone-faced child – but this time, by God’s grace, the usual Molotov cocktail of anger, bewilderment, and fear in my own heart wasn’t there. Instead, I felt an unexpected peacefulness and a loving tenderness toward my child which startled me.
Looking down into the little stony face, I reached out and enveloped my child in a warm hug, gently rocking back and forth, stroking their hair. And the stiff little body suddenly melted into softness with relief. Arms were thrown around my neck and a little voice choked out a very sincere apology while tears streamed down.
My undeserved gentleness and kindness brought on a sudden softening – a genuine repentance that I could never have forced or manipulated.
Can you relate to the child described above? I sure can.
When I’m angry, hurt, embarrassed, sorry but too ashamed and proud to admit it, sometimes I am my own worst enemy in being able to find the peace and comfort I long for and the reconciliation that brings it about. But an unexpected kindness brings swift softness and acknowledgment of my wrong.
What we really need in those moments after we screw up (and realize it) is grace: Someone to extend undeserved kindness and mercy and provide a place of safety in our brokenness, because we yearn for acceptance and reconnection in our repentance, and mourn because… We know we don’t deserve it.
In our hardness, defiance, rebellion, anger, pride, and shame, our God reaches out to us with loving arms, showing us stunning mercy and kindness. Especially when we have done nothing to deserve it.
Being responded to like that melts the hardness, coldness, and shameful fear away. And we find the courage and safety to know we will be held and loved and forgiven without harshness or shaming (even though we might still face the consequences of our actions).
The times I have experienced the most kindness and grace when I have done wrong often are the times I react with the greatest contrition and true repentance.
I have seen the same happen in my kids again and again.
Let’s ask God for the courage and ability to gift His loving kindness to our children and those around us, to show His glorious grace and stunning tenderness even when it seems undeserved and counter-intuitive.
And we’ll know that it’s a way to most closely resemble God Himself, and to represent His love to a broken world desperately in need of reconciliation with Him.
We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, NLT
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on East Willow Place