Here it is: For YEARS, my selfishness (and pride) has kept me from being the parent (and wife) I wanted to be.
I stumbled into parenthood AND marriage… in that order! Actually, I fell flat on my face and spent way too long wrestling myself (and the Lord) through every single step of the journey. When I finally got my act together, I had no idea how to be the wife and mother I so desperately wanted to be. I knew I didn’t want my kids to be raised in the kind of home I was raised in, but sometimes that motivation isn’t enough.
Why do I say this? Because after traveling across the country and hearing other women (and men) share their own stories, I know I’m not alone in what I’m feeling. Maybe it’s because some of us weren’t raised in the most nurturing homes. Maybe our experiences in church led to unrealistic, or legalistic, expectations. Maybe societal mores carried more weight than we care to admit. Sometimes, despite rational thought, we just want to believe Jerry Maguire and convince ourselves that somewhere exists a person that will complete us. (*cough, cough* Jesus)
Sometimes we try everything in our power to “fix” the problem, but we just make it worse. Here are a few more confessions for you, just so you can see how bad things REALLY were before we left on this little adventure:
*For years, I resented my husband and his ability to chase his professional dreams. (And when I say years… I mean, like, 18 of them.)
*About 10 years ago, Jamie left his job so I could pursue my professional dreams. But, then I got pregnant with Holden and those dreams were no longer obtainable.
*I FINALLY got to a place in motherhood where I could take on Seminary. I wanted to teach at a collegiate level and began that journey… until it became clear the Lord was calling our family to invest in Be The Change Youth Initiative. I changed my degree and let go of that dream too.
* I NEVER wanted my kids to pursue music. That one issue alone has brought out the worst in me. (Two summers ago, I sat in the recording studio and told David I hated him, not once, but TWICE. And then it took me weeks to apologize to him.) Simply put, I don’t want the “music life” for my kids.
*Every once in a while someone will ask Sydney if she’s really the one behind Be The Change, or if it’s me pushing her to do it. And every single time I have to resist the urge to full-on cuss them out. (I mean… I do it in my head, but Jesus doesn’t like that either. So… I still have some work to do, I guess.) The answer to that question is a resounding NO! We laugh about it now, but it took a while to get to that place.
Why share all this with you? Because I’m the first one to admit that I’m a mess, that our family is a mess. We’re not on this adventure because we have something to offer. (But, I know God will use us in the mess.) We’re on this adventure because we have SO MUCH to learn. There’s nothing worse than having the Lord reveal sin in your life and then have absolutely no idea what to do with the revelations outside of confession and repentance. But, man, other people have opinions about it and love to offer up their thoughts on what God is teaching us. (Insert an eye roll right there.)
Some people hope my “big” revelation is that women can’t do everything and that they need to focus on the “most” important thing: being a wife and mom. (For real. I’ve had people actually say that… to my face.)
Sorry… but, you’re not getting that from me.
Don’t get me wrong, those things are important. But, they aren’t the most important. Taking on the roles of wife and mother don’t negate the call of the Great Commission on my life… but, maybe more importantly, they don’t LIMIT the Great Commission to the insular grouping of my family. I’m also not competing with my husband, or children. For so long it seemed like our lives were a balancing act and everyone needed to have “their time” in order to feel like things were “fair.” But, in the construct of our lives, it was never “fair” for me. And this was the problem. Sort of.
For the past few years, the word ‘balance’ has been one of the “it” words in ministry. But, I’ve always taught the young women in my discipleship groups that BALANCE isn’t a word, or concept, you really see in the Bible. It IS a word you see and hear a lot in the world. And, for me, the balance that the church kept talking about wasn’t something I saw in scripture. I still couldn’t articulate it, but something was off. And it had been that way for far too long.
We’ve spent so much of our lives living the American Church Dream. We’ve listened to Sunday morning sermons that NEVER mention Jesus. Not once. How about the church building campaigns that bring in more money for playscapes and laser lights than non-profits committed to ending global sex trafficking? We give out of our abundance, but never sacrificially. Not really. A lot of us don’t actually share the gospel with anyone… we just invited people to church. And THAT might be part of the problem. We were inviting people into a relationship with the church, not with Jesus.
Our family didn’t just need a change. We needed a paradigm shift.
My last confession: About two months into this trip, our family took a “time-out” in San Antonio and the Lord, for the briefest of moments, showed me something new. After years of wrestling God and resenting my family, He showed me a glimpse of something better. (And let me be clear, that resentment had NOTHING to do with my children or my husband. It was the result of people in the church constantly limiting my contribution to the body of Christ to the confines of my roles of mother and wife.)
Another example is the incessant guilt heaped on my kids for not wanting to use their musical gifts in the church. They don’t feel called to be worship leaders and no matter how many people argue differently, it won’t change their minds. Or, when my husband would volunteer to hold babies in the nursery while I would teach young women… and men in the church would say that I was keeping my husband from using his gifts. (Thankfully, my husband was quick to tell people that his gift is serving others and just because his profession dealt with speaking in front of people, that doesn’t mean his gifts for the edification of the body are the same. SERIOUSLY, I love him more than words.)
We refused to believe that “church” (as we knew it) was the reflection of its true purpose. I refused to believe that I was defined, or limited, by the roles I take on. I refused to accept the box that many in the church tried incessantly to put me in, to put my family in. Not because it limited us… but because it perpetuated harmful stereotypes and limited the power of the Holy Spirit.
Over the course of that weekend, the Lord began showing me how much healing had already taken place. Our relationships with one another were mending and becoming stronger. Our heart for the church was starting to unload the weights of resentment and bitterness. Our relationship with Jesus began to change course. And it’s because our faith was starting to change. I daresay, it was becoming real for the first time, which is a scary thing to confess. (I mean, if that’s a true statement, then what the heck have we been doing up until that point?!?!)
And that’s a great question.
The Lord was changing my heart. But, not just mine. My kids were starting to genuinely talk about their faith with others and not because they had to. They wanted to. For this season, we were free from the compartmentalization of our lives and the roles (and expectations) others were placing on us. There was no balancing act for all the hats we wear. No fight to maintain fairness. We were given a season to simply exist and rest in Him… and our true identities will never reside outside of those two components.