Every mother I know has made mommy mistakes. And they’re all pretty similar. No mother can live their child’s entire lifetime without making errors of judgment and reaction. We rarely talk about these mistakes, but they gnaw away at us, tormenting us in the dark of night, even after we’ve asked for forgiveness and worked through the reconciliation of the moment and the rehashing that occurs when our children reach their twenties.
We’ve done all we can. We’ve changed. Yet we continue doing penance, even though Christ doesn’t require it.
We regret the yelling, the times we believed the wrong kid over the truthful one, the times we disciplined when we should have just listened, the times we were selfish about our comfort or our needs, the times our commitments and life pursuits crowded out our kids, and the times our anger and impatience caused us to overreact to minor offenses.
Because we were first loved by Christ, we are commanded to love perfectly, to live selflessly—choosing to place our children ahead of ourselves, to delight in them, to show them affection and mercy, to passionately protect and cherish them, and to make all decisions lovingly. In short, to love like Christ.
The command is perfect love. But we are not perfect.
The clock cannot be turned back, and we cannot revisit those moments to react with the patience and discernment we have now gained ten- or twenty-some years later. And, we still are not perfect, even though we’ve grown.
The spiritual work in many mothers’ lives is to grow to believe that God can actually forgive us for our mothering mistakes. We know what Matthew 18:6 says: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Don’t we know it! We deserve to die. We are offenders.
We received our children with open arms. We poured ourselves into them. We put their needs ahead of our own. We fed, clothed, taught, and loved them. But, our glaring errors outweigh all of that in our minds. And often it’s the only part our kids remember. Our actions caused them to sin, to distrust, and to doubt God’s justice for we were unjust as his representatives. We are guilty.
Thank God for his countless second chances! Thank God for his forgiveness!
Christ—the perfect Lover of our souls—put on flesh and came to live the perfectly holy and loving life on our behalf. And then he allowed himself to be killed as a sacrifice to pay for our sins, because we cannot love and live perfectly. We are broken. He was not. God accepted his sacrifice for us.
When we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us. The blood of Christ provided the removal of the guilt of sin as well as the cleansing from sin on a permanent basis.
Ephesians 1:7 tells us that in Christ “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.”
Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Our forgiveness rests on the merit of Christ’s sacrifice and grace. It is not dependent on the forgiveness of others, on constantly flagellating ourselves over our failings, or on any other means. Do we believe that Christ is enough?
If so, we must learn to rest in this truth. We must focus on the lavish nature of his grace. He chose to die for and to forgive women like us. We must cling to the fact that God reached in to grab us out of darkness and transferred us into his Son’s kingdom. We are forgiven.
When God looks at us, he sees Christ. Now we must believe God and see ourselves likewise.
Can you step into grace and learn to believe God? Ask him to help you. He is near.