My oldest daughter turned two last month and the youngest is 6 months right now. When I look in their eyes I dream about the women they will become some day. I long for them to display the gospel in all its radiance through their lives. I want them to love God, to turn from the empty promises of money, to marry godly men.

David Powlison said one time that the two most important things about your children you can’t control: whether they live or die and whether they live or die spiritually. 

Of course we can influence both of those things. We can lock the cabinet with cleaning chemicals. We can discipline our children and talk through heart issues. We can point them to the cross: their only hope and our only hope. But we can’t ultimately control those things.

There is a fear that lurks in the dark shadows that whispers, “You can do this whole parenting right before God and your children might reject him for ever.” And we know godly parents who have taken their role to raise their children seriously and the children have walked away from God. Will that happen to me? And how reassuring is it that I can say, “I did my part,” when our very own children become our enemies?

In the silence that follows an uneasiness grows. Could I ever really say, “I did my part”? Don’t I fail my children in a million ways every day when I love sleep more than people? When I am not content in God and want a nicer home? When I am crushed because I didn’t get the approval I crave from people on my cooking? my writing? When I indulge my daughters?

But these are just small failures. No one is perfect…

“I did my part.” Becomes, “I did pretty well … there are a lot of parents who are worse than me.” And I realize that once again I am putting my hope in something other than Jesus.

I can’t handle the thought, not that I might fail at mothering, but that I have failed at mothering. And that my failures are significant. And I have only been at this for two years.

It quickly becomes not just about how my children turn out someday, but about being able to live with myself. I find myself back at the heart of the gospel. I have failed at what matters most, not just at mothering. I can’t look at myself and feel satisfied. I turn from looking steadily at who I really am. It’s suffocating. It’s unbearable. I can’t handle it. I want to escape. I want to say, “I’m pretty good.” But I’m not.

“What if I fail at mothering?” isn’t really the question. The question is, “What do I do when I realize just how much I fail at mothering?” How can I look at myself again?

And there hangs Jesus. My only hope. My daughters’ only hope. He proclaims to everyone that I have failed so fully that it took the cruel death of the Son of God in my place for me to be able to stand and not be consumed by God’s wrath. And he proclaims to everyone that I am loved with an undeserving love that will never fail, not even when I realize the depths of how horribly I fail at what I was created to do.


4 Responses to What if I fail at mothering?

  1. Lori T. says:

    I needed to hear this so badly. I often want a do over of my 5 short mothering years. I am printing this off and putting it next to my bed and the next time I fall in bed crying over my failures that day or that week, I will pull this out and then pull out the Book that tells me of the One who wipes those failures away. Thank you Melissa!

  2. Heather says:

    Such a great post! Thank you. I can so identify with this. Good articulation of the gospel and how we need it as moms. I also am just two years into the motherhood journey – with twin two-year-olds. Intense and many opportunities to find the cross daily. ~Heather

    • Melissa says:

      Twin two year old! That sounds like it would provide a lot of opportunities to go to the cross daily. I have a lot of opportunities with one two year old 🙂

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