The unique challenges of motherhood can often lead us to doubt our worth and capabilities, and strive to ‘prove ourselves’ to our husband, our family, and even to God. In this article, Kim Breuninger encourages any mom who might be struggling with doubt, inadequacy, or pain, to stop striving for God’s acceptance in this season, and instead abide in the truth that you already are wholly and completely loved and accepted, just as you are.
As a new mom, then suddenly a single mom, followed by a stepmom, I hid my fears and insecurities from my family well. I was painfully aware of the challenges these life changes brought our children. So I strove for God’s acceptance, willing myself to become the mom I thought I should be. Or, rather, the capable woman I thought God and my husband would want me to be.
A woman worth choosing.
A CRY FOR HELP
After a rough upbringing in a faithless home characterized by anger and neglect, I wanted to be a different kind of parent. One who loved well and walked alongside her family ready to help them learn and grow. I pictured myself offering wisdom, embracing their struggles, and making home a safe place to test their wings. I vowed that my new husband and I would grow our children into confident, loving adults, capable of navigating life’s challenges. Aware that statistics on children raised in blended families weren’t in our favor, I reminded myself how big my God is. And yet, with a blended family of three young boys and two almost-teen girls in four different schools, I fell short. Tired, angry, and stretched thin, I lacked patience. I needed a depth of wisdom I just didn’t have.
New in my faith, I studied the hardships and qualities of moms in Scripture. It helped, although there were no easy answers or quick fixes. I was underwhelmed when the answers to my struggles came back to one simple principle: to abide in Christ. “Honestly?!” I told God, “I had hoped for something more specific!” I needed solid answers—and quick! When it came to discipline, what was an appropriate consequence? How should I deal with sibling rivalry when the siblings were so new to each other? How could I ease the pain in a child’s eyes and the sorrow in my heart when we realized their birth parent wasn’t showing up again? And how was I supposed to keep my marriage together when anger and differences threatened to tear us apart?
Searching for Peace
I did a lot of things right. I loved my husband, and he loved me. We prayed for our children. I even wrote a vision statement for our family values. I had supportive, godly friends, a wonderful church family, and a solid Bible study group. Yet nothing brought peace to my unsettled soul. I often thought, If I could just be a fly on the wall in the home of a Christian family I could watch how it’s done. Losing heart, I replayed a quote in my mind that I’d seen in a coworker’s cubicle. It read, “I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.” And even though I knew it wasn’t true, I added, “…signed, God.”
Searching the Scriptures as a young mother was my version of a cry for help. My heart broke for my children. And I struggled with the fear they would carry deep hurt into adulthood as I had. I wanted to learn how women in Scripture had acted in God’s wisdom. I had so many questions! How had they responded to life the way a woman of God would respond? How did Mary, Jesus’ mom, have what God was looking for at such a young age? If I could only mine those secrets from His Word, I thought, maybe I could be a woman and mom like Mary. Maybe I could be a woman who earned God’s acceptance and was worthy of God’s choosing.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Many years have gone by, and thankfully we made it through. In my current roles as Mother-in-Love and Grammy, I see my place in our lives from a very different perspective—one I wish I had known much sooner but also one that may not have been possible had I not struggled so much with God.
I’ve learned that to be a woman God would choose, I didn’t need to know how women in Scripture lived for God; what I’d missed in those early years was how they received from God. Mary, Jesus’ mom, received her blessings, wisdom, courage, and yes, her challenges, from God with open palms. She didn’t choose to walk alone; she walked with God. Yes, I sheepishly admit now, she ‘abided in Christ’.
In her book, “The Faithful Way,” Cynthia Heald writes, “We obey not to be loved, but because we are loved.” That love—that well of love poured out by God in its many forms and by many messengers—informs our character development, if we let it. Unlike Mary, too often I tried to live and give from a dry well, always giving more than I had learned to receive. For many reasons, some of my own doing and several due to the lies I believed growing up, I lived in spiritual poverty.
A Woman of Composure
Years ago, I was asked to sum up an exemplary mother in one word. I chose the word ‘composure’. To me, it suggested a woman whose chaotic world crashed around her, yet she still chose to sit at the feet of God. I’d always wanted to be able to put my hand on that kind of composure, to feel the profound reality of its strength. But looking back, I realize I was rootbound. My emotions felt tight, unreachable, locked away as lies and expectations choked me. I learned from Dan Allender, in his book, “The Cry of the Soul” that:
“All emotion, positive or negative, opens the door to the nature of reality. All of us prefer to avoid pain—but even more we want to escape reality.”
These words unlocked a truth for me. In those early years, my fear and insecurities were the underlying cries of my soul, but I’d found them too painful to deal with on top of my full-time job in ministry and the pressing needs of my family. Always living in survival mode, I told my emotions, “Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”
Journey With God
I see so many moms living the way I did. Moving so fast, so tired, believing it’s all up to them. Pushing themselves to be more, love better, get it all done, give it all away. Any way you look at it, life is going to be busy for a mom. But a mom who thrives must take time to look at the reality of who she is and admit her need to be built into. She allows herself to journey with God trusting Him each day. She accepts the reality that her life, family, and even her home don’t look like anyone else’s. And she identifies internal needs, where growth takes place, and looks to God’s Word and trusted friends to meet those needs.
Mary, Jesus’ mom, knew this. She believed God’s favor and provision for her needs and the needs of her child would be plentiful as she acknowledged, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Her admission reflected a surrendered heart, one that was willing to trust God with an unpredictable future. She accepted His invitation to be a member of His household, showered with grace. She reflected on the meaning of the angel’s words in her mind and heart and talked it through with her cousin Elizabeth. And she knew she needed God and other people if she was going to have the grace, faith, and strength to raise God’s Son. Mary wasn’t a woman God chose because she was already full of grace; she was a woman God chose because she fully accepted His grace daily.
EMBRACING GOD’S ACCEPTANCE
Accepting God at His Word is not an easy answer in the life of a mom, especially a stepmom. It requires that we slow down and listen to the cry of our own soul, interact with it, admit it, write it out perhaps, and let that cry be heard.
It means we bravely walk into the realities that get to the root of our own spiritual poverty and face the challenges that rob us of love, potential, and purpose. These lessons have been deeply painful and vulnerable for me. I had to take them slow. Yet, through them I’ve come to accept that to grow in Christ’s ways and live in a way that speaks to others, pain is necessary. Mothering has been the greatest motivator for allowing the Lord to dig deep into the soil of my soul, allowing Him to rip out weedy roots that steal the nutrition needed to feed me His wisdom, wholeness, and peace.
My prayer for you is the same. If you are a mom struggling in this season with doubt, inadequacy, or pain, I hope you will be encouraged to stop striving to be a woman worth choosing and instead abide in the truth that you already are wholly and completely loved and accepted, just as you are, just as He created you. We all have more to learn, so don’t allow shame or pride to keep you hiding from love and acceptance. Move forward brave girl, He’s got you!
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