Before I became a mother, I thought I understood what my mom had done for me.
I knew nothing.
Now that my daughter is approaching her third birthday and I’m anticipating the birth of a baby boy, it seems like every day has brought at least one new challenge I never anticipated. I think I’ve felt at a total loss on how to proceed more in the past three years than in the 26 years leading up to parenthood.
It has given me a much deeper appreciation for what my parents did, experiencing firsthand the small, daily sacrifices and the struggle of constantly putting a small person’s needs and desires ahead of your own.
And it has given me a new perspective on my faith, especially my respect for Mary’s amazing choice and the almost unfathomable idea of a God who is loving Father to every person. Every. Single. Person.
It’s hard enough being a loving, engaged, just parent every day to one capricious, smart, funny, demanding little creature. Imagine seven billion of them.
Some days – some hours, some minutes – being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I lose patience. I struggle with decisions. I second-guess myself.
But even in the most difficult moments, the depth of love I feel for this little person I helped create astounds me. During her third tantrum of the hour, I may think my head will explode, but I know in 20 minutes I’ll be wiping her tears while she snuggles into my lap and tells me, “I need mama.”
I would do anything, give anything, to give her a good life. I want so badly for her to be happy, to be content, to be successful. Yet I know in order for that to happen, I will have to watch her struggle. I will have to stand back while she weathers the bad times. I will be there to support her and love her, of course, but there will be times she won’t be able to see through the rain clearly enough to recognize the umbrella I hold. There will be times she can see it but it’s not enough, and all I can do is wait for the storm to subside so I can open my arms and wipe her tears.
This, too, gives me fresh insight into an Abba, a loving father God who has to watch His beloved children struggle and weep and mourn. I can’t protect my daughter from the hard parts of life. God can’t protect us from our own poor decisions, from the vagaries of fate and from the sometimes unpleasant consequences of free will. Yet He stands ready to offer His love and support, if we can only reach out for it, admitting our need as openly as a preschooler.
I can’t save my daughter from life. All I can do is to celebrate the good times with her, and in the bad times, to offer my love and my support and hope that the struggles and sadness she will face make her a better person. If I can teach her how to face adversity without bitterness, how to accept hurts and mistreatment and still turn to others with kindness, then I will be proud of the work I have done as a mother.
And if I can learn those lessons myself and live them out to the best of my ability, then someday I hope, when all my tears are done, I can crawl up into the Father’s lap and say, “I need you,” and be welcomed with open arms.