I saw her pushing a cart through the aisles of the store. Her small son sat babbling but she didn’t seem to hear. Occasionally she’d place an item in the basket but I wasn’t convinced she really knew what it was. Her face was a mask of pain. Her step slow and defeated. I scooted my cart by hers so I could reach the shelf of brown rice and as I did so, our eyes met.
I smiled. She did not.
By nature I’m socially awkward but something in me felt compelled to touch her. So I reached out a hand and gently squeezed her shoulder and said, “Not a great day, huh?”.
Her eyes glinted with tears and her stoic face crumbled a little. The shake of her head and drop of her eyes were her only admissions but when she looked back up at me, I saw something flicker there. It almost looked like relief. Like maybe just knowing she wasn’t invisible was cause for a glimmer of hope.
And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.
I moved on but my mind didn’t. Because I saw myself in that tired mother. I saw my friends. I saw women, all down through the ages, who feel like they’re missing the mark.
Who feel broken.
Because on my good days, and in my clearest moments, I cling to the promise and gift of the cross. I recognize and accept my inadequacies and bow down in overwhelming gratitude for the blood that redeemed me. But there are still those times, still far too many times, when I feel like an imposter.
When I know who I was. Who I still am. Who I fail to be. When I know how far short I fall of meeting the need around me. And it hits me that, while I’ve continued to walk along the path, I haven’t progressed with the speed I might have. I’m still here when I should be waaaay up there.
I’m still here, fighting old battles.
Because milk spills are still as messy, flares of temper are still as ugly, toddlers are still as exhausting, teenagers are still as confusing, and keeping food on the table is still as consuming. Life is still every bit as demanding and I’m still entirely incapable of meeting the demand.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10
I feel the unbearable weight of preparing my children for life outside the home. For the onslaught of temptation, distraction and degradation they will encounter around every dark corner. I second-guess all my decisions and baste in guilt over those I can’t change. I’m conflicted by the pull of the flesh which screams for a break and the call of duty which holds me bound to my post.
This is what I saw in that mother’s eyes that day.
And her pain pierced my heart because I literally felt it. I didn’t know her struggle but I knew her struggle, you know? And I felt bound to her for a moment.
The humanity encased by flesh and bones is so marred by sin that many of us live in prisons of our own making. We forget that the battles we fight have already been won. We fail to remember our trials by fire are only a blip on the eternal radar. That they only last a moment. That this day may crawl by but then we’ll wonder where the year went.
God isn’t asking us to save our kids. He’s asking us to love, train and spiritually nourish them so He can do that. And He isn’t asking us to live in a world without sin. He’s asking us to live above sin in a sinful world. And to give our children the tools and connection to do the same.
But He doesn’t ask us to do it alone. Because we can’t. He’s calling us to sit at His feet, be filled by His spirit, be healed by His blood, and changed by His love.
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Because if all us broken mothers in the world would pause long enough, we’d see the beautiful truth right before us.
Only the broken need a Savior…
…so why would we even want to pretend to be whole?