The inside of my nose smells weird. I notice it for the 23rd time today. I have a cold, so hopefully it’s nothing permanent.
Nothing in particular kept me up so late, just lots of little things. A phone call, some light reading, some thinking, some heavier reading and contemplating. And now, as I’m ready to close my eyes, it is clear that the time for sleep has not yet come. My little boy, Mr. Enthusiastic, has decided now is a good time to play. Out of the norm, I am harboring the thought of making an appearance. Maybe just a case of a misplaced paci.
I make my way to his room, my heartbeat quickening at the thought of late night cuddles. Anyone who has ever been woken from a deep sleep by a babe knows it is much more enjoyable to already be awake when these times come.
He perks up as the light from the hall sweeps across his mattress. He sits back and just looks at me, like he was expecting me to come all along. As if we had planned to meet under these exact circumstances. I spot the elusive paci, gather a few more nearby, and I pull my sweet, nocturnal boy into my arms. We head to the rocker and make it a date.
So many thoughts swim across my ever-shifting mind. Maybe this was a bad idea? This will surely encourage a night-waking habit.
But as I feel his weight settle in, the rhythm holding us close, I know this could never be a bad idea.
My thoughts continue to wander. I’m chewing on a story from the book of John. I want it to sink deeper. I want to see Jesus more clearly. What do I need? Can Jesus really be all I need?
I think back on the day. There were some unsettling incidents. Words spoken that caught me off guard. Words that led me to one thought. In my heart of hearts, I just want to be a perfect mother. I want my children to balk at the thought of not being loved through and through, each and every bit. I want them to know what it is to be looked square in the face and be completely understood. I want them to not think twice about the unending well of support that follows them step by step, because they’ve never had to wonder if it’s really there. I want to listen, I want to say the right things, I want to watch the world unfurl before them. But I want it to unfurl in a way that doesn’t hurt. In a way that shields them from the brokenness.
I find myself cringing inwardly at the potential of what could lay ahead. How can we know what the next breath will bring?
I don’t know if I have ever given this desire full recognition in my mind. I want to be a perfect mother. As soon as I thought it, that uneasy feeling crept into my chest. It is not possible. I am nothing but imperfect. How could I possibly hope to attain such a goal? Me, myself, and I - we will mess it all up.
My heart was already breaking imagining the havoc I would wreak in the lives of my children. The confusion I would offer them. The inconsistencies. The inaccurate picture of the Savior I so desperately need.
Just as I was sinking, another thought came. The one I have thought so many times in so many other contexts, but perhaps never before in this unuttered desire.
I cannot be a perfect mother. We are coming up on three years’ worth of proof. I cannot. BUT. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. No, not perfection. No. But, redeemed mothering? The kind of mothering that knows what it is to fail and be forgiven, to be more broken and desperate than I knew possible? The kind of mothering that remembers the One who makes me whole, who mends and loves and covers over? Now we are getting somewhere.
When my sons gasped their first breaths, when they were placed into my waiting arms, it was already all broken. Nothing has changed since their first days in this world. I brought them forth into a place that is full of darkness and misunderstanding. A place that will hurt them and make them afraid. With both of them, as I carried them with me, I worried. Maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. This world is too much; maybe the good can’t outweigh the bad.
The thing that keeps my feet moving forward is precisely that nothing has changed since their first days in this world. Yes there is evil and suffering and doubt. BUT. Christ is already victorious. This place is not what it was meant to be, but we are heading in the right direction. Each day passing is one day closer to a home where nothing hurts anymore. Where hearts can’t break and tears can’t fall. The deep well of loss is filled with overwhelming love and peace.
My children were not given a perfect mother. Far from it. Grace upon grace, they were given a mother that knows what it is to be redeemed. A mother that knows how to hope. One that will fail and will say that she’s sorry. One that knows if there is anything good, it is from Jesus.
Did you know that I have yelled at my kids? I have done the thing where you’re so stinking frustrated that you grab your kid’s arm way too hard for the sake of putting them in their place. I have been lazy and selfish. I have been immature and unhelpful. I have ignored a two-year-old’s pressing questions and gritted my teeth at an 11-month-old spitter. Things I never, ever thought I would do. I am terrified of the ways I will damage my children if this is my success rate three years in.
But I am learning. Oh, am I learning. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. To quote an old friend of mine, “At the end of my rope, God’s rope just begins…”
I feel my baby boy’s fingers toying with his satin blanket. He is still, he is calm. He is breathing sleepy, in and out. His head nestles in just below my chin and I know this was not a mistake. I could not have stopped myself from bringing his sweet face into this world any more than I could have stopped myself from walking down that hall for these snuggles instead of tossing and turning, waiting for sleep to find me.
I brought our date to an end with a kiss goodnight. As I padded back to bed with hopes of warmer feet, I knew that I still had a long way to go. Too much that is still too muddled. It needs to sink down deeper, into a place where it can’t get away. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, forever. He uses the Unexpecteds, the Imperfects, the Broken.
I don’t know what lies ahead. If I let myself meander into speculation I want to run away and hide, try to stop it in its tracks. I don’t need to know. I don’t want to know. What I need is Jesus. More of Him, less of me. In His strength, I will be the best redeemed mother I can be.