Digging Out of the Pit of Guilty Motherhood
Republished from the archives, because I needed this gospel reminder again this week!
I failed miserably in my mothering today. Everything from delays in getting coats and shoes on, to going potty in underwear, to getting out of bed before the proper time, to “can’t you get this math problem, yet!” Each situation was responded to with an outburst of anger and frustration.
I experience guilt on many levels in my motherhood. I feel guilty when my house isn’t clean, organized, or I don’t have the energy to design all these glorious organizing tools. I feel like a failure when I don’t spend enough quality time with my children or waste too much time on my phone or computer browsing. I feel guilty when we don’t do family devotions as if my children’s salvation was all dependent upon me. I feel like a terrible homemaker when I don’t get anything done on my to-do list. So in response to my guilt, I get frustrated and the cycle continues. It’s a dangerous pit of self-pity that destroys my joy.
The only means through which we can find deliverance out of this battlefield of guilt, condemnation, and anger is through the power and truth of the gospel. The only lasting freedom can come through acknowledging what Christ has done on my behalf.
We have to steep ourselves in the power of the gospel. We have to soak it in.
I have to remind myself that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Yes, you and I will surely fail. But we have a glorious Savior who bore our condemnation. He bore our guilt. It was nailed to the cross. So in our failure, we can have hope. Christ Jesus has replaced our sinful record with His perfect righteous record.
As Elyse Fitzpatrick, in her book, Because He Loves Me, says, “When you are tempted to slide down into a miry pit of self-condemnation, you can remember Jesus’ sinless life and the perfect record that is now yours. Yes, it’s true that you sin heinously and consistently, but you have a perfect record before God, the only one who opinion really matters.”
“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins (Romans 3:24).”
You have a perfect record. So, repent! Confess your sin before the Almighty God, and before your children, and then rest in the finished work of Christ of your behalf.
Colossians 1:16-17 says, “The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us[past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
My outbursts of anger were nailed to the cross before I even walked this earth. My fear of failure is a waste of my energy. I am now free to fail. He paid the greatest price. In order to experience true freedom from guilt, I must stop focusing on all that I need to do in order to become a better mother. I must first turn my gaze upon what He has already done for me.
The only way to become a better mom is to preach the gospel to myself every day. It’s not my behavior that makes me a better mom, it’s through believing the truth more deeply about what what He has already accomplished. Believe and rest, and not strive and stress. Repent, rejoice, repeat…that is the lifestyle that God calls us too. Cultivating a lifestyle of repentance before my children is a powerful witness of the gospel for them to see too! “Mommy’s not perfect. Mommy needs Jesus too.”
God doesn’t call me to be perfect. He calls me to embrace my standing before him, and to run in that freedom he has already granted to me! I am adored by Christ! I am redeemed! I am accepted!
Ultimately, when I enslave myself by guilt I am mocking what He did on the cross, I am denying the grace and mercy purchased for me through his sinless life. This guilt is witness to the fact that I am depending upon my own strength. I am believing that my children will only grow, flourish, and follow Christ if I do this certain set of practices.
So when you are tempted to put another brick of guilt on yourself, may I encourage you to stop, and declare with me:
“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.” -Tullian Tchividjian
Praise God for the full and abundant life I have in Christ!
Jesus loves me just as much today as He did yesterday!
If you need to soak in a deeper understanding of the gospel and what God has already accomplished for you, I recommend Elyse Fitzpatrick’s, Because He Loves Me, and A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent, and Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood by Kimm Cranball.