Being a mom is hard. I encounter nonstop comparison and competition from every direction. From blogs telling me the best way to feed my kids to books instructing me on how to raise them, there is no shortage of guilt inducing materials. Facebook posts remind me how someone else did it better and all sorts of mothering propaganda tells me that, in one way or another, I’m falling short.
Parenting my middle child is an area that frequently leaves me feeling inadequate. He is a challenging child and we have had ongoing struggles for years, struggles that have gone largely unsolved. During these long, hard years, I have made mistakes and not always handled him with love and grace. There have been ugly moments when I have lashed out at him rather than his circumstances. Over time, these missteps have produced great sadness and guilt. Although I know that’s not the mark of a redeemed life, it is the curse of humanity and, especially of motherhood.
Fortunately, that’s not how God intended us to live. Instead, as He shapes and sharpens us, He whispers in our ears words of grace and healing. He acknowledges and celebrates each rough edge that becomes smooth, each harsh angle that becomes soft and each selfish inclination that takes a turn towards humility. I live for those whispers. They sustain me and move me forward. On days that I feel significantly less than, they remind me that He has made me more than. In the midst of self-condemnation, the whispers are the glorious instances when we have ears to hear and we believe and internalize the truths God sings over us.
Due to my son’s struggles, we are having to radically change his diet and it is hard. It is especially hard getting an 11 year-old to accept the sacrifice of his favorite foods. He hears “no” all day long and his choices are minimal. In spite of the difficulties, however, he has risen to the challenge with fortitude and determination that profoundly betray his youth.
That brings me to bedtime a few nights ago. As I tucked my son in bed, I praised him for how well he was handling the change. I remarked at his positive attitude and his resolve in sticking to the diet. A young man of few words, he simply nodded and smiled with a hint of pride behind his grin.
As I lay in bed that night, the whisper came quickly and softly. Reflecting on the exchange with my son, God simply said, “You did that. That resilience, that determination, that fortitude, he got that from you.” I turned that over in my mind and I could see the truth in it. For eight years, I have been pursuing answers relentlessly and fought tirelessly for solutions. I have tried nearly everything I came across and considered every piece of information, regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant. And all that time, my son has been watching.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized the profound impact I had made on my child. The truth that such remarkable character in him could be the result of my example was both exhilarating and humbling. I basked in that concept for several minutes before the next whisper came. The words of Matthew 25:21 echoed in my ears as God’s gentle voice declared, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
In the New Testament, there are several Greek words used for “good”, however, there are two that dominate the text. The first is the word kalos, which means good or beautiful in the sense of being valuable or virtuous, primarily related to use. In other words, kalos can be translated as being beautiful or good for some external use. But the word used in Matthew 25:21 is agathos, which has a different meaning entirely. Agathos is an intrinsic or internal good. It is not good simply for use or value, but it is a penetrating, inherent good.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Not beautiful or useful servant, but good servant. What a glorious whisper. What a gracious truth. That God would call me good in the midst of all my humanness.
I suspect that God whispers such truth far more frequently than I recognize. I suspect that if I am still enough for long enough, God will not just quietly utter his grace, he will shout it. If I can quell the voices of the world, the words of comparison and inadequacy, I will no doubt hear the marvelous song of the creator echoing through every step of my journey. I will hear and know and believe that my God finds me good.