This summer Psalms found me.
One Sunday a few weeks ago, we randomly started back with regular attendance at church. We had fallen off the weekly wagon since my daughter was born, and neither of us were in a hurry to start back up. Why?
The wicked. Wickedness that happens in churches. Until all of our children could speak up and tell us what happened in children’s class we just weren’t ready. Thinking of pastors with ungodly agendas made us just not ready. The burden of being together fifteen years and not finding the church where we felt “at home” kept us from going. The wicked of the world keeps us from doing what we want to do – need to do sometimes. The wicked instills a paralyzing fear of “what if” and “who might” into our lives.
It’s always been there: the creep with the van, the boogie man banging on the front door, the lurker at the mall, “lock your doors”, “be weary of strangers”, “be careful who you trust”, because “you never know”. Then in September of 2011, as a young engaged couple, we felt the overwhelming realization that all the world does not love the grand ‘ole USA and some would like to wipe us off the map. There will be places we choose to never visit because Americans are not welcome or wanted. Every time we travel, we are reminded that post-9/11 is different. Every time we watch the news. As adults, we learn to cope with the fact that the world is not as simple as it seemed when we were children.
Then we had children. Safety recalls, baby proofing products, the necessity to have power of attorneys, wills, defined wishes, and car seats…The threat of child molesters, kidnappers, school predators, childhood illnesses, and bullies…watching friends’ heartbreaking stories with their children or lack of unfold….The Wicked screams louder still. Evil rears it’s ugly head and morphs into this giant tyrannical monster of mistrust, fear, “what if”, and “it happened to so-and-so”. Will I mess up my children by teaching them fear, hate, bias, and untrusting? By trying to protect them, will I teach them not to see all of the good in humanity?
When you have small children, the advice seems to pour in. Well meaning family members (who also somehow feel compelled to tell you the appropriate number of children you should have), your parents, other parents, teachers, coaches, and even children’s friends (oh, yeah, this next generation has no problem talking to elders with the same gusto they use with their peers). Everyone has an opinion on what’s right, wrong, safe, dangerous, irresponsible, or sensible. Am I messing up my kids? Am I doing this parenting thing all wrong? Does my toddler throw too many tantrums? Do I let my six-year-old have too many freedoms? Are my children going to be the “wild ones” when they are teenagers? Am I being a bad parent because we go to the beach and play in the ocean? Am I making a mistake with their education? Swim lessons too soon? Did we teach enough home safety? Are we screening friends careful enough?
Doubt. Doubt creeps up and infects like rotting fruit on the vine in July. It sours the joy in rediscovering the world with your little ones. It can be humiliating, embarrassing, and infuriating. It takes away confidence, steals happiness, and ransoms peace. Am I teaching them to be so careful that they trade in their sense adventure? Am I teaching them not to be confident in their choices? I am showing them to second guess themselves at every turn?
Being a mom is tough.
It is riddled with fear and doubt.
When I dreamt about motherhood, and I dreamt often, the dreaming never really went past being a mom. I thought about what my husband would be like, my career, my friends, my house, my car (all those lovely things included in a good game of MASH), but motherhood, it was finite. One day, I would have these precious little people. I would be a mom. I would leave my job, even astronaut or President of the United States, and well, mother. The end.
It never occurred to me I might have to spend years as a working mom. It never occurred to me that one day those little people become big people (hopefully) and leave (hopefully). It never occurred to me that part of being a mom is building a legacy. I never daydreamed, prayed about or fathomed that. Take a minute and let that sink in. I know I’m not the only one.
A legacy. A legacy goes on, after you do not.
I have always been acutely aware that it was my job to teach my children about my God. My faith and where I draw my hope. I would teach them counting, secrets to spelling, how to grow tomatoes, how to bake an apple pie, do laundry, why we need curfews, how to safely cross the street, and how to cartwheel; all that motherly stuff.
I failed to comprehend that it is me who will teach them about love. I will show them how to love and be loved. I am modeling what they will perceive a wife should look like. I didn’t realize motherhood included teaching my children what a home is and how to make one. They will mimic the qualities of character, ethics, and integrity they see from me. I am responsible for teaching them about tradition, pride, and self worth. The list goes on.
I have a mammoth and permanent influence on who they will be. I shape their ideals on what life is supposed to look like by how I am living it. They are these little sponges that never stop absorbing. I can’t turn it off. I can’t say don’t watch, “I’m being moody”, or “re-do!”, I lost my temper and yelled. There is no DELETE that bad word that slipped, press MUTE while I grumble and vent. Am I teaching them to be selfish? Will they think it’s okay to have a bad attitude if they hear me ranting on the phone? If I get busy and forget to do something, will they think it’s okay to go back on your word? If I wake up late, will they be perpetually tardy too? Will I be enough to help them build a solid foundation in life? Will I shape them into well rounded people? Am I strict enough? Am I too hard on them? Am I messing my kids up just by being me?
I make mistakes every day. I mess up a lot every day. I feel totally inadequate for this job. It is awesome in spectrum and magnitude. It is utterly breaking. Holy moly.
Being a mom is tough. It is filled with feelings and thoughts of inadequacy.
So, Psalms found me. We walked in to church that Sunday, and the summer series beginning was on Psalms. I had previously signed up for a women’s online bible study (seriously awesome for us busy moms) and that first email, first week of the study: Psalms. Yes, usually it takes more than once before I start listening, but okay, you’ve got my attention.
This summer, I’m studying Psalms.
Being courageous enough to stand up against fear is tough.
Being faithful enough to stand up against doubt it tough.
Being at peace enough to shut out inadequacy is tough.
Building a legacy is tough.
Being a mom is tough.
Good thing, my God is tougher.
Tough enough to give me peace, shift my perceptions, and give me the courage to let go when I feel like a failure as a mom.
Just ask David, it’s right there in the Psalms.