Freedom from Mom Guilt

Those who look to him are radiant; 
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

The first hour of the morning is often the worst part of the day in my house. The hustle and bustle of getting three boys dressed, fed, and lunches packed while they are constantly distracted to do anything but leaves me anxious and frazzled. I can’t tell you how many times I’m heading to work wishing I could have a do-over.

Since do-overs are not possible and the morning logistics are not changing anytime soon, I began to wonder what can be done? No matter how well I plan my time in the mornings, doing as much as I can before the children awake, things happen. Namely, emotions happen. They’re tired or whiny. They don’t want to get dressed or eat as quickly as I want them to. I feel my patience thinning as I make second and third requests for shoes to be put on.

When I don’t tend to my emotional state, the irritation grows to anger and I end up speaking louder and with more condescension in my voice. And that’s what I feel guilty about. That’s what leaves me wanting a do-over. It’s not that we are late or that bellies are empty or arms are bare on a chilly morning. The actual stuff that needs to happen, happens. It’s the way in which it happens that I want to change. I want to handle myself differently.

As I look to free myself from this mom guilt, I’m reminded of Psalm 34. This passage was written by David after he had done something extremely shameful. While running from King Saul, who was trying to kill him, David pretended to be insane in order to avoid being identified. In fear, he allowed saliva to fall to his beard, a sacred part of his body. This helped him escape, but I’m sure he felt the sting of guilt afterward. He had dishonored the Lord and himself. I imagine he would’ve liked a do-over.

But what strikes me most is the way David deals with his shame. He knows exactly where to go for comfort – the Lord. He begins the chapter with praise, having already accepted the forgiveness God so freely offers. David understood that God was not an irritated, condescending Father who would shake His head or turn away when David repented. David understood the character of God to be loving and forgiving like that of a parent who welcomes a child in after making a bad choice and sits them down over warm chocolate chip cookies and ice-cold milk to discuss. Verse 4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me;  He delivered me from all my fears.” God didn’t make David feel worse about what he had done – the magnitude of his choices did not elude him. Instead, the Lord’s radiance extended to David’s face, cleansing him from the guilt and shame.

On my most difficult mornings, I have the opportunity to do the same with Jesus. When I pause to look at Him rather than the chaos around me, I find peace. I can be free from mom guilt because He always extends an arm around my shoulders, comforting me and calming my fears of failure. He doesn’t reprimand me or say, “You better get it right next time, or else!” He’s more like a warm hug of encouragement saying, “You can do this. Just keep your eyes on me.”

I’m never going to be the perfect mom. Thankfully, I don’t have to be. God’s grace covers what’s been done so I can embrace what’s to come. Freedom from mom guilt provides a fresh slate to move forward upon. And who knows, maybe I will get it right the next time.

To Walk Where Jesus Walked

If I had to describe my recent trip to Israel in one word, it would be overwhelming. While there, every part of my being was overcome with stimuli – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. From the time we arrived until we departed I struggled to get my bearings on what I was experiencing.

Previous journeys I’ve taken out of the US have been to South America, to which travel time was short with minimal change in time zones. I had no idea how physically taxing a trip around the world is. Sitting on an airplane for 16 hours prompted neck, back, and leg soreness which I tried, in vain, to alleviate by frequent trips to the restroom.

I left my airplane seat for good once we arrived in Tel Aviv at 9 am. Our hotel rooms would not be ready until the afternoon, so we made good use of the day in Joppa (also called Jaffa). We walked and walked, ate some lunch, then walked some more. By early afternoon, I could no longer keep my eyes open. Thankfully, it was time to check into the hotel and I took a nap. Little did I know then that I would fight to keep my eyes open nearly every day of the trip.

We covered hundreds of miles by bus and on foot while in country. My shoes collected mud from Mount Arbel. I wiped sprinkles of rain from my face in Capernaum. Fierce wind atop Mount Carmel blew my hair into a frenzy. My legs felt the gentle sway of the Sea of Galilee. My eyes witnessed place where Jesus was crucified and the empty tomb where His body had been laid. My heart skipped a beat upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane. From climbing the southern steps to tunnel navigation through the City of David, our bodies were physically challenged every day.

Our tour guide made sure I was mentally challenged each day as well. Her understanding of the history of Israel and the Jewish people and how they both have Biblical relevance was astounding. I willed my mind to recall what limited Old Testament knowledge I have, but was frequently lost in the details. As if drinking from a fire hydrant, my mind was overloaded with information at every stop. Methodically trying to download as much as my brain could handle, I vowed to read my Guide to the Holy Land book later that evening. Yeah, that never happened.

Perhaps the most overwhelming part of the trip was the emotional roller coaster we road. Each day invoked a variety of feelings ranging from anticipatory happiness to sobering reverence. I imagined the excitement of those who saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey via the Palm Sunday Road. Sadness settled in my spirit as I sat under an Olive Tree, remembering the time Jesus begged for an alternative to the cross. Peace washed over me as I envisioned Jesus on a hill, teaching the people of God’s care for the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and for them. Love swelled my heart as I began to understand the Lord’s sovereignty for His people.

Last, but not least, was the way my spirit was overtaken during my time in Israel. On more than one occasion, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as chills covered my body in response to the Holy Spirit. His presence gradually pealed back layers of callus built up on my heart from years of trying to pretend I have it all together. Day by day, my heart softened to the truth of His love. On the southern steps of the Temple, I came face to face with a clear picture of the way God sees me – a priceless, beloved daughter worth dying for. I was undone by the weight my sin and the price He paid for me to have eternal life. It was then that I realized how nothing I do, nothing I say, and nothing I accomplish or fail to accomplish influences my position as His child. His love overshadows all offenses made against me and compels me to forgive others as He has forgiven me.

Jesus didn’t just walk the streets of Israel two thousand years ago, He walks them still today. His footprints have left an indelible mark on that land and because of that, I will never be the same.