I can remember, so clearly, the first time I heard the expression, “Be the person you want your children to become.” I had two children at the time, ages four and two, but my third was on the way. And I was a mess. Overwhelmed, discouraged, and disappointed in who I’d become—as my weaknesses and shortcomings were all being revealed and magnified through motherhood. So you can imagine the grief and despair I felt when I read an article urging me to be the person I wanted my children to become. Because, here’s the thing—I thought that being the person I wanted them to become meant being perfect. I thought God was relying on me to be a perfect example for my kids to follow.
But we don’t just feel the pressure from our culture. We might also think we find it in Scripture. In Titus 2:7, Paul was emphasizing to Titus that the example he set should foster rather than frustrate the spread of the gospel in the lives of people in Crete. Similarly, the example we set should foster rather than frustrate our children’s understanding of what it looks like to follow Christ.
We must remember, though, our children don’t need us to be the perfection of Christ. They need to see us in pursuit of Christ. They need us to point them to Christ. They need to see the power of Christ made perfect in our weaknesses.
“Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
Scripture doesn’t reveal the exact nature of Paul’s thorn—whether it was physical, psychological, or situational. But Scripture does tell us what the thorn was intended to do. The thorn was intended to keep Paul humble. Could it be that God loved Paul enough to give him the thorn to protect him from pride, to allow him to experience God’s grace in profound ways, and to keep Paul reliant on God to provide everything he would need?
We all have thorns in our lives—different hardships or afflictions—that we experience. Ongoing marital strife, financial hardship, depression, addiction, physical pain or limitations, broken relationships with extended family, job insecurity, unfulfilled dreams, just to name a few. These thorns can bring us to our knees and reveal the greatness of our need.
What hope does this passage give us as moms? See, the Lord’s gracious assurance to Paul is the very same assurance He gives to you and to me. When we are striving but not succeeding at being flawless examples for our kids to follow, God says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
• Help us parent from a posture of humility
• Keep us reliant on God to provide everything we need to parent the children He has entrusted to us
• Allow us to experience for ourselves, and demonstrate to our kids, His sustaining grace.
Oh, the sweet relief I have found in knowing that my weaknesses point my children away from their flawed mom and straight to their flawless Savior. He’s the One I want their trust and hope set upon, not me.
You don’t have to be ashamed of your weaknesses and need. Jesus loves to meet you and equip you and strengthen you and glorify Himself through you in that place, by His grace. There is only One who has ever been a perfect example for our children to follow. And that One isn’t us. It’s Jesus.
Now this isn’t to suggest that the example we set for our kids does not have a profound impact on them. Indeed it does. What we do and what we say absolutely matters. What we model has an enormous impact on the thought patterns and behavior of our children. I know you know the research. We should absolutely and wholeheartedly seek to be a godly example for them. But as hard as we try, we will fail. Confessing this does not make us failures; it makes us free—free to be moms who are honest about our weaknesses, grateful for our Savior, and eager to live in the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
Paul encouraged the people of Corinth to imitate him because he sought to imitate Christ. As moms, we are to be an example to our children—but not an example of unachievable perfection. Instead, we strive to point them toward the One who is perfect for us as we follow His lead and rely on His Spirit.
Our goal does not need to be perfection but letting our children see us enjoying Him, and thereby glorifying Him, as we live the free and abundant life Christ came to give us.
Adapted from Jeannie Cunnion’s Mom Set Free: Good News for Moms Who Are Tired of Trying to Be Good Enough.