Faster Than A Speading Dishcloth

Elastigirl from The Incredibles
I've been in a Christmas gift crafting flurry the past several weeks, and I've not found time to sit and write. (Don't even ask about review deadlines, which I'm failing to hit!) So here's a piece I did a while back for another venue. Though our exact circumstances are different this year, the Lord still is putting us in situations too big to handle on our own. I'm slowing starting to get the picture - tadah- this place of dependence is just where we need to dwell. 

Is your Supermom cape starting to feel like the lead apron you wear when you get x-rays at the dentist’s office? Mine was. Maybe it’s time to throw away that old thing!

I proudly wore my Supermom cape through my first five children or so. But someone started sewing rocks into the hem as we added babies six, seven, and eight. Then, with the birth of baby nine, a high-needs preemie, that cape took on full lead apron status, or maybe the Lord, in His infinite kindness, just shredded it to smithereens. 

Our first babies had been added to our family fairly seamlessly. Sure there were adjustments, and life continually became busier, but for the most part we were able to soldier on. And then came Ben, born seven weeks early and weighing just over three pounds. No problem! We can handle this, too! But even after this little guy reached four pounds and came home, life didn’t settle down to “normal.” Ben, who was so unlike our other babies, shook up our notions of our parenting abilities, making us feel like novices all over again. Things that had worked so well before were totally useless with this very different child. He spent most of his first year, and plenty of the second, crying. My older girls and I wondered if he would ever smile and laugh like a normal baby. (Seeing the happy child he has grown into gives me cause for rejoicing almost every day.) During those rough early years, Tim and I felt we were living in constant triage, assessing where the blood had to be immediately staunched and what important duties could wait a bit longer to attend to.

After a while, though, we began to see the Lord’s sweet and gentle discipline in this. Days usually began with a plea for the Lord’s wisdom in ordering the day, and for strength to do the tasks He required. Frequently the day ended with us crashed in bed, the little guy, nicknamed “Velcro” sandwiched between us, and us holding a midnight phone conversation with our college freshman son. Physically and mentally it was the most draining time we’ve experienced, but as always in times of trial, the Lord was near. Though we’d always given lip service to the fact that raising children wasn’t our work, but the Lord’s, it took being incapable of pulling everything off to fully realize our utter dependence on Him. And this place of dependency was where we should have been all along.

Over a century and a half ago the Rev. James Cameron gave a lecture called “Qualifications Essential to the Discharge of Maternal Duties.” (It is published in an old book called Mothers of the Wise and Good by Jabez Burns and originally printed in 1846.) Rev. Cameron writes of eight qualifications of a mother. The very first of these he discusses is the need for us to recognize our insufficiencies. Here’s a bit of what he says:
Again, then, I repeat, cultivate a sense of your insufficiency for the great work to which God has called you, and let this be so thoroughly interwoven in this very texture of your minds – let it so thoroughly pervade your whole habits of thinking and feeling, that you shall be kept in the very lowest depths of self-distrust, feeling that your only safety is in clinging, as with a death-grasp, to the soul-sustaining declaration, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is perfected in weakness.” –2 Corinthians xii. 9. It is only when a deep sense of insufficiency, and a strong confidence in God are combined, that you are at all likely to be successful in your arduous work; your sense of insufficiency will make you cautious, tender, watchful, prayerful; and your confidence in God will nerve your soul, and strengthen you to grapple with the difficulties you have to consider.

There are probably a lot of reasons some of us try to don that Supermom cape. We want to show others, “Yes, I can handle these children, thank you very much!” Sometimes we even pin the number of our children or their closeness in age on our capes as some kind of false badge of merit. Other times we may be trying to prove our worth to others by our “expert” mothering while accomplishing all sorts of other tasks. But as I’ve thought about all the reasons I tried to wear this cape, none of them were good ones. The cape puffed up my pride, but led me further from the Lord rather than into His sweet presence. 

Hopefully, if you ever are tempted to grab that old cape from your closet, you will see its futility and filthiness much more quickly than I did. Yes, you need to keep working hard to serve your family, to love your husband and your children, to train your sons and daughters in righteousness. But do it with an attitude of humility. Give up competing with other women. Strive for God’s glory and not your own. And when you feel that creeping sense of insufficiency, rejoice! You don’t need a stupid cape that will grow heavier and heavier as you try to shoulder it alone, but that knowledge of your insufficiency combined with confidence in God’s supreme strength and abilities will guide you to the One who is truly sufficient.


Heidi Bayly said…
Thank you Anne! This is now the third time today that I've been told this lesson. Hopefully it will stick until at least tomorrow.
Sandy said…
"...deep sense of insufficiency...strong confidence on God..." This is the work that the Lord has been doing in me most, it seems, the last year. Thank you for sharing this post, Anne. :-)
JonMelFarm said…
Thank you so much Anne! This is exactly what this year has felt like for me! I have definitely felt insufficient & exhausted in every way possible, yet I know God is at work! I have so appreciated your wisdom & sharing over the years. Have a very Merry Christmas!

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