Be A Bridge: Mothering From Scratch

Every mother needs the wise encouragement found in Mothering from Scratch by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo. This message is a bridge leading weary mothers’ straight to God’s grace.

Mothering is filled with hard places. Empty places. Spots where my best mom effort doesn’t dent the deficit in my child’s character. It is in these places, the void between my mothering and my child’s bad behavior, where the abyss seems unbridgeable.

But God.

He sent His Son to lay down His life by spreading His arms on a cross where a Savior became a bridge. He bridges the abyss from my mothering failures to my child’s sinful heart.

Jesus is the ultimate Bridge. He bridges the chasm between my imperfect parenting and my imperfect children. Or rather, Jesus bridges the gap between in-progress parents and in-progress children.

Before having my own children, I believed mothering was building. Mothers build fairy tale lives for their children to incubate their unlimited potential… protecting their young from the evil of the world, providing them every opportunity to excel in their gifting and proving to the rest of the world how highly esteemed their children are. And every acclamation, award or honor the child receives, the mother receives glory for her investment in her child.

Boy, was I wrong!

“There can be an assumption that if a child is doing something wrong, they simply haven’t been parented well. Or that every good and right thing they do is somehow a result of supreme parenting skills.” [p. 141]

There are many well-meaning mothers who make a full time career of building lives for their children. I know them and so do you. My mommy guilt leaks out when my child is on their child’s team, in their child’s class or competing against their child on a stage. “Mommy guilt stems from the illusion that we’re ultimately in control.” [p. 33] As mothers we must look to God for approval and direction. We must let the His Word and His life be our measuring stick. When we spend time with Him, we assault our guilt with His grace.

“If we look for our sense of self by pursuing the goals our culture tells us are valuable, we’ll never end our search. And we’ll never measure up…Our talents, unique personality traits, preferences and gifts all come from our Creator. They’re part of who we are and they don’t determine our worth or value.” [p. 62]

Mothering from guilt causes deficits in my mothering to consume me. No matter how hard I work, the bridge I build is never long enough to stretch past my shortcomings. The gaps glare at me; my own sin and scattered success stark amidst my children’s own deficiencies and sinful deeds.

Constructing faulty plans connecting my parenting methods to my children’s behavior, beliefs and abilities runs me ragged. When the bridge isn’t quite long enough, I simply push myself harder. Do more, spend more, give more believing I will eventually achieve their positive response.

And when I keel over from exhaustion? I push my family harder. I nag my husband to do more. I nag my children to try harder. Because I am a mother with a misguided purpose—I attempt to raise perfect children.

“There can be an assumption that if a child is doing something wrong, they simply haven’t been parented well. Or that every good and right thing they do is somehow a result of supreme parenting skills.” [p. 141]

Believing my child’s behavior is a direct result of my mothering arises from assuming the wrong role in their lives.

A mother’s role is not to build bridges for her children. It is to simply be a bridge.

God is the bridge builder. I am merely the bridge.

God gives mothers specific opportunities to act as a bridge. Or become a barrier in strengthening the family dynamic and forming a lasting legacy.

We are bridges to our children’s father, family and friendships.

Because mothers typically spend more time with their children than their husbands, our words, our actions, our respect of our children’s father greatly influence the father/child dynamic and relationships in our homes.

“As moms we connect all relationships within the family to each other. Here is where we have a choice to become a barrier or a bridge between our husbands, extended family members, siblings and children…Our diplomacy as we navigate these interactions helps our children engage with the world.” [p. 140]

We are bridges to our children’s faith.

We cannot guarantee our children’s faith. We influence them by our own example of walking with God. However, no amount of church involvement, family devotions and summer camp can change that. Only God can change hearts and draw them to Him. We can pray with all our might our children choose Him. But ultimately, the choice is theirs.

“Spiritual formation of children…is exposing them to the Bible and prayer and helping them form a good conscience…They need the freedom to make mistakes, pay consequences, and reap rewards  (age- and child-appropriate). It allows them to experience God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness firsthand. We cheat them of something by making life too easy. How will they see their need for God if we’re continually rescuing them?” [p. 139]

When I am a bridge,  I stop building, I allow God to start; He then perfects my children. And me. More accurately, He completes my children while He is completing me. When I follow Jesus’ example and stretch my arms in surrender, I bridge them to Him. I become a bridge.

Suddenly it seems so clear: a mother’s purpose is not to reform her children. A mother’s purpose is to allow her children to reform her. Parenting isn’t all about the children. It’s all about God. And that’s how God intended it.

“Mothers don’t voluntarily sign up for character change. God seems to make it happen ever so effectively through mothering children…The demands of motherhood can cause us to view our children as barriers to our goals, personal development, and productivity…God allows [us] to recognize [our] children as divinely given molders of [our] character.” [p. 43-44]

Refocused perspective allows me to approach each day with gratitude. I thank God for this strongwilled, opinionated, courageous, spirited, persevering, energetic bunch to mother. I thank Him for using my children to make me more like Him.

This book came as I was grieving my many mothering mistakes. This message has silenced old regret and released fresh stamina in my own motherhood marathon.

Now I  parent with confidence as God’s intent: To become more like Him. And I am thankful my children are a vital part of God’s purpose.

Many people can build houses, but God builds everything. Hebrews 3:4

Sweet, tired momfriend, lay down your hammer. Quit building your child’s life. Let the Holy Builder make you into your child’s bridge. Lay down your life today. Become a bridge.

In what area do you intend to become a mothering bridge?

To order your own copy of Mothering From Scratch, click here.

Because it’s (almost) Valentine’s Day, I want to give you a {FrEe} tool to be a bridge to your child’s faith. Simply click here and follow the instructions to download a {FrEe} printable way to surprise your child with God’s personalized promises.

Also posted at the #SDGGathering.