I can think of many good reasons to avoid facebook. For starters, I don’t need help comparing myself to others. It’s a natural tendency I have to fight constantly, even without refreshing my news feed. I don’t need help looking at all the super moms out there and being reminded of what I’m not doing. And no offense, but I don’t need to know what you’re pinning on Pinterest, just to be reminded that I have no ambition to sew or craft or paint…anything. Facebook is food for my cynical soul, which needs to be starved. And besides that, what a time waster.
So. I concluded that the time I spent on facebook could be better spent elsewhere. Like on blogging. And playing with my kids. And reading good books. And cleaning my disaster-of-a-house.
I have been facebook-free for about three weeks, and I’ve learned something that I should have probably figured out by now, but alas, I tend to learn things rather slowly. The lesson is this: Facebook is not the problem.
But it goes further.
The problem is me.
My pride, my cynicism, my lack of self-control, my time-wasting.
You know how I know? Because, well, I’m still cynical. I still feel like everyone else is doing a better job at, you know, everything. I haven’t written a single blog post since getting off the time-sucking social network, my house is still a disaster, I haven’t read much of any book, and I have managed to find new ways to waste time.
With no facebook to blame, I am left with myself. My proud, messy, cynical heart. And so, naturally, I make resolutions. I plan my changes: I choose the books I’m going to read, the fun I’m going to have, the articles I’m going to write, the exercise I’m going to start, the rooms I’m going to organize, and then I do what naturally follows:
And I can think of a million excuses. If you only knew the reality of our last few months. The reality of our right now, for that matter. It would all be justified – the failures, and the moping.
But the reality is this: I am failing.
Now, maybe you want to tell me I’m too hard on myself. It’s probably what I would want to tell you if you spouted all of this off to me. And I do acknowledge that this beat-up-myself-constantly-feel-like-a-failure thing is neither true nor good.
But if I just pat myself on the back and say, “You’re doing just fine,” well, that would be neither true nor good either.
I read an article awhile back that was something along the lines of this: “Dear Mom Who Thinks She’s Failing, You’re Not. Repeat after me: I can do this.” It was sweet, and encouraging, yet it left me feeling a bit empty and frustrated. Because of what I know to be true: no matter how many times I repeat that mantra, no matter how many times I make new lists and plans and resolutions, no matter how long I stay off of facebook, the reality is, I can’t do this. I will still fail.
Maybe, by the grace of God, I will grow in loving my children, in serving, in becoming less cynical and more disciplined. But the reality is, I will never do any of those things perfectly. And that is God’s standard, right? Perfection. Holiness. Complete obedience. And with the law of God written on my heart, I will always know, deep down, that I am falling short.
There are many problems with always feeling like a failure. It reveals the true source of my identity – I have allowed myself to buy the lie that my value, approval, acceptance, and satisfaction lie in my performance as a wife or mother. I have allowed myself to believe that it all hinges on me – that I must succeed in those areas or my children are doomed.
But the solution is not happy self-talk. That is only a pick-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps kind of solution. It’s looking to myself as my savior, determining that with enough resolve I have what it takes.
I don’t think we should be so quick to run from our feelings of failure. I think we should hang out there a moment. Not to make sure we feel bad enough to change, but because I think it’s there that we are finally forced to look outside of ourselves. When we are faced with the depths of our sin and failure, and when we look up and see a holy, perfect, majestic God, it is there that we encounter grace. True grace – grace that doesn’t minimize sin or pat you on the back and say, “You can do this” – but grace that says, “You can’t do this, but I did it for you.” Once we encounter that grace, we can begin to walk in faith, tackling our failures one-by-one, not in our own strength but in the power of His might – the very might which raised Christ from the dead and now lives in and empowers those who have put their faith in Him (Eph. 1 & 6).
So if I were to write that letter, here’s what I would say –
(Here’s what I need to hear.)
Dear Mom Who Thinks She’s Failing,
You will never perfectly love your children. You may love and train and discipline and plan crafts and activities and outings, but there will still be a lingering sense that you’re not doing enough. There will still be fear about your children’s future – about the state of their hearts – about who they are becoming. You will wonder if you should have done more.
You will rarely accomplish everything set before you, and when you do, the feelings of satisfaction will probably only last moments, as the mundane returns day after day.
You will fight anger and bitterness and resentment and irritability, perhaps due to legitimate sleeplessness and hormones and crappy circumstances, or perhaps due to a never-ending list of demands and an ever-growing pile of laundry, or perhaps simply due to children who have boundless energy and talk incessantly.
You will fight the constant battle between me-time and them-time, between your desires and theirs, and you will often feel guilty, wondering if you chose poorly.
Yes, mother, you are failing.
But there is good news. There is enough grace even for you.
The success of your children,
the state of your home,
the number of things you crossed off your list today –
these things neither define you nor ultimately bring the satisfaction you crave.
your joy –
these things do not hinge upon your success as a wife or a mother.
God knew we could not live up to His standard of perfection, and so He made a way: His Son came to earth as a man; He walked the path that you walk now. Only He did not fail. And for the joy set before Him – the joy of rescuing you and me – He endured the cross on our behalf.
He became sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
He who knew no failure paid the penalty for all of mine, and for all of yours.
And because of that –
not because “I can do this”
but because He did –
because of That –
You can lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees; You can make level paths for your feet; you can strive for peace and holiness (Hebrews 12).
You can be a mom who is not plagued by her many failures but who rejoices in the God who covered them all.
And as the God who is Faithful works in you, changing you, shaping you to be more like Him, His grace will strengthen you to love more, to give more, to serve more.
But your failures will not go away – not yet – not on this earth.
But that is not our hope anyway – no, your hope is not in a life free from struggle and free from failure, but in an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So fix your eyes, dear Mother, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is only temporary – but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV)