My toddler was that kid on the playground—the one who would push and bite, erupting into a tantrum and needing to be carried home screaming. As I would carry my child to the car, the other moms looked at me with sympathy, confusion, fear, and . . . judgment.
Parents of challenging kids know this look well. We see judgment everywhere we go.
I knew others were judging me, and I knew our challenges were beyond the normal bell curve, but as an overwhelmed young mom, I did all I knew to do: I blamed myself.
At my lowest, I cried out to God, “Is this all my fault? If it is, save me! Change me!”
This culture of blame had settled into my identity. I believed I was not a good parent. And then it settled deeper—I was bad, a bad mom.
This is where Jesus went to heal me.
Jesus descends to the depths, to the deepest, darkest places of our harmful self-beliefs, our own internal hell. There with the touch of grace, Jesus delivers the good news.
A gospel of hope for any parent who blames themselves.
What we most need to hear is not that things will get better, though we long for that with all our hearts—the good news we are most desperate for is that we are in fact brave parents who are deeply loved by our Father. Not good, not bad . . . incredibly brave. With shining eyes, Jesus looks us fully in the face and declares that He sees all the effort, the sleepless nights, the endless worrying, and the bottomless love, and He is proud.
And then Jesus lays a hand on our kids—labeled, shamed, judged—and He declares their truest identity is beloved. Brave and beloved.
With transformative love, I can begin to see this journey as a gift, a path toward spiritual depth and total dependence on God. I am in the company of parents who offer Godly grace in the hardest situations, forgiving not once or twice, but 70 times 7. We have been through a spiritual boot camp, experiencing a desperate love that surpasses everything, despite all the books, toys, pillows, sticks, and awful situations that life (and our children) throw at us. We know a kernel of the love that God has for us, a no-matter-what kind of love.
In his letter to the Christian community in Rome, the apostle Paul vibrantly points to this no-matter-what love. Paul declares that no matter what trouble or hardship or judgment we’ve faced, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV).
In Jesus’s no-matter-what love, I am transformed.
With Jesus’ touch of grace fresh upon my brow, his eyes shining in my memory, I am a new mother. I return to my kids and ask for their forgiveness for all the harmful strategies I’ve tried. “I’ve gotten it wrong. I love you just the way you are.”
I no longer believe I am at fault. The world simply wasn’t built for my kids. They are square pegs in round holes, and I look them in the eyes and declare that with God’s strength, I will change the world for them.
“You’re trying your best, Mom. I love you, too,” declares my child, his grace-filled words traveling straight to my tender heart. In his shining eyes, I see the eyes of Jesus.
This promise is for you too, no matter what challenge you may face in your parenting life today. Jesus sees your struggle, the pain and judgment you feel, and Jesus touches you right at your deepest darkest fears. Jesus declares you beloved, so deeply loved that nothing you do could ever change God’s love for you. On the hardest parenting days, you catch a clearer glimpse of God’s no-matter-what love. For neither darkness nor light, neither tantrums nor obedience, neither hitting nor hugs, nothing in all the struggles of parenting can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.