Motherhood, Theology

The Better Parent

One rainy Monday morning, frustrated tears slid down my two-year-old daughter’s cheeks before we even made it out of the bedroom. I coaxed her sobbing body into the kitchen, still insisting she wanted Play-Doh not breakfast, but she slumped to the floor seeing the waffles I made. Already exhausted from the morning’s conflicts, I conceded and made her oatmeal and after a few bites, her hungry belly and unruly emotions finally settled.

I applauded myself for keeping my cool—redirecting outbursts and making compromises when possible. I relaxed into my chair with my peanut butter toast and lukewarm cup of coffee, relieved my daughter had shaken the irritability out of her bedhead. I began our morning devotion routine, my mood and chin lifting as we made it through with no protest.

We always finish with her favorite part: Scripture memorization followed by a dinosaur-shaped gummy vitamin. It’s not necessarily the memorization she loves, but the dinosaur roaring that ensues after she claims her prize. I picked up the spiral book of verse cards sitting propped against our napkin holder, and she excitedly yelled, “I want a bite-a-men!”

I began with an easy verse she knows well, “In the beginning…”

She completed the verse through a mouth full of milk, only missing a couple of words. Cheering her on, I said the verse back to her correctly and asked her to repeat after me.

“In the beginning, God created…”

She missed the same words again. I was determined to end this morning routine successfully, so I continued the cycle of repeating the verse, stopping her after each incorrect word. Frustrated she was getting it wrong, whether out of stubbornness or ignorance, my voice rose as I continued repeating the verse. “Again,” then “Again.”

On the fifth try, she burst into tears and threw her milk cup to the floor. My shoulders slumped, any pride of holding this Monday together melted into shame.

I made my daughter cry while practicing her Bible verses. I am the worst mom in the world.

These moments of “mom guilt” occur more often in my home than I would like to admit. I’m tempted to pridefully wallow in self-condemnation or excuse myself with self-righteousness. Yet God, in his kindness, reminds me that my mothering mistakes are not who I am, but they do reveal a deeper misunderstanding of who he is. My parenting choices expose the lies I believe about God.

When I shout an order from the kitchen and anxiously peek around to see if my daughter obeyed, I’m viewing God as a distant king, waiting to see if I follow his commands perfectly.

When I’m quick to speak a harsh word as my daughter’s toddler brain processes a right or wrong decision, I’m seeing God as an impatient judge, swift to condemn when I don’t make the correct choice.

When I place unrealistic expectations on her (like saying a Bible verse flawlessly on a rough Monday morning), I’m believing God is a demanding father—his love and favor dependent on my good works like prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance. These motherhood failures are based on my misunderstandings about God as my Heavenly Father.

I’m not the first to let a distorted view of God distort how I live. In the Garden, man and woman were created to be in perfect relationship with their Creator, to walk with him and to fully know him. Yet they chose to believe lies about God—that he was holding out on them, he wasn’t who he said he was, and he didn’t know what was best.

Ever since they believed that first lie, mankind has made false assumptions about God. While we are made in his image, we assume he is like us—quick to anger, slow to remember, putting law before love. Christians can live their whole lives with skewed views of God, impacting how they live out their faith.

Despite our rebellion, God chooses not to leave us in the dark about who he is. Throughout the Old Testament, God reveals parts of himself through thunderous storms and gentle whispers, through fire pillars and thick clouds. Yet he veils his full presence behind a curtain, separating a holy God from his wayward people.

When Jesus—the exact imprint of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3)—comes into the world, he changes everything. God the Father no longer conceals parts of himself from his people but instead displays himself fully through his Son. Everything we are able to know about God is perfectly embodied in Christ (Colossians 2:9).

When we take our eyes off of Christ, off of the Word made flesh (John 1:14), we believe Satan’s lies about God—he is a distant king, an impatient judge, and a demanding father. But when we look to Christ, we see God for who he is: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).

As we behold our Heavenly Father, we become who we were created to be; we become the mothers he called us to be. We receive God’s grace over our imperfections and show the same mercy when our children make mistakes. We remember Christ absorbed the wrath due us and are slow to anger when our children disobey. We rest in the steadfast love of God, overflowing with his unconditional love, even on messy Monday mornings.

Our inadequacies in motherhood point us to the perfect fatherhood of God. The more we gaze upon God’s merciful grace, his patient kindness, and his faithful love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of the Son. And the more clearly we reflect the Father to our children.

I pulled my daughter out of her booster seat and sat her on my lap. “I’m sorry for raising my voice at you. I wasn’t kind,” I said, brushing back her blonde curls and holding her close to my chest. “Even mommy gets mad and makes mistakes, so I need Jesus each moment of every day to forgive me of the sin in my heart.”

“I fo-give you, Mommy,” my daughter sniffled and looked up at me. “Let’s pway.”

“Thank you, Father,” I pray aloud with her, “that your mercies are new every morning.”

As we behold our Heavenly Father, we become who we were created to be; we become the mothers he called us to be.

3 thoughts on “The Better Parent”

  1. Bethany, Dear. Thank you. I have tears in my eyes, as I recall my mornings/days like yours. I had three sons within 33 months. The next month, we celebrated My 25th birthday. From August 25 to November 10, the boys were: 1,2,3; 2,3.4; etc. My boys are now in their 60s. I wish I had had your depth of perception. Keep up the good work….

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