Tuesday, October 2, 2012

when being the expert is inadequate

do you ever find that the things you should be the 'expert' in are the things you feel most inadequate in?  like eventually someone is going to discover that you are actually a fraud and really have no idea what you are doing?

for as long as i can remember i have worked with kids - at church, at camps, at schools, at family gatherings...i have always been drawn to kids.

i spent a LOT of years studying children and families and the psychology behind it all...
an undergraduate degree in psychology and education.  
a graduate degree in school psychology.  
lots of hours racked up doing counseling and therapy and testing and interventions.

i was the one my friends all called when they had kids and wondered...why is she so nervous at school that she can't talk, why does he rub his head until there is a bald spot, why won't she listen to anything that i say, why is he acting like a complete maniac???

i would always listen and ask more questions and then gathering from all of my experience and education i would make some recommendations {which may or may not have been helpful}.  helping other people with their kids was easy...

then i had a couple of my own.
i always knew that day would come.  in fact...i routinely told my friends - 'one day i'm going to be the one calling you and telling you that none of those recommendations i gave you are working on my own kids.'  and so the prophecy has been fulfilled.  the time of being the 'expert' is over and the reality of being a parent 24/7 has been faced.

five years ago i sat in a cozy little bistro as the rain poured down outside.  across the table from me was a new acquaintance i had met just a week earlier.  we were fast friends.  she had 2 kids.  i had none.  she knew i worked as a school psychologist so on a desperate mommy day she called and asked if we could talk.  

i remember sitting in that restaurant with it's clean, neatly pressed white linens and shining silverware...bright fresh flowers in crystal glasses on the table.  and right there in the middle of that pretty little peaceful place i witnessed a lovely, charming mother fall apart.  i was allowed into that secret place where immense heartache over her children resided.  we shed tears together and talked for hours...literally.  when we had worn out our welcome at the restaurant we just moved over to her house and made coffee and kept talking...the rain still pouring outside as my friend poured her heart out with beautiful honesty.

there are two things i will never forget about that day.  

{1}  the thing i felt most compelled to tell my friend that day was not a lesson on behavior management.  it was simply this - you are a wonderful mother and you are not alone.  i saw in her face the defeat and the desperation that she was living with.  i heard in her words the failure and loss of hope that she was experiencing.  i also felt radiating from her a deep and intense love for her children.  i knew that all the books i had read and lectures i had heard didn't have a good solution to the deep pain she was feeling.  in that moment i knew that the thing she first needed to hear {we ALL first need to hear} was this - you are not a failure.  you are the mother that God ordained to raise your children.  you were created to give life to them and the lies you are believing about your inability to mother them well are just that...lies.  

and {2} this was the first time i truly realized that when you step into the role of 'parent' you step onto the battlefield.  and the war is not being waged between parent and child but between truth and lies.

i am forever grateful to my sweet friend for opening my eyes to this reality.  i continue to admire her bravery as she fights for the hearts of her kids and her relationship with them.  because of all that i walked through with her, i did not step into motherhood lightly when my daughter lucy was born the following year.  
i knew that i must be armed and ready for battle.  i also knew that my education and experience would never be enough.  boy has that proven to be true!

i want to honestly confess to you that this is one of my greatest struggles as a mom.  i slip back into thinking that with my background i should have all the answers and get everything right the first time.  when i don't, i beat myself up...big time.  when my kids throw a temper tantrum in the church parking lot i just know that everyone is shaking there heads in disbelief...and she calls herself a family pastor...geez...she can't even get control of her own child.

if i stop and think about this i know it's not true.  i know that i am not being judged every hour of every day by anyone else but myself.  i also know that those moments of desperation are a good indication that i should remember this truth that i heard at church on sunday morning...

our inadequacies create space for God to move.

i want God to move in my family.  i know that what i have to offer is not enough.  i want God to move in my heart and the hearts of my kids.  in order for that to happen i have to admit my own inadequacies.  but more than that...i have to admit them and then knowingly step into a role that i know i can't successfully play on my own.  that's scary...but only if you don't hold on to this other truth...

do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
{hebrews 10:35-36}

and in case you are wondering what he has promised...just pick up your Bible and start reading.  
you will be blown away.  
promises of peace beyond your understanding, 
hope you never dreamed of hoping for, 
lavish love that never gives up, 
a Spirit that bears the fruit of patience and kindness, 
grace that generously covers every parenting mistake we could ever make
...and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

maybe today you {like me} just need to hear these words...
you are a wonderful parent and you are not alone.
you have your inadequacies...but so do all the rest of us.
you also have a God who wants to fill in the gaps of those inadequacies with abounding grace and love and truth.
persevere with confidence...not just in yourself but in your God who will reward you and fulfill all His promises to you and your children as you trust in Him.