It had been a taxing evening. My husband was out of town, and the older kids had both decided to throw near-simultaneous tantrums. The baby was running a fever, and my throat was on fire. Everyone needed me to meet their needs, but I could hardly meet my own. I felt awful, and I desperately needed a hot cup of tea and a long night’s rest. Unfortunately, neither was going to happen anytime in the near future.
I finally got the baby to sleep and then walked out to the living room to find the boy and girl jumping up and down asking for a snack. Their recent tantrums a thing of the past, they were quite exuberant, and they were using none-too-soft voices. I knew they risked waking the little one. “Shh!” I pleaded. “Please don’t wake your sister!”
As if on cue, she cried out. In frustration and out of sheer exhaustion I turned to my son: “Why were you so loud?” I snapped. “Now I need to put her down again. I’d really like to spend some time with you, but I can’t because I need to tend her now.”
His face sank, hope deflated, tears spilled. “I’m sorry Mama,” he said. “I want you to spend time with me.”
As his words tumbled out, the reality of the situation and the sharp, reactionary nature of my response became painfully clear. Guilt and shame welled up through that sore throat of mine, and I struggled to push it down.
I leaned into him, bent down, cupped his face and said, “I am so sorry!”
He melted into me. Little boy arms that hang long and slim wrapped around my waist. He squeezed my neck tight, and instant forgiveness flooded over me. There was no condemnation, there weren’t any expectations; it was just pure grace poured out from a six-year-old boy to his tired mama.
As moms, it’s easy to lose our cool and say words with a harsh tone. The days can drag on tedious and tiring, the kids’ needs seem relentless, our significance feels small. We pour ourselves out without a moment to fill up, and suddenly we find ourselves responding to something the kids said or did out of sheer exhaustion or frustration.
And then that guilt and shame … it rears it’s ugly head and whispers into our weakness: you’re not enough, you messed up again, you raised your voice, broke their heart, you’re failing at motherhood. The emotions are real, heavy, ugly.
Maybe you’ve been there; maybe you find yourself there today.
Because these kids … they bless us and stretch us in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined, and that stretching can pull us thin, wear us down threadbare. Limits are tested, words spoken, patience expired. And days like that can leave us with the weight of mom guilt hanging heavy around our shoulders.
Guilt that shames, condemns, enslaves.
That’s where I found myself that night, swimming in a big pool of Mama shame.
But then my boy.
My boy accepted my apology with open arms, and then he took those arms and embraced me. Right there on the kitchen floor unbeknownst to him, he gave me a very tangible object lesson. And it’s this: Grace trumps guilt. It ALWAYS will if you let it.
I know that. I knew it then, but sometimes when guilt is thick, we need to be reminded of that beautiful truth. And there’s nothing better to serve as a reminder than the forgiving, all consuming hug of a six-year-old boy.
Because sometimes our children are the tangible expression of God’s grace to us at just the moment we need it most. Forgiveness, acceptance, open arms.
Here’s what I know … Grace will always trump guilt, if you let it. It will stamp out shame, and it will spring forth from the tiniest seed in the most remote and barren of places. But we must be willing to receive it. Had I turned away from my son’s expression of grace that evening, it would have fallen flat on the kitchen floor. Instead I received it, and hearts softened, a relationship strengthened, bitterness dissipated.
Grace trumped guilt. It did for me, and it will for you if you’ll simply receive it. If Mama guilt hangs heavy, if shame is pressing down, please know that the gift of grace waits for you from the stretched-wide arms of Jesus. Overwhelming grace, consuming grace, I-don’t-deserve-it grace … it’s yours for the taking. Receive it. Because grace always triumphs.
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