Birthing, adoption choices, feeding, training, educating, keeping our tempers in check when everyone’s having a bad day. The temptation to act like we have it together and know what we’re doing is present at all stages of life, but I’ve personally experienced it most as a parent. I’m a mom, and I feel pressure to be good at it. From even before we hold our children in our arms, moms can feel pressure from the outside world, and especially from ourselves, to do things the best way possible.
Pretending we’re doing better than we actually are can be motivated by pride. We want to be seen as wise, competent, excellent parents. Our human nature comes with an innate desire for approval, and our pride compels us to believe we can do it all and do it best.
But it’s not just pride that fuels our pretense. I’ve realized my desire for approval from others comes from my own feelings of inadequacy. What if I don’t do it right? What if I’m not enough for my kids? What if they get sick or injured? What if they don’t aren’t doing well in school?
Well-meaning friends and public figures will tell us we can do it—our efforts are enough. Or we might judge our own performance by worse things we see in others. As in, “Yes, my kid eats Cheetos and other processed foods, but at least I don’t let him watch YouTube all day like my neighbor.” We grasp at anything that tells us we’re doing okay, or at least better than the next mom.
But the truth is, our efforts aren’t enough. And our comparisons can never alleviate our parenting guilt and sense of inadequacy.
When we embrace our weakness and inadequacy, we have to look outside ourselves for help. When we are weak, our God is strong
Truthfully, we are inadequate. So why pretend we’re not?
When we embrace our weakness and inadequacy, we have to look outside ourselves for help. When we are weak, our God is strong. When we see ourselves rightly—as weak vessels in need of supernatural strength and grace—we can stop pretending, stop comparing, and start clinging daily to the One who gives us everything we need for life and godliness. Instead of excusing our sin and shortcomings, we can take them to the cross where they’ve already been covered, and we can rejoice and live in forgiveness.
Allowing others to see our failures
Not only that, but when we stop pretending, we allow others to see our failures, pointing them to God’s grace and strength. When we ask friends to pray we’ll have wisdom in a certain situation, we demonstrate to them that: 1) We don’t have all the answers, and 2) God (not Google) gives the wisdom we need.
When we’re close enough to other believers, they’re bound to see our parenting failures. And that should be freeing. Not that we go on sinning that grace may abound, but that even parents walking with Christ will fail, sin, and need forgiveness. When we don’t get close enough to see a family’s struggles, we assume Christian parents are supposed to be perfect. But when a family lets us in to see the daily ups and downs, we’re freed from the illusion of perfection. Instead of expecting ourselves to be perfect, parents or caretakers or simply perfect people, we learn how to rightly deal with our sin and failure.
Embracing our need for a Savior
In the 2017 film Wonder Woman, actress Gal Gadot portrays the female superhero as an outsider coming from an island paradise to rescue mankind at war. But she is not one of us. She is a deity—part Amazonian and part Greek goddess—and she stands in judgment on humanity and our lack of love and kindness toward one another. Rather than being cold and aloof, she chooses to love mankind and to serve the world with her protection. But she makes an interesting statement at the end of the film:
I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of the, there will always be both—a choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.
She’s right that there is a lot of darkness in the world. And love is the only thing that can save us. But while Wonder Woman is not the heroine who can save us from this darkness, there is someone who can. What we need is not a hero who retains their powers and stands apart from us. We need a hero who gave up all his privileges to truly become one of us—not a god-dressed-as-human but God-made-flesh. Our hope is in the One who made us in his image, and then took on our image to rescue us from ourselves. It’s his love alone that can save us.
Denying our sin and struggles, pretending we’ve got this parenting thing down—these acts and attitudes hurt us, rather than help us, and they hurt those around us. Because Jesus came and took on flesh, he understands our struggles and our temptations. In love, he took our sin upon himself. When we deny we have a problem, we deny ourselves the joy of his forgiveness and grace.
But when we embrace his grace, and invite others to do the same, we create a community like the one John describes in 1 John 1:7-9:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It can be awkward to take the first step toward opening up, setting our pretense aside and letting others see us truly. But the path to fellowship flows through walking honestly in the light, knowing we’re justified and forgiven because our Savior is faithful and just—he is our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1), and he paid the price for our freedom that we might walk in it.
Check out Catherine’s new book, Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships. And join the ERLC in Dallas on October 11-13 for The Cross-Shaped Family. This conference is designed to equip families to see that all of our family stories are shaped by the ultimate story of our lives, the gospel. Speakers include Russell Moore, Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Ray Ortlund, Beth Moore, Jamie Ivey, and many more. Register today to attend!