Thursday, June 4, 2009

caught off guard

I love words and I love encouraging others with my words. On Monday afternoon, God gave me an opportunity to encourage another mom and I wasn't able to utter even a single word.

Sure, I could explain the situation from beginning to end and try to wrap pretty words around it. But it wouldn't change the truth. I wasn't able to speak life and hope into her because I was too busy judging her. :-(

I was stunned by her attitude, actions, and words and wasn't able to find any compassion in my heart. Honestly, I realized that she was a real, living example of what I look like as a mom on my worst days. Only she was acting like that in public. Gasp.

Is my sarcasm coming through?

Seriously. I'm an imperfect mom and I struggle. A lot.

There isn't a single day that goes by where I don't have a long list of all the things I did wrong, all of the balls I dropped and all of the things I missed.

On Monday, I took my kids to the library to sign them up for the Summer Reading Club. While they were filling out their forms, I heard a woman next to me sighing loudly. Clearly exasperated with her daughter who was working on her own form.

During the next ten minutes, she continued to sigh and look over at me. I honestly tried to ignore it. She reminded me of one of my own kids when they are acting up in order to receive attention.

What was impossible to ignore, however, was the fact that she was a mom who was struggling. Clearly. And I have a heart for moms. Especially those who are struggling.

After a series of dramatic sighs, I heard a loud sigh. Followed by a very cranky, "I should keep Tylenol in my car!"

I looked up from helping my son and looked into her eyes. This woman was looking for a lifeline and I was the one she was asking.

Startled by the whole interaction, I asked her if she was alright. I began to think that maybe she was more than an impatient mom. Maybe this woman had a severe medical condition. She had her hand on her head and looked seriously ill.

I could feel the concern and compassion welling up within my heart. It was one of those moments when it felt like time stood still.

She then went on to tell me, in front of her adorable little girl, how difficult it was to parent her. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, I wanted to say something, anything to get her to stop.

I know firsthand how hurtful words can be. Especially words from people who are supposed to love and nurture us. My first concern went to her daughter and I felt sad for her innocent little heart. The compassion was soon replaced by anger, I'm afraid. (Can you hear my sighs now?)

My brain started spinning as I struggled to find words to encourage this clearly overwhelmed woman.

I wanted her to know that I understood how very hard parenting can be. I wanted to let her know that I struggle too. I wanted to gently remind her of what an incredible gift it is to be a mother. I wanted to highlight the fact that mothering brings out the best and the worst in each of us. I wanted her to know that God allows those hard days in order to bring growth and healing with each of us. I wanted to be supportive, kind and non-judgemental.

Do you see how many "I's" there were in my thoughts? I was so stuck on me and my thoughts. Not once did I actually stop and seek God's wisdom.

Regardless of my intentions, I couldn't utter a single word. They lodged in my heart as I choked on my own bitter sin.

The best I could do was give her a sad look and turn away.

I could have cried on the spot. I wasn't able to love a fellow mom because I was judging her. And myself. She was showing me what I look like some days with my own kids. Within the safety of our home. Without an audience. It's not pretty.

I felt bad for judging this woman that I didn't know. I don't know the details of her life. Nor did I need to. I know the details of my life and that I'm just as guilty as she is (even more.) Sigh.

I felt disappointed in myself because I was being so judgemental, and I knew it. I felt sad because my children were watching our interaction and I wasn't setting a good example to follow.

I wasn't able to be the person that God created me to be in that moment.

I was stuck with a log in my eye, worried about this sweet woman's little sliver. Sin stinks.

And yet, God is my Redeemer. He knew how I was going to respond before I even met this woman. He knew that I needed to fail in that moment.

He knew that I needed to see a living, breathing example of how horrible I can be with my own children.

God knew that I needed to let an opportunity to glorify Him slip through my fingers. Because now I want that more than anything.

I trust that God will give me another opportunity to bless a fellow mom. My spirit longs to speak the words of love and compassion that my flesh choked on.

Next time, I'll remember to breathe a quick prayer and ask Him to help me.

Life is hard. Parenting is especially hard. We're all in this together. We're all humans in need of a God who forgives us and allows us to try again. Every moment. Every day.

I love the saying about being careful when you point your finger at someone else because there are always four more fingers pointing back at us. It was in that moment that I lost my words.

Yes, God is patient. God is forgiving. God loves me when I succeed and when I fail miserable. He is all that is good within me, and for that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for redemption,

5 comments:

Wendy said...

What an amazing and honest way to look at this situation. I am guilty of similar feeling while watching parents act like children in front of their children and then God somehow finds a way to lovingly knock me upside the head to say..."Child, get a grip. You are MY child, so listen up......."

YOU ROCK Amy Jo!
~ Wendy

chicknboy said...

wow. thank you for your honesty and openness. It makes me think of how too often that happens in each of our lives. we're given an opportunity to be Christ's hand and feet (or voice) and yet we, for whatever reason, do not act.

thanks for the reminder of His redemptive grace and mercy.

HisFireFly said...

Well said, well said! Now I must go look to see if I can find the plank in my eye!
blessings...

Girly Girl Mommy said...

[I trust that God will give me another opportunity to bless a fellow mom] Consider one such opportunity having come to pass. Your transparency and honesty in sharing about your library encounter and what God taught you in that experience has richly blessed and encouraged me. We all have these encounters, and frankly if I reflect honestly, all to often I've fond myself judging and remaining silent too. My eyes are now wide open, especially after having just read about desiring to be "Her, here" over at www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com Thank you.
Blessing,
Kelly

Andrea said...

Wow, what great insight! Thank you for sharing and being honest... being a mom sure is the biggest thing we will ever do huh? ALWAYS a learning curve...one I fail at frequently myself, and altough at first I am not really delighted in learning, God is always faithful to show me where I can change and grow.
Blessings to you!
Andrea