Hypothetical parenting is easy. Before having our actual children it was easy to come up with solutions to other people’s parenting struggles.”Just establish a routine.” “Just make sure you follow-through on discipline.” “Just read this book.” We didn’t say it, but we certainly thought it!
Ha! How naïve and arrogant!
And then our son came into our lives. That squashed the know-it-all attitude.
Real parenting… real in-the-trenches, sleep-deprived parenting is a minefield. It’s hard, it’s complex, it’s exhausting and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
This is the third part in our series “5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid”; a series designed to help us overcome false beliefs that we have in parenting by remembering how the gospel applies. Click through to read part 1 and part 2, if you missed them.
It can be tempting to want to appear sorted as a parent. None of us want to be the sobbing wreck with the messy house, unwashed hair and badly behaved child. Nobody wants others to think of them as the Dad who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or the Mum who’s close to breaking point. But sometimes that is the reality – there are many times when we genuinely struggle to keep on top of it all.
Parenting is possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and we want to put it to you in this post, that it’s much better to show weakness than hide it.
Well in the end, there’s no good reason to put on a front.
The gospel liberates us to say that we’re not the people we’d like to be, and that includes in the realm of our parenting. We’re not who we should be, yet we’re deeply loved and valued by Jesus in the midst of our mess. He doesn’t look at our parenting with a disappointed frown on his face. He sees our weakness and with a gentle smile he gets alongside us, comforts us and gives us fresh power by his Spirit to keep going.
So there’s no point in pretending to God we’re sorted. When we see this, and when we’re reassured with the warm welcome of the gospel, we can go out with a sense of security and acceptance that allows us to drop the front that we’re sometimes tempted to put up.
And here’s the wonderful thing…
when we drop the pretense and are real with people, there can be some wonderful consequences.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. As our maker, God knows the best way for us to live. So when we live in line with that, things generally tend to “work” better.
So, what are these consequences of wearing our weakness rather than presenting perfection? Well, here are four:
1. Displaying Weakness Shows Integrity
People can see right through the façade of the “sorted parent”. Any parent knows that it’s not all perfect all of the time. It’s disingenuous and discouraging to chat to someone who never shows any weakness in their own parenting, or in the behaviour of their kids. (But just as an aside, remember that honesty is very different to simply complaining. You can adore your kids but still admit it’s hard). If you feel like someone isn’t honest with you, then you end up doubting their integrity. It doesn’t endear you to someone if you confide in them and are met with a brick-wall. So be honest about what you are finding difficult. At the very least, you’ll show those around you the real you and your real life – but there’s much more to gain from it too because…
2. Displaying Weakness Builds Friendship
Integrity builds friendship. Confiding in others about struggles and fears helps you to connect with other parents who are going through similar things. Each stage of parenting has it’s own struggles – whether it’s trying to get your child to sleep through, poo in the potty, revise for exams or learn to drive. Keeping the challenges to yourself isolates you but sharing the highs and lows builds friendships with others. You need to laugh, cry, sigh and pray with others – we were never designed to carry this great joy and burden alone. We’re meant to do it in community.
Cathy has found that some of the closest and best friends she’s ever had have been the mum-friends she’s met. Lots of parents go to play groups not just because it’s great for the kids (although they are fab – big spaces, different toys, other children and messy crafts that mum doesn’t allow at home!), but because they can chat to other adults. A cup of tea and a natter with another parent is therapeutic!
3. Displaying Weakness Creates Opportunities For Support
Being honest and open means that you make friends and gain a support network. Not everyone has the luxury of family close-by. Not everyone has other parents to young children in their churches. But, unless you live somewhere very remote indeed, you’ll probably be able to find a play group to go to. If you are open, honest and friendly then you’ll meet some like-minded people who can provide a listening ear, a hug and, over time as the friendship deepens, practical help in a time of need.
But some of us do have family close by. Some of us do have a church where there are people in our congregations who can help us out. But even then, we still need to be willing to ask for help – and that means we need to be ok with showing weakness, exposing our real lives and being humble enough to receive help.
Often pride is the only thing which is really holding us back from receiving help.
God taught us this lesson the hard way.
We help to lead a church with a team of other people. We planted the church just over a year ago. But, we often feel our role in the church has been to model weakness. This certainly wasn’t our plan or desire! Since the church has been going we’ve suffered a miscarriage, Cathy’s been pregnant with Boaz and now we have a new-born baby.
It’s been quite a rollercoaster!
It’s been physically exhausting.
There have been times when we haven’t had much to offer people.
We often feel like we’re lagging behind the others that we planted with, in terms of hospitality and practical service.
We’ve had a challenging time. But we think God wanted us to be open and real about that with others in our church community. In doing so, we’ve built a more genuine community and have been the recipients of others getting alongside us, supporting us and blessing us. Others have grown in Christ-likeness as they’ve ministered to us.
It’s reminded us that we are not the Messiah, we aren’t anyone’s saviour, we haven’t got it all together, but mercifully we know the one who is all powerful, all good and for us. He’s the one our church is all about.
4. Displaying Weakness Means Jesus Receives The Glory
When we are honest about weakness we build community, gain support and in the end Christ is glorified. If we hide what’s really going on then we can’t ask for prayer, receive practical help or have our friends encourage us and gospel us.
Weakness is good. No let’s go further than that.
Weakness is essential for Christian community.
As our weakness is exposed, Jesus and his strength is glorified.
And there’s often another way that Jesus is glorified.
Cathy has found that she’s developed genuine, deep, reciprocal friendships with non-Christians since becoming a mum – whether they’re wiping Reu’s nose, changing Bo’s nappy, or handing her a cup of tea while she breastfeeds – she’s found that she could not walk this journey without them; they are God’s gift to her. Parenthood is a great leveller, and as she’s shared her life with other parents, she’s been able to share Jesus too.
So there you have it – don’t hide your weakness.
Jesus accepts weak you and me, so we don’t need to pretend. As we wear our weakness, it connects us to others as we lean on them. And weakness enables us to point others to Jesus and be pointed to Jesus yourself.
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