It’s been many years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. We were standing in line at the library, and my toddler said (in a volume that barely qualified as an inside voice), “Wow! She’s ugly!”
And, yes, he pointed his chubby little finger at the library employee while saying it.
I thought I would die right there on the spot.
I leaned down and whispered into his ear something about not saying things like that because it’s not kind, but he didn’t take my not-so-subtle hint. I guess he thought I hadn’t realized the truth of the situation because he very innocently shook his head and said, “No, Mommy, but she really is ugly! See?”
I thought I would die right there on the spot. . .again.
Thankfully, we were back far enough in line that the sweet library lady didn’t hear the comments, but still I was embarrassed out of my mind. The words weren’t said maliciously, yet they certainly could have caused some pain. And after we reached the car, you can be sure we had a long talk about what things are appropriate to say out loud in public.
A Most Humiliating Venture
That’s just one small example of the humiliation I’ve experienced as a mother. Over the years, I’ve become convinced that motherhood is a most humiliating venture. But it isn’t humiliating just because kids say and do embarrassing things; it’s humiliating because it assaults every bit of self-reliance, goodness, and pride we have.
We reach out; they push us away. We offer chocolate; they want vanilla. We say, “Do it;” they say, “No way.” We threaten punishment; they take another step across the line. And once we think we finally have this parenting thing figured out, we enter a new phase with a whole new spectrum of trials.
Learning humility stinks. It’s exhausting, really. Just when we feel like we’re standing on level ground, our self-confidence is torn down in a matter of seconds by a tantrum or an act of deliberate disobedience. We uncover sin issues in our own hearts that we didn’t even know existed, and we spend more time crying than we ever could have imagined when that sweet little newborn was placed in our arms. Parenting brings out the best and the worst in us, and often leaves us counting our failures as much as our blessings.
The Gift of Humility
But all this humiliation is a gift of grace. It pushes us (sometimes kicking and screaming) back to total dependence on Jesus, so that we realize we have no self-reliance, no self-goodness, no right to pride. It is a refining fire that brings us to the end of ourselves, and all we are left with is: “I will hope in Him.”
The words of this old hymn come to mind:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”
I dare not trust in my own efforts to teach or train. I dare not trust in my husband’s ability to encourage me or my children’s desire to obey me. I can’t trust in a parenting book, an educational philosophy, or a method of discipline.
I must humbly trust in the only One who holds the future. There is no other experience in the whole of my life that has driven me to my knees in prayer quite like trying to mother my three treasured children. There has been nothing else more beautiful or more difficult, more enjoyable or more sanctifying.
There are days I’d rather forget, but I wouldn’t trade a single one of them. I thank God that He has used the humility of motherhood to draw me nearer to the throne of grace. The embarrassments, the assaults on my pride, the times of utter helplessness have all worked to show me my need for the gospel and the hope to be found at the foot of the cross.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13
Have you had any humiliating experiences of your own? How has motherhood drawn you closer to Jesus? Let’s chat in the comments!