A couple years ago I was sitting at the dinner table surrounded by my sweet little boys. We were having corn on the cob, a family favorite. Suddenly I noticed my 3yr-old staring at me. I smiled at him. He did not smile back.
“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked.
“You have corn all over your face,” he frowned. I laughed and reached for a napkin.
“Well, corn on the cob is kind of messy,” I said. My son looked despondently down at his food, obviously disappointed in me. I heard him mumble, “It’s not right. Moms shouldn’t look like that.”
Clearly I had failed as a mother. I got food on my face and my son could never look at me the same. He literally had to tell me, “Mom…wash your face.”
Rachel Hollis’s book, “Girl, Wash Your Face,” took the country by storm earlier this year and it’s still going strong. But Rachel isn’t talking about corn on the cob. In her book she is talking about washing away all the lies and negativity that hold us back and keep us from realizing our dreams.
Hollis reveals a lot of real problems, but unfortunately she offers no real solutions. All of her encouragement points to self: self-help, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Hollis says, “You need to prove to yourself that you can do it. You need to prove to yourself you are capable of anything you set your mind to. You have the power.”
This is what we call a, “Pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality. But I don’t have any bootstraps. Some days I don’t even get out of my slippers. (Husband, no comment, please). When I look inside for all the great stuff, the “inner strength” that Rachel Hollis says is supposed to save me, all I find is more mess.
And if my son was disillusioned by my messy eating, boy was he in for a rude awakening. He was going to see Mommy mess up many, many times. Not with food. That’s pretty easy to fix. No, he would see me mess up with my attitude, my words, and my actions. He’d hear me speak impatiently to him and his brothers, complain about my work load, and grumble against my husband. He would see Mommy sin. That’s a mess you can’t wipe away with a napkin.
But what would he see Mommy do with that sin? Our kids aren’t looking for perfect mommies. They are looking for what Mommy does after she messes up. If you’re trying to make your kids think you’re perfect, that ship has sailed. The jig is up. They already know the truth. You can stop pretending now.
But that’s not a bad thing. As our kids grow, they can’t relate to perfect. They can relate to messing up – but they need to know how to handle it. They need an example. Ta-da – here’s Mommy, the perfect example of sin in action! Do they see Mommy shrug it off, tell herself she’s a beautiful person, and try harder next time?
That’s not what I want my children to see. In fact, I don’t want my kids to see me at all. I want them to see Jesus. I want them to see that the only way to deal with failure is to find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Where “self” is a dead end, Christ offers eternal hope. When the world (and Rachel Hollis) says, “Look within,” God’s word says, “Look to Christ.” When the world says, “You can do it!” – God’s word says, “You can’t do it – but Christ did it all.” (Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 2:24)
Our kids don’t need to see a mom with a washed face. They need to see a mom with a washed heart – a heart that is sinful beyond repair, just like theirs, but made clean through the precious blood of Christ.
One day my son will be grown. And one night he might be sitting alone in his apartment, contemplating some big mistake he made. I don’t want him to look within. That joy will only last a few moments and then leave him more hopeless than he was before. I want him to look to Jesus. I want him to hear the words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) And when the world would tell him, “Boy, wash your face!” – I want him to turn to his savior and say, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)
Books by Sara Wallace:
“For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs”
“I have read SO many parenting books- and it seems they fall into one of two camps: practical advice or a theological perspective, and so often I felt like they didn’t apply to the little years. This book is my new favorite on the subject of discipline because Sara beautifully addresses both, sharing stories and examples from her own life as a mother of 5 boys.” – Ashley.
“The Gospel-Centered Mom is a huge gulp of refreshing air for moms who are in the thick of raising kids. It takes your eyes off of your performance and places them on the one who performed perfectly for us.” – Jessica Thompson, co-author of Give Them Grace.