When I was sixteen, my cousin was knocked down and killed in the road outside his house. That night, a doctor arrived at the house. Someone had called a doctor. When my newly-tragedy-torn aunt explained that her son had been killed, the doctor said, ‘Oh you don’t need me then. I’m no good in situations like this.’ As my aunt told us about this exchange she said ironically, ‘Of course, we’re experts!’ No-one knew what to say to the family, but they didn’t know what to say either.
I found a similar thing when my brother had a benign brain tumour a few years ago (from which he’s now fully recovered). People felt very awkward because they didn’t know the protocol. But if there is a protocol, we certainly didn’t know it! We were just as surprised, confused and dumb-struck as everybody else.
Being in a situation in no way makes you an expert. Perhaps you’ll become an expert as you live through it, but certainly in the midst of it you often haven’t got a clue what you’re doing.
An unusual introduction to a parenting blog, I know. And actually I’m sorry if I’ve misled you because I’m not about to break some terrible news to you all. Thank the Lord, we are all well. And also, I know that those are both terrible things, whereas being a parent is a wonderful thing. So please bear with me as I make this comparison!
I was reminded of these incidents this week as a friend who is expecting her third baby said, ‘I can’t really cope with two, so how am I going to manage three?’ You may have said something similar yourself:
‘I can barely cope with one, how will I manage two?’
‘I can hardly look after my husband, how will I look after a baby?’
‘I can’t even look after myself, how will I cope with a baby?!’
But mums with more children than you aren’t (necessarily) experts at having lots of children. They may have chosen to have lots of children, or they may not have done. Either way, God makes babies. And God gives us grace to parent them.
We (the Brookses) haven’t made it easy for ourselves. People say that to us. It’s true. But we certainly didn’t say ‘Oh having two toddlers is such a breeze! Let’s go again!’
I love learning from other mums. It’s a wonderful gift of God that we can share wisdom with our brothers and sisters. But let’s remember that it’s only by God’s grace that any of us are breathing in and out, let alone standing upright, with babies on our hips and toddlers pulling on our legs and children skipping in circles around us. None of us is an expert. We’re all much, much less able to cope than we think we are.
But God’s grace abounds. He takes what we have and multiplies it. He takes our mistakes and turns them around for our good. He overlooks our mess-ups and rewards our little triumphs.*
Let’s stop wishing we were experts, or looking forward to the day when we’ll become them. I’ve got news for you, love. It’s never going to happen.
And incidentally, the mums who we think are coping brilliantly might actually appreciate an extra pair of hands. I for one am particularly guilty of assuming other people are fine and not bothering to ask if they want me to hold a baby or fetch a wipe.
So if you’re finding it hard today, know that it’s not because you didn’t read enough textbooks about this job before you embarked upon it. The Lord gives you just what you need for today. God gets the glory when we, ill-equipped and fallen though we are, are able through His strength to do things we never thought possible:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinth 12:9-10.
*The Lord chooses to overlook (forgive) our sin because he has punished Jesus for our sin on the cross. It’s not that the sin doesn’t matter, but that it matters so much he has dealt with it fully at the cross. Micah 7:18-19 is very encouraging, especially when viewed through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Amazingly, he also rewards the progress we make, even though that progress is only possible because of his work in us by his Spirit. Revelation 22:12
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