Finding the Courage to Move in Motherhood

By Jessica Wolstenholm

I have this odd hang-up about being in control. It doesn’t always show up in my everyday life but it affects my ability to do things like snow skiing, roller skating, even bike riding. I simply can’t allow an object connected to my body have control over my movement. It’s completely unnerving to think that skis, skates, and wheels could take over and move me places I don’t want to go (like flat on the ground or stuck in a bush).

I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. My aversion to moving sports equipment didn’t include boats at first. I had no problem sitting in a structure that required my own force for it to move from point A to point B. Then one day in college I attended a team-building canoe trip and everything changed.

My younger (and obviously less mature) teammate thought it would be funny to rock the boat. The water was high that day so I was already on edge. When he tipped the canoe and I got caught underneath it, it ended my days on the river. I’ve turned down many offers to go canoeing since.

So I added canoes to my list of “things to avoid because they make me feel out of control.” I never invested time or courage into mastering these activities. I simply left them alone because I didn’t like how they made me feel: unqualified and out of control.

Along Comes Motherhood

And then I became a mom. The funny thing is . . . the feeling of being out of control that comes with wheels and such pales in comparison to what I often feel (in my own strength) as a parent. These tiny humans I’m blessed to raise can make me feel so utterly helpless. Most days I feel completely unqualified to guide them.

I have so much to learn about God myself, how could I ever teach them?

I miss the mark every single day. How can I expect them to make good decisions?

I open my Bible and most of the time I have no idea what God is trying to say to me. How can I lead my children to study His Word?

They don’t even listen to me. How can I encourage them to listen to God?

Afraid to Move . . .

Discipling our kids can feel like being on a pair of roller skates just trying to keep from falling flat! We grasp for something to hold onto every chance we get. There’s no gliding or fancy footwork in parenting. Most of the time, we’re simply trying to keep our feet from slipping out from under us.

Whether we’re fifth-generation Christians or new to a relationship with Jesus, we’re all unqualified on our own. In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he writes,

It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 NLT

There’s an old saying in the church . . . God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Often, I’ve rolled my eyes at this notion because it feels patronizing. But I can’t think of one area of life where it’s more true than in our families.

Not one of us is actually qualified to parent our children before they enter our lives. It’s only by the grace of God we’re all still breathing and growing personally, spiritually, and emotionally, making each day better than the one before.

Believing His Message for Ourselves

From the very beginning, we teach our children that God loves them no matter what, His spirit will guide them daily, and they can look to Him for forgiveness and help whenever they need it. But this message we aim to instill in our children is one we often cannot accept for ourselves.

Organism - Line

Our lack of qualifications and strength is what proves to our children they need God. My most effective parenting moments are often the messiest. When I get real and raw with my kids and they see me living out the gospel in my humility and brokenness, this is when they begin to connect the dots. The parent who isn’t afraid to ask questions and wrestle through the hard stuff is a leader they can confidently follow. The God who loves mommy even after she’s raised her voice is a God they can safely surrender their lives to.

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives and follow their example of faith. Hebrews 13:7 NLT

We read a verse like this and we interpret “all the good that has come from their lives” as perfection or spiritual “arrival.” But what if the writer of Hebrews was instead talking about the good fruit we read about in Galatians 5? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If this is our aim, then our “qualification” for the work of the kingdom is much more attainable. And when we’re aiming for good fruit, we begin to understand the growth process. Planting, watering, cultivating, and tending our own relationship with God while we do the same for that of our family.

The Word is full of verses, like this one, that will give us the courage to move forward in our motherhood, in all our humanity, to lead our children toward Jesus. We bring nothing to become followers of Jesus, but God calls us into loving, believing in, and following Him. We cannot earn His love, but it is a gift of grace. And God’s grace extends into the way we live, work, love, and parent. It is by His grace we are called and qualified to do the sacred work of parenting and discipleship.

5 Verses to Help You Find the Courage to Move in Your Motherhood:

  1. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 NLT
  2. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT
  3. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 NLT
  4. Let your roots grow down into him and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 NLT
  5. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT

Always Growing, Always Learning

The book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite books on discipleship. Peterson’s perspective also applies to family faith and growth. In it, Peterson says,

We are in a growing-learning relationship [with Jesus], always.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my fear of wheels and skis and boats rocking in the river. But the further I get into my journey as a mother, the more I find the courage to move . . . to get out of my comfort zone and do things and learn things I used to be afraid of. I’m pushing past the idea that I have to be qualified before I even try because that is the whole point of the grace I long to share with my children. It’s the growing-learning relationship. It’s the whole message of the gospel.

We don’t have to have it figured out. We can do it scared. The point is to bravely move forward, together, fully embracing the adventure of faith.

What can you do this month to bravely embrace the adventure of faith for your family?