I smiled through gritted teeth as I conducted another lunchtime negotiation with my 2-year-old daughter. Friends surrounded us. Truth flowed from my lips — merciless perfectionism.
“Jesus gave you Mommy and Daddy to care for your body and your heart. Five more bites. You can do all things through him who strengthens you.” Verbal victory, hardened heart.
“Motherhood is not for perfectionists and is certainly not pain-free.”
As my daughter shrieked in protest, I secretly but forcefully shoved the sandwich into her mouth. No pain, but a point. Sadness replaced the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes as her small mouth labored to churn too much sandwich. I had turned my child into a trick-performing puppy to preserve my vanity. I cried, alone, pining for the elusive idol of perfect motherhood, one in which I never sin against my children.
Mothers are marred by such scars. Scars that run deeper than the body-beating of motherhood — scars that saturate our hearts. In pain we shall bring forth children.
She Knows a Mother’s Shame
As I wrestled with my own scars, I remembered another wounded woman. “Friends” adored her body, but used her and threw her away — “a woman of the city” (Luke 7:37). Solitude encircled her as she faded into the city’s dark corners. She gazed at her feet as she silently weaved through the sunlit marketplace. Then she heard him — he was so different from the other men.
She charged into the house, blind to the glaring eyes, deaf to their devouring banter. Her eyes scanned the crowd until they locked on him. She rushed over, collapsed at his feet, and drenched them with her tears. Her once beautifully groomed hair tumbled wildly about her face as she wiped his dirty feet with her hair. She took off her painted mask, she did not cease to kiss his feet, and never again did she want to leave his side.
So much connects me to this woman from two thousand years ago. We were surrounded, but felt alone. Even though our hearts were revealed in different ways, we both valued outward appearances. We sinned in secret and were overcome with the pain of shame — at first. She gave it up for something better.
The ointment-bearing sinner who wept at Jesus’s feet might as well have been a mother confronted by sin against her children. She turns scars of shame into tears of repentance — and she shows us how Jesus will respond. What do we learn when we turn our tears to Jesus?
1. Our tears declare confidence in Jesus.
Mothers, “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus is our confidence — his ability to draw us to himself through his scars, and then to continue to draw us to himself through ours.
“Shame reopens wounds meant to be healed; repentance surrenders them for joy in Jesus.”
The weeping woman’s tears turned to the throne and demonstrated confidence in Jesus’s ability to forgive, restore, and heal. She no longer needed to be a stranger to her sin because she was no longer a stranger to her Savior. Shame reopens wounds meant to be healed; repentance surrenders them for joy in Jesus. God calls mothers to exchange guilty hearts for humble ones that declare the price has been paid. The scars of our sins against our children stake no claim on our standing before God when we sit in the right place.
Our tears do not express less confidence in Jesus when we don’t “know what to pray for” (Romans 8:26). Please don’t let them be scarred by our failings. . . . Please show yourself to them in our sin. . . . The Spirit can take our stumblings, our groanings, our tears, and intercede for us. Moms, don’t quench the Spirit. Drench the Spirit. With confidence.
2. Our tears reveal our habitual need for Jesus.
She had never met Jesus before, but her tears and affection portray natural behavior in the Savior’s presence (Luke 7:45). God affords us a luxury he did not grant her. We can come before Jesus without ceasing. Though we cannot literally see the throne, hear his voice, or kiss his feet, we know how to come to him.
If Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), let’s talk to him more than our brothers (and sisters). If we invite him into the tearless moments of the day, we will know our need to run to him when our eyes are brimming with them.
3. Our tears declare love for Jesus.
Jesus sees a mother’s tearful confession as a glory-inducing gift. We know from Jesus’s response to the Luke 7 woman that her behavior was a demonstration of faith, an act of worship, an acknowledgment of his lordship (Luke 7:44–50).
“Though we cannot see the throne, hear his voice, or kiss his feet, we know how to come to him.”
We weep at the throne and kiss his feet because we know the price Jesus paid — not for self-righteous mothers but sinful ones (Luke 5:32). We find it harder to confess our sins against our children before God. We get “frustrated” with them instead of “angry.” We use label softeners to still our fears of hurting the young souls in our charge, and we forsake real comfort from our Comforter, our King.
Do we doubt that the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) is ready to turn our sorrows into joy? Our coming to him in our weariness (Matthew 11:28–30) is more than a way for us to receive his help — it’s an acceptance of his divinity and ability to care for us, and forgive us — in the pains of child-rearing.
Scars to Joy
I look into her eyes. “Will you join me as I talk to Jesus?” I hold my daughter’s tiny hands and turn my tears to the throne — I mourn my sin, rejoice over my salvation, and ask for freedom from shame-inducing replays. I open my eyes and ask my daughter for forgiveness. We drop the sandwich and race into the yard.
This is my imaginary aftermath redo. Yet the unadulterated scar has turned to joy. Motherhood is not for perfectionists and is certainly not pain-free. But our scars are temporary and, more importantly, pointers to our Chief Scarbearer whose blood has washed away our sin. We will soon bid our painful scars farewell (Revelation 21:4).
In joy we shall bring forth children. For every scar that mars a mother, joy awaits.