Years ago, a mom-friend of mine flopped onto the big blue couch in my living room and confessed, “I feel like all I do all day is tell my kids what to do and how to do it.”
I nodded my head knowingly and sympathetically and absolutely had no idea what she was talking about.
At the time, I had one baby less than a year old. Our conversations usually went like this, “Momma loves you. You’re so sweet. Where’s your nose? Oh, you’re so smart.”
And then she’d respond with, “Mama” or something else equally superior and I’d just know we had connected and that she was a genius bound for great things.
But now I’m older and my kids are older. One day at dinner I remembered what my friend said and realized she could be describing my life.
Wash your hands before you eat. Use soap! Sit like a lady. Talk like a lady. Eat like a lady. Chew with your mouth closed. Use a napkin. Don’t spill your milk. Clean up the milk you spilled. Clear your place when you’re done eating.
Brush your teeth. Up and down. Front to back. Don’t forget your tongue. Brush every single tooth. Don’t leave globs of toothpaste in the sink, on the wall, or on the floor. Hang up wet towels.
Don’t hit your sister, yell at your sister, push your sister, boss around your sister, roll your eyes at your sister, ignore your sister, say mean things to your sister or tattle on your sister.
Do your homework . . . neatly. Take pride in your work. Practice the piano. Study your memory verses. Put your shoes away—shoes and socks do not live in the middle of the kitchen floor.
At times it feels like we’re prepping kids for the standardized tests of life and that means covering table manners, relationship skills, character issues, faith lessons, and more.
But what if we miss something?
What if there’s a question we don’t know how to answer?
What if we get it wrong and miss out on cultivating one of their gifts or fail to correct a character weakness?
Oh, how I have collapsed to my knees under the weight of this responsibility for each of my children.
Because I just don’t know.
I don’t know what to say and when to say it and when to hold my tongue.
When do I punish… let it go… reward?
Samson’s parents prayed the same prayers I’ve been groaning out in confused desperation.
In Judges 13, an angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of a man named Manoah to announce she’d have a son and he would be set apart for God from the very beginning.
God already had a plan for her son, Samson: “He shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).
What a promise! And yet how overwhelming for two first-time parents to wonder: “What if I mess this up?”
So, Manoah “prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born’” (Judges 13:8 ESV).
Yes, this is how my prayer crams into words: “Teach me what to do because You know and I just do not. I could read every parenting book and follow every tip and strategy in every parenting magazine and every idea on every awesome mom-blog and still get this so terribly wrong.”
God answered Manoah’s prayer, returning to visit with this young mom and dad and instruct them on the Care and Keeping of Samson.
So, I also pray with the deepest confession of weakness and need, asking for His help, His strength, His guidance.
And when we come to Him, all overwhelmed and fully aware of our own insufficiency and weakness, He answers.
He sees that purity of our heart’s request: Our deep desire to steward these gifts He’s placed in our hands, and He answers.
leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way (Psalm 25:9 HCSB).
Yes, He has:
heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully (Psalm 10:17, HCSB).
On days when we’re clueless, moments when we just don’t know, this is the promise we need: