A Psalm 23 Parent

I always think it’s funny when someone complains that an advertising message makes them feel bad about themselves. That the bikini models don’t look like real people, and the moms in the diaper commercials look like they had time to shower and find clean pants. That the couples in the Viagra commercials look too emotionally connected, and teeth will never be that white.

Am I nuts or does this baby look photoshopped in?
Also, no dad looks like this when he gets home from work :p

It’s funny because the whole point of every advertising campaign in the history of the world IS to make us feel bad about ourselves. If we felt good about the way we looked, where we lived, how clean our floors were, the kind of man we married after watching a commercial then we wouldn’t buy their product which is the entire point! That’s the formula: Feel Bad —> Buy Stuff

The thing is we get a bajillion advertising messages a day. So all day long we are bombarded with images and words desperate to convince us that we are not enough.

And when you consider that moms are one of the most marketed to demographics in the entire world I have to think they know exactly where our “not enough” buttons are located.

Am I good mom?
Is he eating enough?
How many cookies can I give them before DCS gets involved?
Will she be ok if her clothes aren’t monogrammed?
Why isn’t she walking/talking/jumping yet?
If I take time out to clean the kitchen will I miss out on his entire childhood?
If I sit and play instead of fold laundry will he become a drain on society because he never saw responsibility in action?
If I go to work will she think the nanny is her mom?
If I stay home and get bored will he think I don’t love him completely?

And some of us are drowning in the anxiety that comes with a mixture of being the perfect mom as defined by Pinterest and being thoroughly convinced, no matter what decision you’ve made, that you’re screwing up all day, every day.

We try to relieve the anxiety. We put down other moms because that helps the focus on ourselves go away for a little bit. We get caught up in proving to an imaginary audience that we’re having the time of our lives with status updates and Facebook photo albums. We read books and blogs and forums looking for someone to validate our instincts. We pin things like 52 Crafts Every Child Should Have Made Before Entering Kindergarten. We drink, we smoke, we obsess over the baseboards.

And we’re doing all of this because we love our children. We want to give them the best, and we want to be the best. But all day long we’re hearing that nothing is enough. Nothing. Keep trying. But it isn’t enough.

(This is precisely why I believe any mom whose children were loved, fed, clothed, and not misplaced for long deserves truckloads of grace. It’s why I can’t be mad at my mom for her any of her failures because I know she was doing her best. I know this because I’m failing every day despite my desire to be my best. And just like one day I hope Otis has grace on all the ways I screwed up, I am extending the same grace to my own mom.)

I don’t think God wants us to live in this bondage to images that aren’t from Him so I started praying. God, what does parenthood look like to you?

I was scared of His answer. Because in my experience there aren’t many places more consumed by the desire to fit in/look like everyone else/have what everyone else has than the church. What if God laid down Proverbs 31 woman level standards? What if He showed me another image of a woman that has her life together in a way that simply reminded me that I am not enough?

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

Psalm 23 is one of the famous verses. You don’t even have to be a Christian to be familiar with it. Obviously I believe all of Scripture is from God, but this passage has some kind of supernatural power punch. Any anxiety I carry around melts away quickly when I consider that God is my shepherd and it’s all going to be ok.

But what if we applied that verse to parenthood? What if we are called to be our children’s shepherds?

Can I be a constant and stable presence in Otis’s life?
Can I let him rest and enjoy his childhood?
Can I lead him by streams that nourish him and give him strength?
Can I guide him towards obedience and travelling along paths that were made for him?
Can I stick close by him when he is afraid or going through a difficult time?
Can I remind him during the scary times that I am there and ready to protect him from anyone trying to harm him?
Can I encourage him when his mind or his peers or the devil want to convince him that he isn’t enough?
Can I let him live in my house forever?

Just kidding about the last one. Heh.

So this is my new parenting guide. Not Pinterest, not a Babycenter advice column, not a book about the happiest child in the neighborhood.  I’m going to focus on my Shepherd and how He walks through life with me so that I can be a shepherd to the little lamb given to me.

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