We are sitting at the table for breakfast and my phone is buzzing with text messages, emails and to-do reminders. I try to push myself to wait just an extra ten minutes before reaching for my phone but the impulse to “get back to work” is too much for me. My career aspirations cause major mom guilt as I try to love my son and pursue my passions.
Maybe you feel guilty about struggling to find time for your workout routine, not paying enough attention to your husband’s needs, binge eating in the pantry, or feeding your kids fast food because you just didn’t have the energy to make dinner. There are so many areas to find guilt as a mother and a wife and each day I experience it all. I feel guilty for serving cheese again for snack because I just don’t have the creative skills in the kitchen to come up with a better option. I feel guilty for being frustrated when my son wakes up early from his nap so I can’t fit in a workout. I feel guilty for putting him to bed a little earlier than usual because I just am done with the day.
So, I walk through each day with mom guilt bearing down on my shoulders, condemning me for not loving my child enough. And so I pat my back with the same hand with which I lash it with phrases beginning with “at least…” or “I’ll just…” Using my previous goodness or coming up with plans and ideas to absolve my guilt or atone for my shortcomings. Do you ever find yourself in this cycle of trying to “make up for” the areas you’re “falling short?” Friend, because of Jesus, it doesn’t have to be so.
The Galatian church is one that I relate my mom guilt to the best. The Galatians were believers who knew the gospel but walked around like they were still under the law. In motherhood, I do the same. I know Christ has set me free from guilt, but I walk around like I am still a slave to the law. For the Jews in the Old Testament, the law included more than rules, it gave them a sacrificial system through which they received absolution. My “law,” or the standard I judge myself against, has a lot more to do with what I believe it means to be a “good mom.” When I fail to uphold it and come face to face with my inability to be “the best mother ever,” I scramble to find ways to “do better” and soothe my conscience. My actions reveal that my heart doesn’t trust what Jesus came for—to save me by grace for His glory.
There is grace for me and for us in motherhood. We are free! We no longer have to walk around under the weight of a standard we could never fulfill! Paul wrote to the church and said, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Mothers, stand firm in what you know is true! You are not a slave to your ideal image of motherhood, or your guilt over missing its mark, because you have been delivered from it through Jesus. He removed his people from a sacrificial law based system through his death and resurrection to a system in which he pays the penalty and we live freely. Jesus offers assurance of pardon to us through repentance.
So instead of running to our list of “at leasts…” or “I’ll justs…” we can run to Christ, our great high priest, who stands ready to forgive us. He offers true and effectual absolution and lasting comfort. Don’t diminish his sacrifice by trying to absolve your own guilt. Don’t miss out on enjoying your family and walking in freedom because you’re scrambling for ways to “make up for” all the ways you’re falling short. Instead of practicing penance, run to Jesus in repentance, receive his assurance of pardon, and live and work in the glorious freedom for which he set you free.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/REFLECTION:
- In what areas do you struggle with guilt? How does Romans 8:1 change your perspective on guilt?
- What are your “I’ll justs…” or “At leasts…” that you use to soothe yourself or absolve your guilt? In what ways are you “practicing penance” instead of placing your faith in Christ.
- Because we all have our own “standards” and expectations for ourselves, not everything you feel guilty about may be “sin.” Spend some time asking God to help you know what you need to confess to him, and what you need to move on from in the freedom he’s given you.
Bailey T. Hurley is a community-builder who encourages women to root themselves in their faith so they can grow fruitful fellowship. She lives in Denver, CO with her husband, Tim, and their son, Hunter James. If you want to learn more about Bailey visit her at baileythurley.com