July 9, 2013

Am I a Failure?

As we drive home after the kids’ yearly standardized testing, the discouragement is so heavy that it almost consumes me.  One of my children has a reading disability, and no matter how many hours I have poured into helping and tutoring and encouraging, no matter how many different methods and curriculums we have tried, the struggle remains.  This test has only confirmed what I already knew:  the progress this year has been minimal.  My despair is suddenly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone.  My husband innocently asks, “How did it go?”  Forgetting momentarily that my children in the back seat can hear every word I say, I sob into the phone, “I’m such a failure!”

Later that night, I am getting ready for bed and notice a little piece of paper sitting on top of my pillow.  The angular hand-writing is instantly familiar.  I unfold the note with curiosity, and read my child’s tender words:  “Dear Mom.  I love you so much.  You are not a faler.”  I laugh through my tears at the irony of the spelling error.

Am I a failure?  I certainly feel like one often enough.  I have a friend who is a gifted homeschool teacher, with perfectly organized lesson plans, creative unit studies prepared well in advance, a teenage daughter who writes stories in her spare time and a son who speaks several languages.  That’s not me.

I have another friend whose charming home is spotless and gorgeously decorated, who makes delicious and nutritious meals for her family three times each day, and whose scrapbook albums creatively document every detail of her children’s lives.  That’s also not me.

I recently read the story of an amazing young woman who gave up the American dream, moved to Uganda and adopted 13 children.1  What a testament to sacrifice and selflessness!

There is a woman at my church who works tirelessly to help build orphanages and has adopted several children from Ukraine.  And is currently in the process of rescuing more orphans!2  What a difference she is making in the lives of these children!

I know of another woman in my community whose book about her adoption journey was recently published.3  She is a passionate “adoption and orphan care advocate” and gifted speaker.  She is so brave and unreserved!

None of those women - not my organized homeschool friend, not my Suzy Homemaker friend, not these mothers who rescue orphans and speak on their behalf - none of them are even remotely like me.  Am I a failure?

I am frequently plagued with guilt for not doing more for the millions of orphans in the world, for not being a more patient and attentive mother to the children God has given me, for feeling stressed in my cluttered home full of unfinished projects.  Nevertheless, my peace and assurance comes from knowing that I am doing what God has called me to do.

We, collectively, are the body of Christ, and we each have a unique, specially-designed role to play.4  He hasn’t called me to move to Uganda . . . that’s a task for His “feet,” for someone who is young and courageous.  Nor does He want me to rescue orphans from Ukraine . . . a job for His “heart”, for someone who is passionate and filled with perseverance.  Or to write books and speak at conferences . . . an assignment perfect for His enthusiastic, articulate “voice.”  And I’m pretty sure that He hasn’t called me to be a home decorator or creative scrapbooker, although I often wish He had!  That’s for the “eyes” among us, the ones who are able to visualize beautiful things.

What does He ask of me?  To be His “hands.”  To faithfully serve and lovingly care for each child He has brought into my life.  One by one by one.

I am His hands when I patiently sit with the little one who has failed to thrive, trying anything I can think of to entice him to take just one more bite of food.  When I spend time every day helping him strengthen his under-developed muscles.  When I rock him to sleep each night to the tune of “Amazing Grace” and “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.”

God has called me to use my hands to hold my 4-year old on my lap, wiping his tears and consoling him when he gets his blood drawn – every single week.  For the rest of his life.  To help him fit a puzzle piece in place or catch him when he jumps wildly into the pool.  To show him how to fold his hands and thank God for his peanut butter sandwich.

He wants me to use my hands to hold a reader book each day, listening to my older child battle that darn learning disability, summoning every ounce of self-control to not roll my eyes or sigh, even when it’s the 15th time that the same word has appeared in this chapter and we’re still sounding it out.  To gently touch the leg beside mine in a show of compassion when the tears of frustration are falling.  To seek out those extra-curricular classes, purposefully encouraging and nurturing the non-academic abilities, like art, photography, and music, trusting with every endeavor that God has a wonderful plan to use those gifts.

And I sometimes question, “Lord, are You sure You chose the right person for the job?”  But in my heart I know that He called me to reach my hands out towards my wayward teenager, chains and hoodie and all, with unconditional love and acceptance.  To fix meals and snacks for his insatiable appetite; to welcome his friends for sleepovers with freshly laundered sheets and towels; and to rub his back on those rare occasions when he allows me to, listening with enthusiasm as he talks about his plans for the future.

I want to use my hands to be obedient in my daily responsibilities, to be faithful even in the mundane.  To use the gifts and abilities that God has given me.  If I compare myself to others, to their lives and accomplishments - wishing I could be the feet, the heart, the voice, the eyes - I will always come up short.  I will perpetually feel guilt, insecurity, and discouragement.   Instead of focusing on what God has called someone else to do, I need to remember what He has called me to do!  I need to remind myself that I am “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance” for me to do.5

May the Lord use me and my hands to serve Him today and to show others around me His love.  May He give me His strength and wisdom as I walk in obedience.  And may I always remember:  I’m a child of God, forgiven, blessed, and called according to His purpose.  Called according to His grace.6  I am not a failure. 

4. I Corinthians 12
5. Ephesians 2:10
6. 2 Timothy 1:9

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