Sincere Faith: A Daughter’s Reflections for Mother’s Day

Like most holidays, Mother’s Day can be complicated. There are a million different reasons that Mother’s Day can hurt–from a lack of celebration or acknowledgement to infertility to the loss of a child or your own mother, unmet expectations are often amplified on the second Sunday in May. As someone who felt this ache on more than one occasion, this article that gives voice to some of the pain has always been helpful.

There is another type of unmet expectation, though, that can be especially painful on Mother’s Day. It’s the expectation of perfection that many moms can put on themselves. A friend of mine who recently became a new mother told me of her own struggles in this department, “I’m just afraid I’m going to do something wrong and ruin her.  I didn’t have parents who knew the Lord.  I don’t know what this is supposed to look like.”  Even as she spoke, I started to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the “bigness” of a job I know I fail at daily. It caused me to think about my own mom and one of the most important things she modeled to me.

When I think about my mom, I could write about the way she looks to the interest of others before her own.  The way she fed the neighborhood I grew up in or the way she lovingly taught Kindergartners and encouraged their families for over thirty years.  I could write of the way she’s sacrificed so much for each of her three children.  The way braces came before a new kitchen floor, clean uniforms came before sleep, truthful words filled with grace came before her own comfort. I could tell you many beautiful true stories about the person whose life has impacted my own more than any other, but today I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m choosing to tell you what I love the most about my mother and what made her faith in the Gospel most attractive to me as a pair of watching eyes.  Today I’m going to tell you that my mom is not perfect.

I don’t mean this in a “throw-you-under-the-bus” kind of way. What I mean is that I think, particularly inside of Christian circles, there is a great deal of pressure to perform, to be the ideal, to be “perfect.”  I think sometimes we overcomplicate what kids actually need. We wear a checklist a mile long comparing it to those around us knowing that if we fail to tick just one of the boxes, life as we know it will be over. Instead of believing that salvation is of the Lord we think we are the ones in control of that part too. Rather than stewarding what God has given us to the best of our abilities, we try to play God and quickly bump up against our own finite brokenness. The truth is, though, that this place of brokenness is what made my mom and her faith compelling. They were compelling because they were real.

Real as in messy, two-steps forward and one step back. Real as in not perfect, and not pretending to be either.  Real as in asking questions and when necessary, asking for forgiveness.  Real as in a process that won’t be complete this side of heaven.  Real as in not just Sunday mornings, but Friday nights and everywhere in between.

In 2 Timothy 1:3-5, Paul writes of this type of faith.

“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

When Paul writes of the generational faith of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy he doesn’t use the word perfect.  Instead, he uses the word sincere.  Take a look at the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 and contrast it to the stories of the people you find in in the Old Testament, and you’ll find the same thing.  Faith filled with mistakes, flaws, and sins, but sincere faith that impacts future generations nonetheless.

Growing up, I didn’t always understand it nor did I always appreciate it, but what gave my mom’s voice and her faith credibility wasn’t her perfection, but the way she handled her imperfection. It was the way she came and apologized to me for occasionally losing her temper, the way she made it clear she was a sinner in need of grace just like me.  It was the way my mom shed tears and asked questions as she prayed with me amidst a heart-breaking situation as a teen.  It was the way even in injury, illness, and tragedy she grieved, but not as someone without hope.  It was the way she approached her God not just with reverence, but with honesty, that let me know I could do the same.

From this daughter’s perspective, leaving a legacy of faith has more to do with sincerity than perfection.  More to do with being real, than being religious.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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