And then, there's failure.
One way or another, I've failed each of my kids in different ways. It certainly was not my intention to fail them, but I did. Maybe I wasn't there to prevent an accident, or to deal with one when it happened.
Maybe I didn't pay enough attention, or believe that what my child said was true, when really it was. Maybe I just didn't understand what someone needed, and they went without.
I've learned I can try my best and still fail for reasons I may not have control over or even understand, which is not a good feeling at all.
I don't like to fail in general, but failing my kids is a special kind of agony.
The hospital where our first daughter was born had a long hallway on the maternity floor, with windows that looked out over a river valley. The morning we were getting ready to leave the hospital, I walked slowly down that hall and stopped to look out one of those windows. It was a May morning, beautiful, full of the promise of spring – you could see the trees beginning to wear green, and redbuds were in bloom.
As I looked out the window I prayed, asking God to help me be the best mom I could possibly be. I asked for patience and kindness, wisdom and strength. I asked to be loving and good. I asked for all the qualities I could think of that would help me give my daughter a good life.
What I wanted, really, was to be the kind of mom who filled out that image I had in my head, the one from church and Sunday School, the one that talked about “abundant life.”
What I didn't realize was that failure would be part of God's answer to my prayer. I tried hard to be all the things I asked God to help me be, and I failed in pretty short order.
In my failure I began to realize that no matter how hard I tried, I didn't have it in me. What I needed to do was let God do the shaping so I would conform to His image. He had to fill me up with those qualities. My own personal supply of them was too short!
Would I have figured that out without failing? Probably not. I have a lot of reasons and explanations for my failures, but they don't do much for making me better.
There is nothing like falling short where my kids are concerned to get my attention, and nothing like paying attention to God's lessons for being conformed to the image of Jesus for real change and accomplishment.