(originally published December 2011 as a guest post on the Mormon Mommy Madness blog)
Recently, I was reading King Benjamin’s address in Mosiah chapter 3 and 4, and thinking about the struggles many mothers in the church have with feeling like they’ll never measure up. We know the gospel should make us joyful, so we put on smiling faces, but inside many of us are hurting. I am certain the hurt isn’t caused by the gospel, but by focusing on certain aspects in an out of balance way that leaves no room for mercy towards ourselves. Nearly every mom I know has struggled with this – we want so badly to do everything right, for God, for our children, for ourselves. We know that faith without works is dead. But we are so focused on the works part that faith tends to only get lip service. And that is what’s hurting us.
In Mosiah 3:19, it talks about the natural man, and I think most of us understand the first half of the verse pretty well:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint..” Generally, we moms are very aware of our imperfections, our natural tendencies to mess up and lose our tempers and the great need we have to change. But we tend to gloss over the next part that is most important:
“… through the atonement of Christ the Lord…” It DOESN’T say, through your own blood, sweat, and tears, hard work, self flogging, to-do lists, self improvement, guilt trips, and determination! What?! But faith without works is dead! Yes, and works without faith in the atonement is dead, too.
Now, most moms I know in the church do have testimonies and a deep love for our Savior. It’s not that we don’t believe in and appreciate His great atonement. But there is a disconnect – we honor and worship and thank Him, but we really don’t want to have to accept the gift he suffered to give us. We are trying to do it ourselves and saying, ‘no thank you, I’m good, please don’t trouble yourself. I want to prove I’m worthy before I take you up on that.’ We want to feel self reliant, strong, capable, and good.
I don’t believe this is generally because moms are prideful. Sometimes we are, but most of the time we are just scared. Many of us struggle with deep insecurity, especially when it comes to raising our kids. We feel great uncertainty about our choices from moment to moment, wondering if we are doing things right. Should I follow this parenting advice or that parenting advice? Am I messing up my kid? Why can’t I get my house as clean as sister so and so? Should I play with the baby or do the dishes? Do cute handouts for my relief society lesson or take a nap so I can function? How can I do everything everyone wants me to do? Will I ever be enough???
The fact is, we aren’t enough on our own. None of us is, not even Sister so and so. Not in the way we are thinking ‘enough’ should be, anyway. If we read on in Mosiah chapter 4, it talks about our universal nothingness, our worthless and fallen state. But wait, aren’t we daughters of God, full of infinite worth? Yes. But our worth doesn’t come from our doings. It comes from the power of God working in us. Just like we adore our innocent babies who can’t do much for themselves, we are absolutely precious to God and worth His love and adoration. Our need for him makes him draw even closer in love to us. When we cry out in our great need, then we are filled with his love.
5 “For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—
6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—
7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.
8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.”
We can’t do it without Him and we aren’t supposed to be able to. We should ‘be diligent to obey’, yes, and give our best, but the Trust in the Lord part gets forgotten often, as we look around in anxiety over the many things we try but fail to do each day. Trust in the Lord and the atonement is the only way we can succeed. Having personal experience with the Lord’s love and forgiveness, coming to a knowledge of his goodness and love for us, his atonement for US and not just everyone else, and accepting and trusting in that love and power, is key.
Mosiah 4:11-12: “And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the a love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”
Do we believe and have faith in the promises, that he will forgive us when we repent, even if it is over and over (daily is what the scripture suggests)? Do we accept the love of God that is offered to us, and internalize it and let ourselves rejoice even though we still aren’t perfect or enough without the Savior? I know there have been times in my life when I have refused the gift and refused to believe that He could love me until I proved myself worthy. I went through the motions of repentance but continued holding on the guilt, not letting it be taken from me until I felt I had changed sufficiently (become perfect). I needed His love to heal and change me, but I wasn’t allowing it because I didn’t feel worthy yet. My steps were out of order.
A wise mentor once pointed out to me that the next few verses in this chapter are the promises, not the requirements. If you look at the succession, first in verse 11 we call on the Lord for mercy in our need, we have faith in his promises, then in verse 12 we are filled with His love and forgiveness, and THEN, as a result of being filled with His love and trusting in His atonement, we become people who don’t have a mind to injure each other, who take good care of our children and teach them to walk in ways of truth and soberness, who succor those in need, and are all the things we want to be. Not because we are perfect, but because of His power. Not because we don’t stumble still, but because we reach for his hand each time we fall down and let him lift us up instead of trying to hobble around by ourselves with our broken, weak limbs.
Reaching for Him and letting his Love in comes first. Believing in His love takes away that deep fear and insecurity that causes us to ride ourselves and beat ourselves up in a futile attempt to prove ourselves. No success I have ever had has made me feel as worthy, and accepted, and glorious as when I have knelt before the Lord in prayer and felt his amazing love and grace for me. Nothing has done more to change me, and nothing has brought me more joy. Nothing can transform our mothering and our happiness more than giving up the race for perfection and instead racing to the feet of the Savior for all our support and validation. He will fill every void and calm every fear and make us, through Him, the powerful, joyful, good mothers and women we are seeking to be. He will show us the beauty already inside us and shine through us to transform weak things into strong. And then, through at-One-ment with Him, we will finally be enough.