A couple of months ago we had the stomach bug in our house. Whenever a parent mentions the stomach bug, collective groans of sympathy usually follow. Adults don’t fare well with the stomach bug. Barely verbal toddlers do worse. In rapid succession, all of our non-infant children succumbed to the stomach bug’s fury, and I was left weak, cranky, and dousing Purel on my hands every few minutes.
Few things confront you with your lack of God-like abilities like a multi-child case of the stomach bug. Someone is left to suffer alone when mommy can’t get to everyone. When one kid is sick, the others are left to fend for themselves. When multiple kids (and the parents) are sick it’s almost like Lord of the Flies.
I am regularly up against my mothering limitations. I have four kids (four and under) and two hands. If only I were Inspector Gadget, I often think, then I could meet everyone’s needs. But I don’t have a robotic arm hidden in my sweater. I am one person with two hands who has many needs thrust in my face on a regular basis. But what I’m (slowly) coming to terms with in my limitations is that my kids don’t need Inspector Gadget. They don’t need mommy to suddenly become super competent. They need God. It’s only when they see my complete inability to meet all of their needs that they see the God who is capable to meet every single need they have.
One of their catechism questions goes like this:
How many persons is God? Three
Name these three persons? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
In my most clear-headed moments (which, I will admit, is not very often), I am reminded of this question. So I ask my kids.
“How many persons is God?” Three
“How many persons is mommy?” One
“Right, God is big. God is powerful. God is always with us. God can meet all your needs. Mommy can’t.”
Now if only mommy could learn that.
It’s easy in motherhood to develop a Savior complex. I want to be the one who meets all my kids’ needs. I want to be their hero. I want to do it all, for them (of course), but still it’s the ever elusive “have it all” that plagues women both in the home and outside of the home.
But it’s just as wrong for me to expect to meet all their needs as it is for me to expect someone else to do the same. I am not God. There is only one God, and I’m not it (another catechism question brought to life).
It’s hard, because I really do love them deeply. I really do want to meet all their needs. The care and love I feel for them is good. It’s what drives me to serve them. But it can’t make me super woman. No amount of love can assist in me in my quest to do everything for them.
So where do I go with my limitations? On a good day, I go to God and ask him to meet our needs. On a bad day, I let the feelings of guilt linger and become completely self-absorbed. On a really bad day, I take my limitations out on my kids, which only confirms the fact that I am really as limited as I say I am.
Only God is God. I am not. I cannot meet my kids’ needs in the ways I want and that’s a good thing. By recognizing that for myself it teaches me to depend on God, but it also teaches them to depend on God for their needs. It teaches them that they can never be God either.
Everyone hates the stomach bug. It’s like the black plague of church nurseries and childcare centers. It’s enough to make anyone retreat into quarantine until it passes and your family is spared. But it’s also for our good. In the weakness, God is strong. In the limitations, God is shown to be the limitless one that he is. And that is always a good thing.