The motto of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, is “Nisi Dominus Frusta”, which means, “without the Lord, frustration”.
This is a feeling I know well. Nothing in my life has showed me the extent of my sinfulness and inabilities as parenting. Being a mom has brought out parts of my personality I would much rather have remained under the surface!
I’m sure that I am not alone in this confession. Docile women become angry moms, flexible people become brick-wall parents, and unflappable men find themselves snapping in irritation at their children.
No one is a perfect parent, but you and I have a choice about how we respond when we’re overwhelmed:
a) Will we continue to parent out of our depleted reserves?
b) Will we try to fill up our own reserves with me-time and hobbies?
c) Or will we turn to the Well that never runs dry to be our source of wisdom and strength?
The first option leaves me permanently drained. The second requires time and money, and won’t ultimately bring the true soul-peace I need.
I’ve been looking for peace in places that can’t give it the way I desperately need it. These things allow me to tap out of my life instead of pressing in.
The truth of the matter, as shared in the Bible, is that options A and B were never meant to be enough, because we humans were never meant to be enough.
We were designed to need God. Constantly.
Not to need Him to fill us up like a reservoir, to pump out His goodness then come back for another filling, but to be a conduit of His strength and grace.
Allow me a moment to dust off some knowledge from my prior life as a science major…
Plants draw up water from the soil through a system of tubes called xylem. The water carries with it most of the essential nutrients required for the plant’s survival. This gravity-defying system works because water molecules essentially stick to one another (cohesion). As water molecules evaporate from the leaves, this causes tension that pulls the water up through the plant. Think of it like a train made of water molecules. The molecular train cars stick to each other and are pulled along as the molecules in front evaporate into the air.
This system has to happen continuously. If air bubbles are introduced into the system, it eventually breaks down because the water stops flowing. This causes the plant to wilt and die.
What does this little science lesson have to do with our spiritual lives?
Christ compares our spiritual lives to plants in John 15.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
John 15: 5, 6
We are not meant to feast on God on Sundays, then go for the next 6 days without Him. We are designed more like plants, who require a constant flow of water in order to survive and bear fruit.
We were not made to fill and empty like a bucket, but to constantly rely on Him like nutrition travelling through the xylem of a tree. If we introduce too many “air bubbles” into our system, too much time away from our Lord, we fall apart. I will be the first to admit that I NEED this time with the Lord, but I don’t always get it. But I definitely can tell when I’ve spent too much time away. I start making poor choices, I start reacting emotionally, and I start mixing up my priorities.
One of the ways to receive this constant spiritual nutrition is to spend time with God, reading his Word.
It may be once per day in an in-depth study, it may be multiple places at a single verse sitting on the counter, it may be memorizing a single Psalm over a month, but it is the truest way of connecting to the One that holds out true wisdom and peace.
As we do this, pouring over God’s words as they pour life into us, we become more equipped to parent well.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
Studying God’s word equips us in three very concrete ways.
It reorients my gaze.
There’s a saying at my gym: where your eyes go, your body will go. It’s usually spoken during a painful exercise like tricep dips (OUCH), and it helps each person get the most out of their workout by having the proper posture.⠀
This idea applies to our parenting as well. When we fix our eyes on our children and their sinfulness, our feelings and thoughts and actions will follow them into chaos. But when we fix our eyes on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, we will get the most out of life by having the proper posture: one of worship. As Brooke reminds us in Gospel Centered Mom, “there’s more than just now,” and when I fix my eyes on Jesus, I am better able to put my temporal problems in their place.
2. It re-tunes my emotions
I can’t count the number of times I have sat down in the middle of the day utterly frustrated with my children, only to stand up a half-hour later completely refreshed. God can do that, my friend. Seriously. Pouring out our hearts to Him and hearing His voice in return can be a balm for the weary soul.
3. It reminds me of what’s important
Remember Jesus in the desert, when the devil tempted him? His response was ever and always, “It is written”. When we are tempted, our only path to freedom is to lean on God and His word, because He is the only one that can defeat evil.
“Replace the enemy’s whispers with shouts of truth.”
I am also reminded of my true parenting priorities. Reading God’s word helps me to know God’s heart, which helps me make wiser parenting choices that truly honour Him.
I want to be careful that I don’t show God as a magic potion to take to make us better parents, or as a magical vending machine in the sky, dispensing peace and joy whenever we hit the right button. But as we learn to anchor our lives in the Gospel, we’ll find increased freedom, purpose, and joy in motherhood. I highly recommend Brooke McGlothlin’s new book, Gospel Centered Mom. Brooke gently pushes us out of our comfortable Christian lives with her gospel truth-telling.Buy Gospel-Centered Mom: The Freeing Truth About What Your Kids Really Need
And may we all remember, “Nisi Dominus Frusta”.
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