Guilt or Gratitude?

I entered the McDonald's play land area with my four kids, simply grateful for the chance to catch my breath while enjoying the fact that I was not my girls' “sole entertainment” and that my boys would have new surroundings to explore. I was exhausted – it had been “a week” and things with my toddler twin boys were only getting more difficult. Which at that moment really meant one thing: my life was getting more difficult and my days at home were anything but a break. I scouted out a table as guilt waged war on my mind: guilt about the food I was going to feed my children, guilt over the way I felt about being a mom in that moment, guilt over the way I craved a break.

McD Fried Closeup

And that's when I saw her.

Beautiful, calm, strong. And she smiled in my direction. I smiled back.

I sat down in my brightly colored chair and began to unpack our less-than-nutritional-guilt-inducing lunch. Soon the smiling woman's son came over -- tousled hair, standing much taller and a bit older than most of the other kids present, but no less excited by the concept of time with mom and playing during lunch. It was quite clear that this boy was “different”, perhaps plagued by autism or Asperger's, severe ADD or some other struggle.

Regardless of the label, the boy's wonderment and joy intrigued me. And his mother captivated me. I couldn't deny the fact that I had spent the better part of the week throwing myself a pity party in response to my four active, healthy children. And here this woman was smiling. I couldn't help but feel she needed this “break” more than I did. And then came that oh-too-familiar feeling: guilt.

How could I feel so sorry for myself? How could I look at my children as demanding and exhausting tasks and not as the incredible blessings which they are?

Mel's McD Portrait

But as I began to ponder this situation, these two mothers side-by-side, both with the same goals on mind (their child's happiness and an easy lunch), the gratitude began to cover my guilt. The thankfulness that my struggles stemmed more from the sheer number of my children rather than physical, emotional or mental challenges that any one of them could have had. As a person who often questions and analyzes my own thoughts, I began to wonder: which feeling – the guilt or the gratitude – was right, more appropriate?

If this woman were in my head and knew my thoughts, would she want me to feel guilty or grateful when I looked at her son? Or was she sitting there watching me and silently thanking God that He had only given her one baby at a time? As I sat there eating my cheeseburger, I looked up only to discover an even bigger smile on the boy's face and one of my daughters following closely behind.

“She showed me how to get down the gigantic slide, Mom!” he exclaimed. And Delilah beamed.

McD Quote w Gabe Amantic

Captivating mom and I exchanged glances and smiled. When they walked passed our table to leave a little while later, we nodded at one another and she quietly wished me a good rest of that day. And that's when I realized: maybe it wasn't about feeling grateful or guilty. Maybe it didn't have to be a competition. Maybe it was just about having a comrade – someone next to you in her trench, feeling just as exhausted, overwhelmed and trying to take it a day at a time and trust that God had fully equipped us for the challenges set before us. After all, He had created us specifically for the task at hand.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~Ephesians 2:10

Motherhood was never intended to be a competition as to who has it hardest – it's one of life's most challenging experiences no matter how you slice it. But at least we're all in it together.


Better Than

“So, you think you’re better than me?” extra tea looks like blood?

Have you heard it? Thought it? Done all you could to avoid it?


I can see the devil playing in this phrase like a jungle gym, and stopping to rest in a hammock hung between the two t’s happier than a mom of multiples at nap time. Better.


I heard a form of this phrase recently, and the range and depth of emotions I experienced surprised and exhausted me.


“Of course I don’t think I’m better!” I defended before slumping into a pile of insecurity as I contemplated each and every weakness I could think of to prove that I was not, indeed, “better”. Slowly, then, I crawled to the more sensible admission that a comment I made did have a bit of sinful pride tucked neatly in its pocket. I did a little bit of growing and a whole lot of crying that night.


The truth is that we all have different strengths and different weaknesses. There is nothing wrong with saying that Jimmy is better at baseball than John, or even that Polly possesses more patience than Petunia. But we’re so, so careful, aren’t we, not to give the impression that we think one or the other is just better?


And I know the words of Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel...”, but I kind of do feel ashamed a little when I stand up for my faith and someone else gets the impression that I think I'm "better", so I just won’t say anything. The devil is pretty happy about that.


Or maybe you have a little pride tucked in your pocket too. You probably don’t say the words, but might feel a little puffed up when you look at someone else’s life and feel that you’ve got things a bit more together than they do. Sure, you’re not perfect, but compared to so-and-so...


The devil likes that too.


We miss opportunities to help other people grow when we are afraid that we’ll make them feel as if we believe we are better, and that they should be like us. We also miss opportunities to grow ourselves when we dwell on the idea that someone might think they are “better” than we are, and so we ignore whatever kernel of truth may have helped us grow a little.


This phrase, this concept of someone being “better” than someone else, is a meaningless distraction from the truth in Romans 3.


Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”


Yes, we’ve all got different strengths, but not one of us is any better than anyone else. We are all deserving of death and hell. Helpless and hopeless. Now, you’re probably feeling about how I did on Tuesday night. We better keep reading in Romans.


Romans 3:24

“and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.“


And just like that we have transcended from our poor, miserable state, just as deserving of death and hell as everyone else, to being covered over with a robe of righteousness. So, stop this game of comparisons, and don’t give the devil a foothold! You’ve been given an amazing gift, a fabulous, flattering, flawless robe of righteousness. To God, who looks at you only through the cross of Christ, you are absolutely perfect. It doesn’t get any better than that.