It was (and still is) a rare occasion for me to shop alone. On this particular evening, I was alone. I made my way to the local store, whose name is to remain anonymous. But you know the one.
I’m not sure if the majority of the people in the building that evening were having a “horrible, terrible, no-good” day-turned-into-night like I was, but after about five minutes into my spree for household supplies, I took a wild guess that one little girl and one mamma were indeed having one as well. By the screams that I heard. By the intensity of the screams, I could tell it was bad. Worse than bad! The most terrible hollering and fit-throwing you had ever heard. All the way from the milk aisle to the shoe aisle to the shampoo and back again to the checkout aisles, there was not a soul in the store who could not hear or tell where this child was. And this went on, for about thirty minutes.
Sound familiar? As a mom, it did to me, as well. I remember back in the day when I would haul all the Hoos kids/toddlers/infants in the big blue bus to the big blue store and “make a quick run.” As you can guess, it always turned into an entire day’s outing by the time we got there and got what we needed and back home again. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
So, by the time I got myself to the check-out counter, this young mom with her, still screaming daughter, was weary and spent. For a second, I thought I’d try to ignore the fact that she had pulled her cart up behind mine in the checkout row. I take that back, it was more like a whole minute and a half that I spent with my head looking the other way, trying to avoid eye contact.After all, I had been stuck in a challenging rut as a mother myself. . . my oldest was about to graduate high school and I was dealing with the emotions that go along with that journey. He’d begun a season of great independence, in an effort to find his own way and make his own adult decisions, and quite frankly, I was weary in my motherhood because of it. Raising five kids was hard.
And I was spent, too.
I finally looked back at her, the younger daughter still fit-throwing, still trying to get her way and the oldest daughter, calmly standing next to the cart behaving like an angel. I knew at this point that I was here, at this time and this particular place, because I was supposed to encourage this mom–but how? If I were honest with myself, the question in my heart was more like . . . “But, why God?”
I took notice of how the mother was, amazingly, holding her ground amongst all that fussing. She apparently was not giving in to the girl’s demands. Yes, this parenting principle, that she was obviously doing her best to follow, was indeed, the thing that I was supposed to encourage her in.
Before I spoke, my mind brought me back to the many years of raising young ones. I thought, again, of how I had been in her shoes many times, not wanting to back down to my strong-willed children but also remembering how difficult it was to teach them obedience in the heat of the moments. The spankins, the time outs, the frustrations. It was so much work to try to stay consistent.
My flashback turned from past years then to more recent situations in my home as a mother, with a set of totally new challenges posed by teenagers, two elementary school students and kids questioning the things of the Lord—I asked myself: Do I even have the gall to speak into this woman’s life? I mean, all those years of raising little ones, only to still be questioning myself: Did I do it right? Did I do enough?
The thoughts of failure began to flood my mind. It was in that moment of doubt and questioning of myself that the Spirit of God met me in my time of need. He met me with the four letter word that has sustained me all of these years, because of the Cross: HOPE. It flooded my mind. No, I hadn’t been perfect, nor would I ever be as a mom, but Jesus Christ was my Savior. He was and is faithful, when I am faithless. He has heard my prayers for my children, and will continue to be Lord over our family. I was overwhelmed with his sovereign reign of hope over my children’s lives and my own.
My dry season was not without a steadfast hope, and I was not going to leave that store without speaking life into that mother’s heart.
I was all dried up but I was ready to pour out.
“You’re doing a great job with your girls. Keep working on her will, without breaking her spirit. She will learn obedience and you will be blessed for it. Hang in there.” She looked like she had just seen a rainbow. She smiled and graciously accepted my few words of encouragement.
Lesson learned: Speaking the truth helps me remember the truth, and that is what helps me bank on the truth. For a split moment, however, I questioned myself, my own words, after talking to this mom: Will she really be blessed? Will she have non-wandering children and purely devoted children to the Lord? I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t be sure of that of my own! But one thing I could be sure of was my hope—it was and is in Jesus. Nothing else matters. My God is faithful to me, to my family, and that was all I needed to know on my worst day’s story.
A Scripture that we can bank on, on the days we feel dried up:
“Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done . . . That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God” Psalm 78: 4b, 7a