The Strength Paradox

by Abby Barr, M.Ed.

All of us have areas of our lives where we excel. We are called into roles in which our gifts shine and our weaknesses are minimized. If you’re anything like me, you love spending time fulfilling these roles. I love the effortlessness that is experienced when my gifts intersect nearly perfectly with the need before me. It’s a joy to be reminded that God has given me unique talents and passions to bring glory to Himself and progress to our world. It’s easy to see divine purpose in fulfilling these roles because in them we feel part of God’s good plan.

Inversely, each of us is called to fill roles in our lives that exist squarely outside of our giftings. God asks us to tackle tasks that are poor fits to our God-given abilities, and attempts to fulfill these roles typically highlight our weakness and limits. They are less fun and require extra energy, focus, and perseverance. When we consider these responsibilities and difficulties, we begin to question if God really knows what He’s asking of us. His plan begins to seem flawed.

For me, one role I feel particularly poorly fitted to is motherhood.

I want to assure you this is not a cry for help, nor is it a twisted way to get encouragement about my mothering abilities. I love my family. I love my children and want to give them the best possible life, but caring for them day-to-day does not come “naturally.” Hear me when I say, I don’t believe I am a bad mother, nor am I saying I am ungrateful for my role as a mother. But, I find for me that mothering young children is like most bridesmaid dresses I’ve encountered. I am honored to wear it, and on the wedding day there is nowhere else I’d rather be, but the dress fits awkwardly and if I were to craft a dress specifically for me, it wouldn’t be that bridesmaid dress. Motherhood for me is like that dress. Awkward. Poorly fitting. A great honor and privilege to be asked to wear.

In my first three years of motherhood, I have found that the role does an excellent job of highlighting my utter fallibility. I lack patience. I struggle to play with my toddler at his level. I am prone to laziness and am easily distracted by my phone and Netflix. I find myself wishing away the younger years and wondering if it will be easier when they are older. I count the minutes until my husband (who is amazing with children, praise be to God) is home not just on Fridays, but every single day. Day in and day out, over and over again, I am reminded that motherhood, a role I have desired my entire life, is impossibly difficult. There’s nothing effortless about it.

I find myself wondering, why would God, who created us, gave us gifts, and knows us completely, call us into roles we’re ill-prepared to fill? Why would God make something so important, like the task of raising children, such a challenge for me? Perhaps you can relate, and have wondered, “Why would God ask me to ______ when He gifted me to do _____?”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

In my case, God did not instill in me every spiritual gift I would need to be an effortless mom. The gift of mercy, for example, did not make it onto God’s shortlist when He was knitting me together in my mother’s womb. But God did give me His Holy Spirit and the promise that in my weakness His power is made perfect, and He did the same for you. Where we have limits, He is limitless. Where we are not enough, He is more than enough. He is working our missteps, failures, and shortcomings for His glory. It’s all a part of His plan.

The stakes are high, and each child is precious, so I praise God that I am reminded daily of my insufficiency. My limits drive me to dwell in Him, to rely on Him, and to give the glory only to Him. The lives of my children are not dependent on my abilities or shortcomings. We are all dependent on Him, and what better posture to model to my children than a posture of complete dependence on Christ?

There is no option to do the hard work of mothering outside of God’s power, and I’m inclined to believe that is exactly why God called me into this role I feel so ill-equipped to fill. And perhaps it is exactly why He called you into _____ even though He gifted you to ________.

To Him be the glory.

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