Herding Cats

My husband had the boys by himself last weekend so I could attend a wedding. He told me afterwards that trying to get them from the house to the car and back to take them to the mall was like herding cats. And that really is a very apt description of my highly energetic, curious, unflappable two and four year old. Simple things like going to the car that used to take 1 minute before I had kids now take 15 minutes with them. Nothing is simple anymore. Everything takes more energy, more time, more patience.

Oh, children. I wanted mine so badly–experiencing deep depression when I struggled briefly with miscarriage and infertility and then great excitement when I finally got pregnant again. But pretty much since the moment I gave birth to my second son, I have experienced intense emotional and spiritual battles. The pressure has not let up. As each boy gets older, the types of pressure change with their stage, but the general sense of pressure remains. My boys have been God’s instrument of sanctification in me, exposing much of my sin day after day. Mainly, it exposes that, when put under the right amount of pressure, I am not much different than those I would like to compare myself to make myself feel better. “Well, at least I don’t parent like them!” But with enough pressure, the same (pardon the vernacular) bitch voice can come out of my mouth that comes out of the most sorry, angry worthless parent you know.

When I use that voice, that’s when I know I am defeated. I usually want to sit down in a corner and cry. I have failed. I have become the very thing I detest and vowed never to be. Instead of persevering patiently with my boys in their sin, I have sinned against them. Instead of modeling for them right responses, I have become the very thing that I have been trying to teach them not to be. What hopelessness I feel. The problem isn’t that I’m herding cats. I could handle herding cats all day long if it didn’t bring out in me the things I hate the most.

But God does not leave me in that moment. I have been working long and hard on a manuscript on the book of Ephesians. And while it may or may not get published one day, God has certainly used the study in my heart to radically change how I respond in that moment. I know what to do now in that pit of despair over my failure. I don’t have to hide until I can get myself back together. I don’t have to justify myself. Instead, I turn to the gospel. I look to God and pray, “God, open my eyes to the power at work on my behalf, the same power that rose Christ from the dead. What is my spiritual inheritance in You? Show me how to live in light of all you have declared me to be in heaven. Show me how to deal with this sin in me right now in light of all You have done for me on the cross.” Then, I can be honest with the boys about what I did wrong and how Jesus helps me in it.

I love the gospel. It matters. It meets me in the midst of the things that weigh me down the most and gives me hope that God is calling me to a better way and making a way for it to happen. The gospel teaches me that I don’t have to figure it out on my own. That I can cast myself upon His mercy and He will do the heavy work of transforming me into His image. And that, my friends, give me great peace and hope. The gospel meets me in every need.

5 Responses to Herding Cats

  1. Anonymous April 29, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Welcome to motherhood. You are strong, brave and very intelligent. Don’t give “herding cats” another thought. JUST CONTINUE DOING IT. Your boys will be fabulous Christian men one day and then you can have your life back. You will make mistakes every day but as long as you rely on the Lord He will take your worst mistakes and turn them around to His good. Of course, you won’t see the final fruits of your labor until the boys are grown, but you will experince wonderful little vistories every day. I love you. Your Mom

  2. Karla April 30, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    I have so often used that phrase “herding cats” in the context of getting my boys out the door – and in my frustration, would say it to them quite often. My 8-year just recently, in a quiet moment, asked me if I loved him and his brother because I was always saying they were like cats.

    What a sharp knife to the heart, yes?

    I resonate with your post because I find myself apologizing daily to my 8-year old – who sees and calls me on my sin. I feel like such a failure, but know in my heart that it is this daily failing of his mother, that will point the way to the perfection of the Lord, and the grace that must exist in a family.

  3. Wendy April 30, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    Wow, Karla. Thanks for sharing that!!

  4. RJ May 1, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    The season of my life when I had pre-schoolers was a daunting one. The little book “Childwise: Parenting your 3-7 year old” gave me a whole arsenal of tactics that worked extremely well, as well as some insight into where I’d made a wrong turn.
    Keep up the work on Ephesians. I’m going through Jan Wells inductive Bible study on that book right now. I’d love to see your insights on a book that has blessed my own heart so much.

  5. Rick and Megan Bowers May 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    It’s amazing how Jesus shapes us and molds us, in ways that we never expected.
    He takes the things in our lives that we cherish, no matter how small or how large – and He uses them as a mirror – so we can see our hearts, and then the Holy Spirit begins a work in us to cleanse us, to teach us, and to shape us.
    It’s hard to give God such glory when we all we can think is: I’m awful…
    But we are awful, and He is GREAT! So great!
    Because he loves us even when we are awful – and He pursues our hearts so lovingly!

    Thanks for sharing!!!