Discovering grace in everyday motherhood

by Caroline Barnhill, Contributing Writer


Monday, April 30, 2018

I remember the first time my then 4-year-old son Jack asked me why Jesus had to die for our sins. We were driving in the car on a warm spring day – worship music blasting in the background – and it stopped me in my tracks.

That sweet little voice prompting me to pour out the gospel. 

This was my moment. I got to explain original sin, the depravity of mankind and the beautiful redemption of the cross. He listened intently and opened his mouth for what I was sure would be his first proclamation of faith.

Instead he said, “And why do we have thumbs?”

Isn’t that motherhood in a nutshell? We build up in our heads what discipleship looks like in our homes, only to find it a lot messier – and oftentimes, sillier – in practice.

Luckily, since that day in the car, God has provided countless other moments to share the good news of Jesus with my children. And the funny thing? Hardly any of them have come during structured “discipleship” time. 

You see, God works His best when we let Him move freely in the everyday rhythms of our daily life. Gospel conversations don’t always have to take place during evening devotional time. They can happen while pouring cereal in the morning, on the drive to school, or when we snuggle into bed at night. When I take time to intentionally tune into their conversations — even the random babblings of an excited toddler — I can often find ways to speak of the goodness and grace of God.

While driving down the road: “Mommy, do you see the cows?”

“Yes, isn’t it amazing how God created so many different animals? Which one is your favorite?”

As we’re fixing dinner: “Look mom, I set the table!”

“That was such a wonderful way to help mommy. God tells us in the Bible that we are to serve one another in love – and that’s exactly what you did! And do you know who was the greatest servant of all? Jesus! Can you think of some things Jesus did to serve others?”

After being mean to our sibling: “Brother is always breaking my things, and I just get so mad sometimes!”

“I know — a lot of times mommy loses her temper, too. God knew that we would do things that would make Him sad, which is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Maybe we should pray real quick and ask God to forgive us for our anger and to help us be more patient tomorrow?”

Now these moments aren’t long. And they usually aren’t drawn-out conversations. (We save those for important things like thumbs.) But they often provide me opportunities to paint a picture of the character of the God who I pray they will one day will worship. One that is mighty, creative, loving, kind and forgiving. 

Do I mess it up a lot? Of course. Do I snap at them out of exhaustion or look past them because of my own busyness? Constantly. Thankfully, the redeeming thing about our sinful state is that it gives us plenty of opportunities to point to our need of a Savior.  

As my children get older, our conversations grow deeper. But to them, talking with – and about – God in our home is something we’ve practiced their whole lives. Living in a house full of sinners, we have the opportunity to extend and receive grace frequently – all while pointing to Jesus, the One full of grace and truth. 

To all the mothers out there: It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s hurried, frazzled and utterly imperfect. But, Praise Him, He can work better in the broken, outstretched hands of an exhausted mom, than the one who tries to do perfectly all on her own. 

May our battle cry be 2 Corinthians 12:9, “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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (NIV).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Caroline Barnhill is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Holly Springs. She is a wife to Chad, and a mom to two silly and spirited boys. Caroline and her family are active members of the Summit Church’s Apex campus, where she is blessed to serve in children's and women's ministry.