I remember the kind of mom-friend I was drawn to as I began motherhood:
This friend spent time preparing plans for instructing her children in The Lord. She knew how to calmly but firmly speak to a disobedient child, consistently diffusing chaotic situations with a quick line of correction, and I would be in awe. Her ways were wise and her kids responded pretty well, it seemed. My brain latched on to whatever tools and systems and recommended verbiage for teaching, training, and disciplining children she could offer me, and I loved watching her amazing parenting tools in action.
I had several friends like that who clearly had their act together in this motherhood gig, and I soaked up every chance I had to be with them and learn from them.
I would have said then that those friendships most encouraged me as a mom.
But that was then, and my nine years of motherhood have altered my perspective.
So am I more encouraged by the mom friend who does it all so well and has shining kids to show for it or the one who’s a mess and finds none of her sure-fire strategies working on the kids she’s raising?
Well, it could be either one, really. Whether a mom is slam-dunking her parenting goals or struggling through in weariness isn’t really the issue. What makes a mom-friend encouraging is how she exudes grace in the midst of whatever mom life she has.
I’m still learning, but as God peels back layers of performancism in my parenting to reveal its idolatrous heart, I hunger more for the grace that sustains both my children and me. The friend who knows and reminds me that JESUS is the only hope for motherhood is the sweetest gift. What most encourages me now as a mom are the friends so deeply soaked in grace that they’re dripping with it. They know how to bring others into the presence of Jesus because that’s where they dwell. And it’s possible – no, probable – that the reason they are so well acquainted with grace is that they’ve embraced their weakness to the extent they’re starved for it.
These are the friends I want to surround myself with, and this is the kind of friend I want to be. An encouraging friend. One who knows short-term “success” in parenting isn’t really success. This type of friend can share and receive advice, talk strategy and practicalities of mothering, all the while believing and testifying that these methods hold no hope for her kids’ souls or her own; only grace does. She credits God with anything good. But she’s also quick to let you in on her struggles and allow you to see a life that isn’t picture-perfect, showcasing how God is working His grace into her life. She may talk about the practical work of mothering, but she doesn’t forget to include its aim at her own soul’s sanctification or fail to highlight the One who’s freed her from the bondage of performancism in parenting. She understands that too much talk about “doing” in motherhood without enough talk about what Christ has already done will be life-draining for the mom-friends who share in it. Whether her mothering ministry yields much fruit now is irrelevant, because her heart is set on Christ’s faithfulness for the long road of parenting rather than on immediate “results.” She helps you to see this too – to feel it – by way of her joyful security and wise, gracious words.
It is possible to cultivate a friendship landscape that encourages like that, and I love this verse in Acts that simplifies the process of nurturing these kinds of relationships:
Acts 11:23 says this of Barnabas’ response to the kingdom growth happening in Antioch:
“When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to The Lord with steadfast purpose.”
Notice it doesn’t say that Barnabas saw their performance and was glad and encouraged them. It wasn’t their perfection he noticed. Rather, he saw the grace of God and was glad.
The grace of God in people’s lives is praiseworthy, and it is something we need to look for and affirm in our friends’ lives. There’s power to be found in that. Any individual in a group of friends can be used by God to begin this work. You and I can start leading others into more grace-filled conversations about mothering where there aren’t any, and following Barnabas’ example, we do this by observing GRACE at work, celebrating it, and encouraging our friends to keep walking in it.
Do you agree that the most encouraging mom-friend exudes grace because she’s filled with it herself? Do you find you’re more likely to dwell in that grace when you’re “doing well” as a mom or when you’re weary and struggling? And how have you seen this played out in your friendships?