Boating and Swimming: From Crista Merrell
Crista is a woman who's remarkably easy to love. She demonstrates that wearing many "hats" in life can be done with balance, courage, humor and grace. As her title is "Global Women's Pastor" at Bayou City Fellowship, she is really the leading pastor and shepherd for the pastors of all BCF locations, and she does it really well. Crista serves God, family and the Church in more ways than one could possibly count from a depth of love, authenticity and devotion that's rare and downright gorgeous. When she speaks, you tend to just want to listen. We've been so excited for you to hear from her. We asked her if she would join us on the blog today, and here she's sharing a testimony of her experience as a fellow "Sister of Motherhood".
Boating and swimming…
Whether or not we are parenting alone, we are all mothers. Our lives have not been our own since we first held that little person. Every plan now includes someone besides us on the outside of us and yet very much on the inside. On the inside is our love for our kids. The most sacrificial Love of all time created us and then died for us on the cross to save us. The second most sacrificial love of all time is (according to me), a mother’s love.
Our children grow inside us (if adopted, then in our hearts), are evicted by our bodies and spend the rest of their lives walking around just out of our arms’-reach. When I think about my babies learning to walk, I remember how I hovered over them while they took wobbling steps and frequent falls and then watched them learn to run with confidence. The thing about running though is that it takes them farther away, and before you know it they’re 20 years old, in the US Army and on the other side of the world.
So there’s Love, powerful and visceral, the evidence of our Creator in us. Then there’s the other thing manifesting when powerful, sacrificial love meets flesh. It tears away at peace, steals joy, twists reality. It taunts what’s real with what might be. It forms a thick, tall wall between who we are and who we know we should be.
It’s name is fear.
I am 39 years old. I have been called mother by eight children, five boys and three girls, born to three different mothers for a grand total of forty seven years of mothering. We have seen some scary stuff come through….Five of these eight children were not born to me. They came from literally God-knows-where-and-what. Abuse, neglect and godlessness were the first chapter of all of their stories. To say that I was afraid to insert myself into all of that business is a gross understatement.
My fears are echoed in the existence of my children in so many ways. For some of them, brought into our home as teenagers, my fears were about how they would affect our younger kids. The real truth is that I was a little afraid of what they would do to them. I was also afraid that my biological children would miss out on the attention that was rightfully theirs when we took on so many more kids. I just didn’t know. So I imagined the worst. My fears took on gross proportions, nearly to the point of me throwing up my hands and abandoning what I was called to do. It’s profound and humbling to me, looking back, that I took on fears of people who were not called to do the things I was called to do. Sometimes those who mean the best and think they’re helping can be the worst fear-starters of all.
The worst thing we can do is parent out of fear. Psychologically speaking, when we parent in fear, our children take on our state of uncertainty. They begin to operate from a place of mistrust and stress. After all, as human beings, we biologically and naturally follow the one we perceive to have things the most “together”. If we don’t live by faith, believing that God holds us, then our children will look to other places for security. So how do we stay out of the parenting-in-fear camp?
A quote I once read says, “Fear is not real. It is the product of created thoughts. Danger is real, but fear is a choice.” To be honest, I can live with danger. Isolated from fear, the concept of danger is really empirical and therefore something that can be managed with wisdom and preparation. So that’s where we are, Sisters of the MotherHood. We live running along a rope held up by faith and hope dangling over the chasm of fears. But the source of the faith and hope that holds us up is perfect and complete! Our Creator-God has literally never let go of anyone who puts her faith and hope in Him.
What if our fear wasn’t something we shrank from but something we used to point us to the places where we have excluded God? Our definition of FEAR would have to change from Forget Everything And Run to Face Everything And Rise. Do we fear not having enough? Let’s use that to point us to pursuing understanding of how God provides all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). Do we fear harm coming to ourselves or our children? Let’s use that to learn how to trust God to protect us from all evil (Psalm 121:7). Do we fear a future alone? Let’s get to know the God that is with us and will never, ever under any circumstance leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
The worst mistake I have made as a mother isn’t about being too easy or too rigid. Too disciplinary or too merciful. Too liberal or too conservative. What to feed them, what not to feed them. To breastfeed or to bottle feed. To send them to private school or public school. Those things all come and go, ebb and flow. I sometimes feel like parenting isn’t about getting it right but about keeping it between the lines. By far, the worst mistake I have ever made as a mother is to live believing that what I fear is more powerful than my faith in the provision and protection of God. Raising brave kids requires brave mothering. It requires letting them sometimes jump off of places that seem too high, swim in places that seem too deep, run what seems to be too far, say what seems to be too much, wait what seems to be too long. Teaching a child to navigate means that they need to feel the tipping of the vessel enough to know how dangerously far it can go before it capsizes. Sometimes we have to let ourselves and our children spend enough time in fear to know that it passes and that we can live through the whole thing.
Remember when I told you how afraid I was of adopting my teenagers? That I was afraid of what they would do to my younger kids? That my younger children would be slighted and deprived of my attention? Well, those teenage boys did something to my littles alright. They love them hard, protect them strong, are their favorite playmates, most doting caregivers and perhaps their most relevant counsel. In turn, they have the full attention, affection and adoration of their younger siblings. Our house is the most fun, most colorful, least boring place I know. I cannot imagine my days not laughing with my African-American sons about how they had to explain to their teammates or fellow soldiers that their mama is a white lady (“that can cook a lot and real good!” a point that is up for debate and also one of my biggest hurdles as a mom—providing meals) or watching them facetime their younger siblings sometimes multiple times in a day. My greatest fears have, in the light of hope and faith, shown my life to be full of the greatest and most beautiful things. It’s still sometimes scary. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But it’s good. Really good. And you better believe I know how far this ship will tip without turning over. I’ve also seen it turn all the way, and then I found that God gave me the ability to swim and swam with me to shore. Sisters, He has made you strong.
You, mighty woman, are built for this. You are able to sail. You are even able to swim. “YES, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).