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How to Have Perfect Motives

I’ve known for awhile now that my love for my children isn’t up to snuff. I know because when they ask me to spend time with them, I cringe . . . unless of course it’s doing something that I like, like puzzles or organizing or working in the garden. But reading another Fancy Nancy book: no, thank you! Pretending we’re squirrels, please don’t make me. 

I know my love isn’t what it should be because when they behave well, I like them, but when they act like hooligans, I don’t. My attitude towards them is so often based on their good behavior and whether or not I had enough sleep and how soon my husband got home and if I’m feeling well and . . .

I know my love isn’t good enough because I’m constantly annoyed with their messes and constantly resentful at how they prevent me from doing what I want.

I told this to a Catholic friend of mine. She replied, “But you’re a great mom! You do all sorts of things for your kids. And you’d do anything for them. Right? Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one’s perfect. Why do you think you have to be? Did your parents demand perfection or something?”

She was trying to help. But let me explain why such talk is like putting a bandaid on my decapitated body or putting clothing on a gorilla.

First, my conscience will always be demanding perfection because that is what God demands, and his laws are pressing down upon my heart. God says I have be perfect to please him. That means I must love my kids perfectly.

Secondly, yes, no one is perfect, but God still demands it of us. Perhaps that seems unfair, but it is what we owe him. He gave us life, we owe him a properly run life.

Thirdly, it’s not true that I’d do anything for my kids. Quite frequently I steal their candy and mouth off at them. Yes, I would throw myself in front of a bus for them and I do like them more than I like other people’s children, but that’s not love. That’s just natural affection, the sort of affection we have for things because they’re ours. This sort of love loves regardless of what happens to everyone else. We don’t get any credit for that sort of love.

Fourthly, yes I do all sorts of things for my kids, but I do them for wrong reasons, mostly out of selfishness or fear. I correct my kid’s behavior so that other people can't blame me for being a bad parent. I help my son fix his preferred snack so I don’t have to deal with his complaints. I model putting everything back where it goes so that they will keep my house organized. I limit their sugar so I don't have to pay for fillings. I keep my children out of harms way because their hurt hurts me too much. I make sacrifices for them hoping one day I'll get something for it . . . like a year long vacation. 

So how am I supposed to love my children? As God loves them. And how does God love them? With their best in mind. 

Here’s the problem, I don’t know what’s best for my children. I know my children better than any other mom, teacher, or grandmother, but I don’t know God’s best, which is different. I think it's best to hold my son back a year before starting kindergarten, I think it's best to step in when my husband is being harsh, I think it's best that my kids not participate in sports right now, but do I really know how these choices will affect God's glory? Do I really know how these choices will effect everyone else's glory to God? Only God knows that because only God knows how my children’s actions coincides with all the other 7.5 billion people on earth. 

I’m not just talking about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I’m talking about the option that is the most beautiful, the most true, and the most good. The option that glorifies God the most. That’s what’s best for my children. To want God's glory is to love them.

But here’s another snag. I can ask God to glorify him, but I do so out of fear of displeasing him. Like Romans 8 says, a mind set on the flesh cannot please God. This doesn’t just mean sin displeases God, but good works done for the wrong reasons displease God too. 

But what about trying? Isn’t God happy with our efforts? How can God be pleased if we try for all the wrong reasons? And since all my efforts and actions are done with mixed motives, I can’t be good enough to quiet my conscience.

But all is not lost because I do have someone else's motives in me.


God is pleased with me not because I do things with the right motives or because I try hard, but because someone else did. I can do nothing to increase God’s delight in me because God’s delight isn’t dependent on what I do. It’s dependent on the life Christ lived. Christ did EVERYTHING with pure motives, with the good of everyone in mind, with the guidance and reliance on God's omniscient understanding. Christ did out of his love for God. And that perfect Christ is in me. When God looks into my heart, he sees Christ's perfect life.

I'm probably going to have to remind myself of this for the rest of my life. 
God doesn’t want my efforts. He wants a daily surrender. A broken and contrite heart. A moment-by-moment asking him to do in me what I cannot do myself. 

"God, my children want me to pretend I’m a squirrel again, but I really don’t want to. I just want to have my thoughts to myself. Give me what I need in this moment. Give me the desire to do what’s right for your glory.”

“God, my children are fighting again, and it makes my blood boil. I want to go in there and knock their heads together. Help me to care about doing what’s best for them and me. Help me to be pleased with them even as you are pleased with me.”

“God, my son has to do a project for school, and I already feel the pressure to make it look perfect. Please, help me to do what’s best for my child in light of building him up and not competing with the other mothers.”

And when I forget to bring all my attempts at goodness to God, when I forget that my own efforts get me nowhere, when I backslide into thinking it’s up to me, I don’t need to be ashamed of that either. Because all my works now serve as a reminder that I don’t need to work at all.

"Yet we know that a person doesn't make God happy by trying, but through remembering that God is made happy because of what Christ did, so we daily rely on Christ in our hearts to make us good enough for God and not by obeying all our oughts and shoulds, because no one will succeed at trying to love on his or her own." (Galatians 2:16 Abby version)

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