Not long ago, I made a bad decision bringing my good daughter to a scary movie.
My daughter is 14 and I thought she could handle it. She could not. At least, she should not. I messed up.
I am a woman of faith, so one would think I’d be a better mom. And there’s the rub, because, full confession, this was kinda my best effort.
You see, I had actually read the reviews on this thing. It was based on a book that I didn’t read, but I thought the premise extoled girl power and rejected the same things I would reject. Plus, I asked a friend (who’s discerning, protective, you know - a good mom) her thoughts and she said, “Yes, go.” In fact, she came along! And brought her daughter!
Alas. The whole experience taught me an important lesson about my faith. My faith, my need for Jesus, is not simply for my worst days; it’s primarily for my best days, because even at my best, I’m still not good enough.
After all of this happened, I started looking deeper at my faith, turning to Scripture for answers.
Which led me to Noah. He’s a good guy from Scriptures who builds a boat when he’s supposed to, then sails that boat when he’s supposed to, then docks that boat when he’s supposed to.
Then, he gets drunk. Then, Noah became an embarrassment to – and this makes me cringe – his kids.
I get it. I was an embarrassment to my daughter that night at the movie. I tried bumbling her off to our car quick before anyone saw us (which did not work at all). My throat was tight with “If this is my best my kids are in trouble.”
My face is red now just thinking about it.
Noah’s story, however, has a different finale. In Noah’s story, his kids covered for him. Well, one kid made fun of him, but the other two covered for him. The other two actually literally covered him (naked and wasted did not originate this century, turns out).
My daughter’s too young to cover for me. That’s fine. Noah’s finale was less about a kid covering up his mistakes and more about bearing witness to raw questions like, in the face of embarrassment, what good is a faith anyway? In fact, what good is a parent anyway?
Here are two things I’ve learned through this whole process:
1. Faith is not for shame.
Faith is for covering our vulnerable places until we can shake off the shame and get back to doing a job well done.
Of course, that’s not an invitation to excuse sloppy behavior. The Author of Noah’s story does not excuse Noah.
The Author covers for Noah.
How? In Noah’s case, it was through two good kids. In my case, it was through a few quite healing conversations that I don’t have to write about because I’m lucky enough not to have all my personal business splashed across chapter nine of the first book of the Bible like Noah.
The “how” will be a personal, concrete kindness from the God of our faith, just as it was personal between Noah and the God of the Scriptures. This will only ultimately be helpful to our kiddos if we, in fact, receive it.
2. We parents can allow ourselves permission to receive personal, concrete, covering grace.
When we receive this grace, this covering, we’re teaching our kids how to receive grace when they feel embarrassed, behave embarrassingly, etc.
We are teaching them how to respond to shame.
They can count on us to be parents who know: shame happens. Sometimes it happens when you’ve actually put your very best foot forward. In fact, it’ll keep happening, so gird your loins on getting used to dealing with it in a healthy way.
Our embarrassments are training ground to show our kids how to get on with our best, even among our bad. Our embarrassments also force us to dig into our own faith, and catch salty finales like Noah’s cover story. These rarely make the mainstream sermon circuit and yet they balm our embarrassed hearts in the most loving way.
That makes a bad mom think she just might stand a chance, since at her very worst best, someone’s still got her back.
Janelle Alberts writes pithy parenting pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.
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