In Praise of Weakness

Sep 23, 2011

she can laugh

She leaned forward, looked right into my eyes, and said, “You’re a good mother, aren’t you?”

Yes, she really did.  My jaw dropped a little, and I said nothing but “Ummm.”  Then I watched those inarticulate sounds hang there in the air between us.

Fortunately, she was a talker, and she barreled right ahead, “Well, of course you are, but my own mother now . . .” and she was off, telling me her life story.  We were strangers making small talk in a Starbucks, though our talk (or hers, at least) quickly ballooned. 

At least a decade older than me, she was beautiful.  Like a model for hip, expensive yoga-wear.  She was also honest.  I heard all about her many failed relationships, failures for which she was quick to accept responsibility (though not without some wickedly funny anecdotes about her exes).  And when it came to her children, she was confident.  She had always, she was sure, been an excellent mother.  Nothing like the alcoholic who had raised her.

Our conversation took place more than a year ago, but I still marvel at the certainty with which she announced: “I am a good mother.”  Not “good enough” (to use the psychoanalytic catchphrase I learned in graduate school) but truly, thoroughly good.

In the radiance cast by her lovely, shiny blonde hair, my own self-doubt emerged as if spotlighted.  For that’s exactly what her bold question had done: shined a light on my weakness.

I don’t think that I will ever say with confidence or certainty that I am a good mother.  I love my kids.  I love being a mother (though I don’t always like it).  And I’ll even admit that if you lined up a cross section of the world’s mothers, I might show up somewhere near the top, at least according to superficial, measurable factors (I kiss them, I say “I love you,” I feed them organic as much as possible, I make them brush their teeth). 

For whatever reason, I tend not to focus on the things I do well.  Instead, I see the failures: from lost tempers and angry threats to my consistent refusal to play Legos with my son (I’m just not good at that.  Why don’t you wait till Daddy’s home?).

Over the years (well, eight years, to be exact), I’ve made peace with my weakness.  I cannot stand up boldly to claim the title “good mother,” but today I’m okay with that.

Mothering is now so much less about me and so much more about Grace.  The more impossible I find this role, the more room there is for God (and for His presence, His love, His power, His many good gifts).

As my friend Courtenay recently told me, all that hard, cannot-possibly-get-it-done, certainly cannot-do-it-well stuff on your horizon?  Well, that’s what grace is for.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  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.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

(2 Corinthians 12:8-10)


  1. KTG

    Amen! I was just thinking as my daughter is watching TV, my house is messy, on and on. I want to do better but I don’t have the strength. What a mercy I’m delighting in my weakness that Christ’s power would rest on me.

    • Christie Purifoy

      Right now, my youngest is watching a cartoon, and I am staring (unmotivated) at countertops full of dirty dishes! Thank God He is strong precisely where and when we are weak. 🙂

  2. Katie Kim

    I so identify with your perspective on mothering Christie! I feel so inadequate as a mom on many days and can only pray my impatience and selfishness isn’t scarring them! Thanks for sharing.

    • Christie Purifoy

      I once heard a speaker at a church women’s conference say that if she could be a perfect mother then her kids would have no need for a heavenly parent. I heard those words years ago, but I repeat them to myself frequently.

  3. lisa ulrich

    Great post, thank you for sharing. I definitely did not feel like a good mom this morning when Grace decided to be awake and screaming at 5:30 this morning and then finally went back to sleep right when Josiah decided to wake up at 7am -soo…sleeeepy…..

  4. David Nilsen

    I just sent this to my wife, who is a good mom but doesn’t always believe it.

    • Christie Purifoy

      I hope she finds it encouraging. I’d say I hope it convinces her that she is a good Mom, but, if she’s anything like me, she will continue to see herself as falling short of her own ideals. Thankfully, in God’s kingdom even our weaknesses are flipped inside out and made beautiful.

  5. Rebecca

    Oh this I needed to hear this morning! My soul is downtrodden and I’m on this fragile edge between despair and motivation to move forward. I struggle because I know my own expectations are crippling and unrealistic at times and God’s Grace so much more important! I will strive to accept my weakness and allow His Mercy and Grace to flood into those empty parts. Thank you for this!!

    • Christie Purifoy

      You are welcome, Rebecca! I have these words to share only because I have (and still) struggle to let go of my own expectations in exchange for God’s grace. Praying God pours out his grace for you.

  6. Teresa

    I needed this today. My mothering skills were feeling very weak and battered. Thank you for these encouraging words. I’m off to go hungrily surfing through your posts gleaning any and all wisdom you have for this tired momma of a strong willed child!

    I know finding you today was a direct lead from the Lord,

    • Christie Purifoy

      Welcome, Teresa! Praying you find the encouragement you need today. Tired mama? Strong willed child? Wow, I have been there. And it is every bit as hard as you are feeling. Praise God, when we are weak, he is strong.

  7. thefisherlady

    I love your,”I kiss them, I say “I love you,” I feed them organic as much as possible, I make them brush their teeth). ”

    What a good mama 🙂
    God plants the love in our hearts, praise His name! It is so wonderful to love our kids! They give so much back!

  8. Camila

    Thank you so much for your cmenomts, Deb. Is it your experience like mine that some of the greatest growth, lessons and eventual joy God brings he does through confession and vulnerability? Yes indeed, I am immensely blessed by the support and love in my family.


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