As a Millenial, despite my parents’ efforts to the contrary, I nevertheless absorbed the message society fed me as I grew up: “You can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be!” This message seems especially aimed at young women, although we seem unable as a society to define exactly what a woman is. But if you’re biologically a woman or you feel like a woman or you identify as a woman, you are capable of anything!
Never mind that society made me this promise baselessly, without any knowledge of me, my abilities, or my limitations. I was great and I was in charge of my own destiny. I was woman. Hear me roar!
To the extent that I internalized that message, motherhood has served to completely disprove it. Perhaps more than any other role in my life, motherhood has shown me that I cannot do anything or be anything I want. Forget promising career paths or academic achievements. I’m talking about the most mundane and ordinary of situations, where I find that I cannot accomplish what I want most to do and to be.
I cannot turn away from my selfishness. I cannot show grace to the child whose behavior has disappointed or embarrassed me. I cannot be gentle, loving, patient, or kind after a night of sleep that was full of interruptions. I cannot. My children provide me ample opportunities to realize my limitations on the daily.
I find that I must admit, along with the apostle Paul, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24)
Wretched (wo)man that I am! Now there’s an anthem that I can sing honestly. Can you relate, friend?
The Gospel furnishes me with the solution to this problem. Can I do anything and be anything? No, I cannot, but Jesus can and has and is. I am not, but He is the I Am.
Can I choose the needs of others over my own? I cannot in my own strength, but in His, I can.
Can I offer the grace that has been lavished on me to a child in disgrace? I cannot, but He can through me.
Can I choose gentleness and patience when I am physically or emotionally depleted? Experience, time and again, has shown me that I am unable, but that if I call on Him, He will give me what I need.
This is the hope-filled antidote to this nonsensical idea that we can do or be anything we want. We know society has fed us a lie, don’t we? Any mom in the midst of potty-training a toddler will admit that she can’t. But there is hope for you and me in the One who was and is and is to come. All we need to do is ask.