In a competitive world with everyone jockeying to be the best, to make the team, to get into the right college, to get the high-paying job, to have the dream home, car, and spouse and children, the work never seems to be finished. A literal resume, or even a mental version of one, can drive our teenagers’ decisions about classes, activities, work, and volunteer choices. We all keep building our resumes, whether we think we are or not. For parents, our children can often become a living, breathing resume, a measure of our efforts as moms and dads.
In Philippians 3 Paul writes to false teachers in Philippi who saw their Jewish identity as an added bonus to their righteousness and faith before God. Paul’s response includes his own resume,“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (vv. 4-6).
Imagine what this might look like in today’s terms for a parent: weekly church-goer, leader of Bible Studies, volunteer for the school, a good balance of work and home, member of civic and volunteer boards, children who make good grades and attend small group, maker of homemade dinners, and gracious and kind to all.
Paul describes his resume listing his works, but moreover describes his Jewish identity. Likewise, as a parent, I often take my resume and make it into my identity. My sinful heart encourages me to believe that I am the sum of my successes and failures, that what I do is who I am before my peers and before God.
If that is true, it is no wonder I am worn out from the hamster wheel of parenting. At the bottom of my striving to be a good mom and wife I am crying out desperately “Am I enough? Am I worthy? Am I loved and known?”
The gospel—the good news that God sent Jesus to die for my sins and rise again, declaring those who believe in him guilt-free and redeemed—answers that cry. The gospel is an oxygen mask when I am trying to not drop the proverbial ball as a parent. The gospel points me away from myself and my “doing” to Jesus and what he has done. The gospel reminds me that it is never about what I have or haven’t done, or will or won’t do. The gospel tells me that what Jesus did for me on the cross when he declared, “It is finished” is enough, and therefore I am enough.
Paul, too, saw the insufficiency of his self-made identity when compared to his identity in Jesus. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. […] in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:7-9).” What the world would count as power and position, Paul considered as nothing when compared to what God has offered.
The gain of Christ is Jesus’ perfectly lived life. Faith in Christ trusts that Jesus has given me his perfect record. God does not see me and my parenting efforts and say, “That is who she is.” He sees Jesus.
I am not merely given a clean slate in Jesus. I am given Jesus’ full and perfect slate and an identity in Christ that I cannot mess up. There is nothing that I can add to what Jesus has done for me to make it better, nor is there anything I can do to take away from it.
Jesus does not need me. He doesn’t need my wise parenting, my school volunteer hours, or my completed task list. By his generous grace, he does want me, and He allows me to serve him out of the abundance of his Spirit at work in me.
Thus, when I do choose to say “yes,” I am doing it from a place of heart-level freedom. I am not doing it to prove myself as worthy. When my child does well in his activity, I rejoice from a place of freedom. I do not rejoice because it makes me look like a worthy mother. Jesus already has told me I am worthy. So I do not have to act or do to gain approval. God has already told me I have his approval in Jesus.
What I do, or what my children do, is simply something they do. It does not define who I am as a parent. As a Christian, that is already settled. I am marked as God’s child through his Son Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God, we parents have the answer to our cry of “Am I enough?” God answered it when he was willing to give his only Son that I may be counted as a true child of God, with all of the righteousness of Jesus. My identity is hidden in Christ alone, not in my parenting resume. In him I am enough.