I know it sounds terrible, but it is absolutely true. Four kids is too many. If you have four kids, (or 2 or 8 or wherever your "too many" hit you) then you know. It's like they are everywhere at once. Sometimes they take turns, tag-teaming with their shenanigans, one after the other, wearing me down hour after hour while they get time to energy-up during someone else's turn to pour out all the cereal or slam their own fingers in the bathroom door.
And other times, it all hits at once like a tsunami of neediness. I remember a distinct moment about 18 months ago. I was giving our new baby a bath when the toddler fell off of something tall, and the two school aged kids were desperate for help--one with math homework and the other was probably trying to cook or something. Donnie was working that night, so it was all on me to deal with it. And I couldn't. I could not help them all. I couldn't even reach the toddler who was screaming like a maniac. I could, however, reach the phone, and with one hand on the bathing baby, I remember texting my sister*, "They all need me right now. All four of them, at the exact same second are in desperate need of my undivided attention, and I can't do it." I don't know why, but I never expected that. I felt so defeated.
I'm sure you've heard that saying, "God will never give you more than you can handle." I first heard that phrase when I was young, and it has brought me great comfort over the years. What a sweet, gentle God who only gives each of us as much as we can handle. I don't ever have to worry, because He'll never let anything happen to me that is too much. All those bad things that happen to people in the world? God must have let those things happen to them, because they are just better at handling hard things, right?
Does that sound right to you?
I don't think so. It's weird to realize that you've been living in a fog of misconception for most of your life. I'm the type of person who over-analyzes everything, and yet I had swallowed this Masterful Lie from the Devil like it was a spoon full of sugar from Mary Poppins. It just felt so good going down!
But when you are in the middle of a situation that you absolutely cannot handle, that saying doesn't feel so good anymore. It feels less like a promise and more like a betrayal. Or a kick in the ribs.
The real truth is exactly opposite. If you are a child of God, I bet He's allowed something in your life that is more than you can handle. Maybe a lot of somethings. And you're not alone. There are lots of biblical examples: Esther had to confront the most powerful, dangerous dictator in the world, all by her pretty little self. Gideon had to face an army of blood-thirsty barbarians, with just a few guys and no weapons! Peter was asked to WALK on WATER. Mary had to watch her sweet, perfect son be ripped apart right before her eyes. I don't think any of these people were able to handle these things. And yet, there they were, in the middle of their own life stories, required to do something that was just too much.
Maybe you are dealing with something like this right now. Whether it is a devastating loss, a profound disappointment, a terrifying diagnosis, loneliness, or wherever your "too much" has hit you, please believe that God did not allow this thing in your life because He knew you'd be so great at handling it. He knows the pain and frustration of this life, and He wants to carry you through this season of feeling like you just can't take another step. He wants you to bury your face in his chest and let the tears flow freely. He's your Papa.
For me, it took saying out-loud the words that I was too ashamed to even think to myself. "Four kids is too many." And when I said it, somehow they turned from a complaint to a prayer.
Lord, four kids is too many for me to manage on my own. I know this is more than I can handle. I'm begging you for a portion of grace that will see me through this day. I don't want to just survive, Lord. I want to be the kind of mom who shines Your Love on them the whole day. Teach me to see them the way you do--their eternal value in Your kingdom. Show me how to love them and nurture them, to discipline them in a way that teaches and doesn't cause shame. And please don't leave my line of sight, for the entire day. Because if I take my eyes off of you, I'm going to run this whole screaming circus into the ground.
On days when I speak those words from my heart to my Savior, things are different. I don't feel like the waters are rising up over my head while I try to walk on water by my own strength. I know that He's carrying me, using His Spirit to speak words of life and growth into my children, that I sometimes can't even believe are coming out of my mouth. Somehow I see them as future adults who are going to do HUGE things to change the world, and I appreciate so much more about all the little annoying things they do to try to destroy me. Because I can see that they won't do them forever.
On the other hand, sometimes I forget. When I try to live my life on my own strength, I end those days with a shadow of regret, hurt feelings, and failure. I hear that sharp hateful tone in my voice and cringe at the memory of how I made one of my children feel like a burden or a failure instead of the beautiful, inspiring, redemptive presence that she is. That's not the kind of mother I want to be. My kids certainly don't deserve that. On those days, there is usually a moment** when that desperate thought crosses my mind:
I can't do this.
I'm going to lose it.
This is too much.
Four kids is too many.
And I'm learning to hear those words, not as an admission of failure or source of shame, but as a prayer.
I can't do this. Lord, you have to show me how to react in this situation.
I'm going to lose it. Lord, remind me of your Word. Cover me in your grace and peace.
This is too much. Lord, it's too much for me, but it's nothing for You. Please make this path clear to me. Show me what's important and what can wait for a quieter day.
Four kids is too many. But Lord, you gave them to me. I know you chose them for me, and me for them. I adore them, but I feel like I'm punching above my weight, and I need your help to keep them fed, happy, and alive today.
The desperate prayers of a mother on the edge are always answered quickly. He loves my kids more than I do. He knows their paths and their innermost thoughts. He knows how to diffuse a situation in a more effective and peaceful way than I could ever think of. And every time I go before Him, He shows up in a powerful way.
Here are a couple of references to back all this up:
Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
I love that last one. "Boast about my weakness."
It's true. Four kids is too many for me to handle. I'm so glad I don't have to do it on my own.
*my sister was no help. Her reply text was :(
**It usually happens about the time that one of the children throws up, and while I'm hugging and soothing him another one comes in to investigate and slips in the vomit fully clothed to the shoes, and then as I start to panic, thinking I'm running out of arms and patience, the cat shows up and starts eating the vomit. (Oh how I wish this wasn't a true story.)