It was a hot summer morning, and I desperately needed to get out of the house. The kids were wild with boredom, and I longed for a little grown-up interaction, so I spent all morning trying to make a morning playdate while battling temper-tantrums, lost shoes, and lunch packing. I herded the kids like cats until they finally all piled into the van. When we all unloaded and descended on the playground, I felt like I'd run a marathon and someone should put a medal around my neck.
Swollen and pregnant, I waddled toward the other moms gathering under a shaded pavilion. Noticing my apparent look of weary exasperation, a mom with much older kids approached me and jokingly asked how I was doing. I rambled off a list of the morning's mishaps, noting my weariness.
That's when it happened—she breathed the one phrase that enslaves moms in any season: “Just wait.” The words seemed to come out in slow-motion, growling their fearful warning.
Her curt words were followed by more frankness: “You're pregnant; it will only get harder once the baby comes. I had four. Just wait. Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems.” Her ominous words seemed to trail off, as I panicked in a fictional world of fears.
What We're Hearing
Puzzled by her insensitivity, I mentally checked out for the remainder of the “fun” playdate. What was I supposed to do with her words?
Maybe she was trying to relate, to empathize with my struggles. But compassion wasn't what I heard. Instead, I heard, “It's only going to get worse from here. You'd better give up now, because there's no way you can handle what's coming.”
At that moment, all rational sense of dependence on God's promises slipped my mind. I spiraled into despair, wondering how I would possibly survive, let alone thrive in this parenting gig. She was probably right—my rowdy toddlers were bound to end up sociopaths or prison inmates. Though I'd come to the park looking for some sort of encouragement in the exhausting trenches of parenting, I felt more wounded and discouraged than ever.
What We're Saying
I can't vilify the “just wait” mom who scorned me without admitting that I have been this same mom before—popping off to young moms with the same hurtful words. Even after absorbing the impact and feeling the pain of the “just waits” more than a few times, I still regularly catch myself standing on the precipice of pride—wanting to toss my stone-like words at younger and less experienced moms.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit hasn't let me off the hook. He convicts me of my sinful arrogance when I use this snarky phrase. What I'm really saying with the words “just wait” is this: “Just wait until you feel the struggle I feel.” Or, “I see your struggle, but compared to mine, yours is insignificant.”
Instead of listening with grace to a mom I am equipped to relate to, I selfishly draw comparisons to my own life. Then I judge whether or not I feel she is validated in feeling the way she does. If I determine my plight is worse than hers, I use the words “just wait” to lash out. In one fell swoop, I gain her sympathy and respect for my hard situation while discrediting hers.
As a mom of four, it's hard to listen lovingly to the new moms with one baby talk about their tiredness or the difficulty of parenting. But just because I've made it through the fire doesn't negate the fact that another mom is walking through it for the first time, feeling the burn of pain. Our comments as more experienced moms should reflect the grace we've already received from our caring Father. Grace has never been stingy (John 1:16), selective (Romans 12:3), or earned (Romans 5:15). Grace is a gift we've freely received, and should also freely give—preaching always the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
What We Should Say
The overly used and commonly unkind phrase “just wait” fills hearers hearts with dread and causes them to doubt God's goodness. It robs both new moms and even seasoned moms of rest in gospel realities. Christ himself is our peace—he has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing by law and reconciling us both to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14). Shouldn't he also be our peace in all stages of our parenting?
The gospel frees us from dispensing gloom-and-doom “just wait” advice to some moms and receiving it from others. When our words elicit this Henny Penny “sky is falling” mentality we fail one another. Instead, we should equip and encourage one another with the same gospel we've received (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Take heed, O mom, lest you fail to bring good news and living water to thirsty souls. Instead of enslaving one another to fear and doubt, why not encourage each other's faith? The next time you're tempted to write off a friend's parenting stage or struggle, listen empathetically without relating or comparing her problems to your own. Hear her heart and pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the words of scriptural encouragement she needs. A fitting word brings grace to its hearer (Ephesians 4:49).
Take heart weary sister—“just wait” on the Lord. Wait on him and be strong; let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14). Indeed, none who waits for the LORD will be put to shame (Psalm 25:3). Just wait.
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).