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Underachieving Mothers

I apologize in advance for using sports illustrations on Mother’s Day, but here goes.
This past week the NBA coaches got together to vote on who they thought should be coach of the year. Their choice is Dwane Casey, coach of the Toronto Raptors.
He is a good coach. He led Toronto to first place in their division and a first round win over the Washington Wizards. Toronto lost in four games to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What is amazing is that there is strong talk that he might be fired. In spite of his awards, in spite of the winning record, there are many in Toronto who think that with the team they had, they should have played much better against Cleveland than they did and even won.
The reason he might be fired is not that he isn’t doing a good job, but in the minds of many, he is an underachiever. As good as he is, he should do better! had an article by Jeff Kauflin on CEO’s who left their companies in 2017. Jeff writes,
“[Mark] Fields worked at Ford for 25 years before becoming CEO in 2014. Sales grew during his three-year reign. But market share slipped, and Ford’s stock dropped about 40%. Executive chairman Bill Ford lost confidence in Fields’ leadership and said the company needed to move faster to keep pace with new technology like electric and self-driving cars. Ford fired Fields in May and replaced him with Jim Hackett, former head of the company’s Smart Mobility unit, which focuses on new forms of transportation like autonomous driving.”
Sales grew for three years and Mr. Fields was fired. Why? He was perceived as an underachiever.
In the business world, people can do very well and be fired because they didn’t do good enough.
I have met and talked to a lot of women who thought that they were underachievers as mothers. They had some idea of what a good mother should be and they didn’t measure up to their own standards. They looked around and saw other women who seemed to have it together and felt like failures.
If you think that you have underachieved as a mother, then I want to assure you that you are right. Those other women who you thought had it together? They didn’t. As a matter of face, I have never met a perfect mother. In fact, other than God, I have never met a perfect father, either.
There are three dangers one faces when they say, “There are no perfect mothers.” The first danger is to say, “If I can’t be perfect, there’s no use in trying.” The second danger is to say, “If I can’t be perfect, then I am not fit to be a mother and dump on oneself.”
The third danger is to say, “If I am not perfect, I will redouble my efforts to be perfect.”
There is a fourth option. The fourth option is to ignore the temptation to judge yourself and accept who you are, both the goodf and the bad.
I will come back to this later. Right now, I want to show you a Biblical home
The Biblical home belongs to Isaac and Rebekah. As this is Mother’s Day, we are going to focus on the home through her eyes.
Rebekah is first mentioned in Genesis 22:23. Twenty-seven chapters later in Genesis 49:31, we find the last mention of her in the Old Testament. She is mentioned in Romans 9:10, 12 in the New Testament.
Rebekah is Isaac’s wife and his first cousin once removed. We will look at what the Bible says about her. As we do, ask yourself, what do I have in common with Rebekah?

First, Rebekah had a husband who loved her.

Genesis 24:67 ESV
67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
This was visible. It was clear that they had a loving relationship.
If you are a mother and you know your husband loves you, count your blessings. Many people who walk the aisle start out as friends and end up as enemies.

Second, Rebekah may have been a mother figure to her husband.

So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

I don’t want to get too psychological here, but there is a sense that Rebekah was seen by Isaac as a mother figure.
It’s interesting that I have heard many Maine humorist call their wives “mother.”
Mothers have many attributes. They help, nurture and care. Mothers also control. From three aisles away in a supermarket, one can hear a mother. “Don’t touch that.” “No, you can’t have that.” “Put that back on the shelf.” “Stop crying…”
Rebekah was not Isaac’s mother, but the marriage was close enough that she provided a measure of comfort.

Third, Rebekah had a husband who prayed for her.

Genesis 25:21 ESV
21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
There are people who have children and don’t want them. Abortion is often described as getting rid of unwanted children before they are born.
Then there are people who want children and can’t have them. It might be because of health issues, biological issues or for reasons totally unknown.
Those who want children and cannot have them feel real pain. The issue of children can even drive a couple apart.
Rebekah was blessed in that her husband didn’t accuse her or separate from her because of the issues. Rather, he supported her in prayer.
What a blessing to have a supportive husband who prays to the Lord for his wife. It’s good to have someone who stands by your side when you need that love and support.

Fourth, Both Rebekah and Isaac had favorites.

When the children did come in answer to prayer, Rebekah had twins, Esau and Jacob. Listen to this.
Genesis 25:28 ESV
28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
It’s bad enough that children demand attention. Sibling rivalry is very normal. But when parents pick favorites, they choose to have more conflict in the family.
It’s natural to like certain aspects of every child. It is also natural to not like certain things about your children. That is much different than telling the children or acting like one or the other is a favorite. Be prepared for years of undercurrents and conflict if you make that choice.

Fifth, Rebekah did not like her daughter-in-law.

Genesis 26:34–35 ESV
34 When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
If I understand the Hebrew correctly, Esau and Judith didn’t treat Isaac and Rebekah bad. Rather, Judith was a constant irritant to both Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac still loved Esau as did Rebekah to a lesser extent. They were united in bitterness toward Esau and Judith for their marriage. They did not support that relationship.
In fact, Rebekah, ensured that Jacob, her favorite son, didn’t marry the same kind of woman that Esau did.
Genesis 27:46 ESV
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
When people marry, they do enter into a family. Isaac’s wife was picked out by his father through a servant. When Jacob leaves home to find a wife, he goes visit Rebekah’s family at the urging of his parents. The way the text reads, it appears that Esau made his own choice and either did not consult his parents or ignored their advice.
Family gatherings must have been stressful!

Sixth, Rebekah manipulated her husband.

Isaac was an old man. He lost his eyesight which created a dependence on others.
He thinks he is going to die. He decides to bless Esau, his favorite son. He sends Esau out to get dinner. Rebekah hears the conversation and decides that Jacob should get the blessing.
The two sons could not be much different. Esau was a hunter, Jacob a farmer. Esau was extremely hairy, Jacob had smooth skin. Esau and Jacob had totally different voices.
It helps when a blind man is not able to see!
Rebekah gets an animal skin for Jacob to mimic Esau’s hairy arms. Rebekah cooks up goat meat, one of Esau’s favorites. The animal skin smells a lot like Esau.
When Jacob goes in to his father, the only warning sign that betrayed Jacob was his voice. His father could not tell the difference.
Because Jacob lied about who he was, his father blessed him as he meant to bless Jacob’s twin brother, Esau.
That didn’t sit well with Esau. He made plans to kill Jacob as soon as his father died. Rebekah heard this and had Jacob sent back to the homeland to find a wife from her family.
Rebekah is the woman who is pulling the strings in her family. Isaac, Jacob and Esau are under her spell.
Do you feel the need to manipulate and try to control your family? Rebekah did!
Jacob is sent back to Rebekah’s family to find a wife. He found two, Leah and Rachael.
Genesis 35:27 ESV
27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.
It appears that during the twenty years Jacob was away, his mother died. Isaac, who twenty years earlier was on his deathbed, was still alive.

What do we learn from this?

I’m not sure how this message has hit you. When we look at Rebekah, we find good and bad. The love was solid, the issues about children seemed to divide the home.
It is not my purpose to make anyone feel guilty this morning. If this home reflects your home in any way, then you may be able to see changes that might need to be made. However, that is not my purpose.
The takeaway that God has impressed on me is simple.

God uses imperfect people.

Isaac is spleeny, his wife controls him and he has other faults as well. Rebekah is a committed wife and mother who has favorites and manipulates the family. The children don’t like each other and are only behaving out of respect for the parents.
It’s easy to blame Rebekah or Isaac. She was an underachieving mother. He was a self-centered father.
Every family has faults. I am sure that each person in your family might have a list of those faults. Some items on their list are not on yours and vice versa.
Here is the bottom line.
God uses this family!
Rebekah’s family is still spoken of today. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Her family is noted in both genealogies of Jesus as recorded in Matthew and Luke.
Romans 9:10–12 ESV
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
Notice that God spoke to Rebekah.
God knows what he is doing. God in infinitely wise. I don’t know why God did it this way. By faith I will say he had a good reason. But he only uses imperfect people to accomplish his purposes.
1 Corinthians 1:26–29 ESV
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
I won’t mention any names, but I have visited churches or seen missionaries come and, in my humanness, asked, “How can God use that person…” only to hear that God can use that person and has done so. The only explanation on a human level is that God did it. God did it through that person or in spite of that person. But great things happened and all the credit goes to God.
The work of a mother is very important. Our world does not put a great emphasis on motherhood, at least not like they used to do. Many mothers are mothering in the dark, not sure if what they do is going to be good or bad. Some have support from their husbands and some don’t. Some will realize when their children are grown up that they should have done some things differently when the children were younger. Hindsight is always 20/20.
If you know what God wants you to do and you know what you need to do differently, please, for God’s sake and the sake of your family, do it!
If you feel imperfect as a mother, that you are not the best mother in the world, that your feeble attempts are not of any value, remember this: God only uses imperfect people. Don’t set a higher standard for yourself than the reality of who you are.
God only uses imperfect people for two reasons.
First, because that is all he can find. No person is perfect.
Second, people who recognize that they are imperfect are more pliable, more apt to make changes, more apt to listen to God’s voice. It is those who think they are good that will resist change.
1 Peter 5:6 ESV
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
The humblest thing we can do is admit we are not perfect and bring our imperfection to God. That humility allows us to admit where we fail and it allows us to receive grace from God. A humble person is willing to receive instruction.
A humble person realizes that they can’t do everything and be everything for their children or for others. They admit their limitations and do what they can, and then trust God to take care of what they are unable to do.
Thank you, mothers, for your work. Bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Accept your limitations. Love your children. May you be blessed by God!
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