Not long ago, I made a bad decision bringing my good daughter to a scary movie.
My daughter’s 14 and I thought she could handle it. She could not. At least, she should not. I mean, just, no.
I am a woman of faith, so one would think I’d be a better mom. There’s the rub, because, full confession, this was kinda my best effort.
I actually read the reviews on this thing. It was based on a book that I didn’t read, but I thought the premise dissed the stuff I want my daughter to reject and deployed some girl power, so, good on that. Plus I asked a friend (who’s discerning, protective, you know - a good mom) her thoughts and she said, “Yes, go.” In fact, she came along! And brought her daughter!
Alas. The whole experience taught me an important lesson about my faith. It is not for my worst days (although, yeah, it is); it’s primarily for my best days, because running full throttle at my best self, scores about a B-. That’s an average. That means that any given day my best is just bad.
Wherein a woman of faith grabs that faith by the neck and, embarrassed, squeezes it for answers.
Mine came in the form of Noah. He’s a good guy from Scriptures who builds a boat when he’s supposed to, then sails that boat when he’s supposed to, then docks that boat when he’s supposed to.
Then, he gets drunk.
We all know Jesus’ first miracle is turning water into wine so no problem on a bit of imbibing of course, but Noah became an embarrassment to – this makes me cringe – his kids.
I get it. I was an embarrassment to my daughter that night at the movie. I tried bumbling her off to our car quick before anyone saw us (which did not work at all). My throat was tight with “If this is my best my kids are in trouble.” My face is red now just thinking about it.
Noah’s story, however, has a different finale. In Noah’s story, his kids covered for him. Well, one kid made fun of him, but the other two actually literally covered him (naked wasted did not originate this century, turns out).
My daughter’s too young to cover for me. That’s fine, Noah’s finale was less about a kid cover and more about bearing witness to raw questions like, in the face of embarrassment, what good is a faith anyway? In fact, what good is a parent anyway?
Turns out, a cover.
Bad Mom Boost #1: Faith is not for shame. It is for covering our vulnerable places until we can shake off the shame and get back to doing a job well done.
Of course, that’s not an invitation to excuse sloppy behavior. The Author of Noah’s story does not excuse Noah.
The Author covers for Noah.
How? In Noah’s case, it was through two good kids. In my case, it was through a few quite healing conversations that I don’t have to write about because I’m lucky enough not to have all my personal business splashed across chapter nine of the first book of the Bible like Noah did.
The “how” will be a personal, concrete kindness from the God of our faith, just as it was personal between Noah and the God of the Scriptures. This will only ultimately be helpful to our kiddos if we, in fact, receive it.
Bad Mom Boost #2: We parents can allow ourselves permission to receive personal, concrete covers. In fact, we better receive them, because we’re teaching our kids how to receive them when they feel embarrassed, behave embarrassingly, etc. etc. etc.
We are teaching them how to respond to shame.
They can count on us to be parents who know: shame happens. Sometimes it happens when you’ve actually put your very best foot forward. In fact, it’ll keep happening so gird your loins on getting used to dealing with it in a healthy way.
While our kids' faith is still under construction, they can look to us to cover as parents can.
Which, we admit, will be about a B-, on a good day. Embarrassing.
However, our embarrassments are training ground to show our kids how to get on with our best, even among our bad. Our embarrassments also force us to dig into our own faith, and catch salty finales like Noah’s cover story. These rarely make the mainstream sermon circuit and yet they balm our embarrassed hearts in the most loving way.
That makes a bad mom think she just might stand a chance, since at her very worst best, someone’s still got her back.
Janelle Alberts writes pithy parenting pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.