So maybe I was breaking the law, but the text was urgent, and I was stopped at a red light. At least that’s how I justified it in my mind. The light turned green and I was startled by my daughter in the backseat.

“Mom! Drive! You’re supposed to be driving!”
“I am driving.”
“No you were looking at your phone.”
“The light was red. It was important. Besides, its not your job to tell me how to drive.”
Then she threw my own words back at me. The words I’d said dozens of times as the reason I couldn’t get a toy she or her sister dropped under my seat, or dig to find the exact snack one of them wanted to eat that very moment.
“Mom you’re job is to keep us safe.”
I was stunned silent. Then she repeated the very words I say to her Father if he tries to touch his phone when he’s driving us.
“Nothing is more important than keeping your eyes on the road.”

As a wife, as a mom, as a human, I am a walking contradiction. Even when I try my best, my ideals never match perfectly with how I live them out. I give into itching fingers that grab my phone when I should be present with the person in front of me. I sneak chocolate before dinner and I don’t eat something from every food group for every meal. There’s been nights when I’m too tired for bedtime routines, and wind up falling into bed without brushing my teeth, or even putting on proper pajamas. I don’t always say please, or thank you, and I certainly don’t forgive the instant someone tells me too.

But I don’t need another measuring stick, in the form of my daughter, ticking off all the ways I don’t measure up. I have enough reminders in the form of well-meaning Christian blogs, Pinterest, and my own critical voice, that remind me that I’m missing the mark, thank-you-very-much.

She’s right in a way, I shouldn’t bother with a text when I’m driving, but yet her words feel like stones.

Maybe it’s not about me, after all. I realize that maybe this conversation isn’t to show me where I’m falling short, but to remind me that she’s actually listening—and that I am communicating important values to her even when I don’t realize it. But I want to instill more in her than just the a black and white sketch of right and wrong, but love and faith— the colors that breathe the very purpose and life to everything she sees.

It reminds me of a God who gave his people a list of guidelines on how to live, but by the time Jesus is on the scene, He sees that many religious groups have stretched and morphed the commandments to regulate every aspect of Jewish life. The rules were very clear, but their purpose had become diluted and distorted—like a misshapen shadow of the thing it once was. But Jesus would have none of it. No, of all the religious leaders he insisted on the integrity of the law, the heart of the law, and for Jesus it wasn’t found in the bleeding hearts of self-righteous men on self-made pedestals, but in the context of love and relationship. In the Gospel, we see a drama playing out between the Pharisees living a life of impossible standards, and Jesus and His disciples, who live lives of obedience fueled by love.

I don’t make rules about driving for the sake of rules, but to keep those I love safe. It’s the same reason I cook vegetables, limit TV time, and say “no,” according to my daughter, “all the time.” I love my kids, and I wants what’s best for them, even when that means tough parenting and inconvenient rules, steamed vegetables and cranky kids that aren’t lulled to apathetic silence by “just one more” show on the TV. My love means being a mother becomes more than just a job, but a calling. A calling that flows from love, and fuels everything I do.

I want my daughters to know the difference between right and wrong, and yet, I want them to live that out in the context of loving relationships. I want them to live a life of calling because of their love of God; a life that is fueled by a faith that means so much more than a legalistic book of whats right and whats wrong.

I quietly keep my eyes on the road a minute without responding to my daughter’s directives as I decide where to start.

“Bree, thank you for reminding mommy of the rules I have for driving. You’re right, I shouldn’t be on my cell phone when I drive.”
“You’re welcome,” she responds, self satisfied.
“In the future mommy will decide when its okay for me to use my phone when we’re in the car though.”
“But can you tell me why mommy makes those rules in the first place?”
“Because I love you. I love you so much that I will do everything I can to keep you safe. And do you know who else loves you?”
“God loves you. And thats why God gives us rules too. Because more than anything else in the world, He wants us to love him back.”

She didn’t respond, but a dimple in her brow formed like a cog in a turning wheel. I knew it wouldn’t all click into place right now, but like the rules that I repeat over and over, I want to remind her about my love, and God’s love, so that she knows that to be the most important part.

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