When Mama Bear Instincts and Faith Collide
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When My Mama Bear Instincts & Faith Collide

“Pass him! Pass him!! Pass!!! Him!!!!” I screamed louder and louder until my voice grew horse.

The cross country runners were less than twenty yards from the finish line and closing and my boy was just inches from passing the runner in front of him. I knew he could take him. And he did.

(Okay, full disclosure, he isn’t actually my son, he is my son’s best friend. However, I love and feed him like my own, so I feel like I can claim him and even embarrass him if the need arises. He’ll thank me later. Anyways, back to the moment at hand…)

I cheered even louder as he crossed the finish line, beaming with pride. I knew he could do it.

It was then that I realized I was getting some dirty looks from the other moms who were gathered to watch the runners finish the race…

I was so caught up being excited for my guy that I didn’t stop to think about the kid he was passing… or his mother. Now I wondered if she was one of the ones staring me down.

Have you ever been so wrapped up in the moment you forgot that there were other people involved? Click To Tweet

I Took My Eyes Off Jesus

I stepped over to where my husband was and let him know I was going to go congratulate our boys. He gave me an odd look as only the first fifteen or so runners had finished the race and we normally wait for our entire team to finish before heading to the tent. Nevertheless, I quietly excused myself and headed that way, silently pondering what had just happened. I definitely hadn’t been pointing anyone to Jesus just then.

I was so caught up in the moment I took my eyes off Jesus.

Yes, kids need encouragement. They need to know someone believes in them and stands behind them. My husband and I try to do that for all the kids in our community. But especially for our children and a select few we seem to have the most contact with. Regardless of their home life. We believe you can never have too many people in your corner.

And when we go to cross country meets we have always tried to cheer for all the runners and encourage everyone; no matter what school they are from or place they are in.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but running cross country is hard.

I sure couldn’t do it.

A Look At The Life Of A Cross Country Athlete

My son gets up at 5 am every day for practice.

On Friday nights, they get home from the football game around midnight and have to be back up at the school sometimes by 4 am Saturday morning to leave for a cross country meet. And then they run five miles.

When they get home they just want to sleep for the rest of the day. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen them sleep 18+ hours. They came home from a meet on Saturday and slept until Sunday morning when it was time to get ready for church. These kids were exhausted.

But they love it.

So, my husband and I do everything we can to support and encourage runners when we are able to make it to the meets. (We don’t always wake our entire family up at 4 am to travel with the team – #sorrynotsorry.)

Loving Encouragement Gone Wrong

But this time my encouragement of one runner who I love might have damaged my witness for Jesus.

It was something I needed to think about. Something I needed to pray about.

Jesus is greater than our failures

But to be honest, this was deeper than a need to encourage, this was my mama bear instincts in overdrive. And my mama bear instincts almost always get me into trouble. They seem to override my “good Christian mom” normal routine.

Even though I am always a hot mess, I’m normally a quiet hot mess. I prefer to sit on the sidelines unnoticed and encourage my family while we are driving home from school or at home alone.

Even cheering on runners at cross country meets takes me out of my comfort zone. It’s something I have decided I need to do. Something I should do.

But my mama bear instincts are loud and proud. They aren’t afraid to speak up to be heard. To stand up for my kids.

I’ve come to realize that while normally mama bear instincts are a good thing and the need to protect your children is a God-given instinct, they are also tainted by sin.

My Mama Bear Instincts & Sinful Nature

When my instinct to protect my kids overrules rational thinking, that’s no longer good. And that’s the only explanation for what happened that time I chewed out the principle at the school and then had to call back and apologize. I knew I should have prayed about it, but I didn’t want to.

And the same thing was true when I was so focused on my kid getting a better place in the race that I forgot everyone else at that cross country meet had feelings, too. That runner he passed probably gets up just as early and trains just as hard. I can only imagine how it must have felt to get passed at the very last moment after running so hard the entire race. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to hear someone yelling for someone to pass you instead of hearing someone cheering for you.

Yet, if I stop here on those thoughts, I would be left feeling like a failure. Yes, I got carried away. I made a mistake. But instead of letting Satan use that failure to beat me up, I am clinging to Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus.

Jesus > My Failures

I don’t have to live in that mistake. I don’t have to live in that failure. It doesn’t define me.

My mama bear instincts might have run amuck, but they are not greater than my Savior. They are not stronger than my Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Including sins I commit when I let my mama bear instincts get carried away.

Because of Jesus I am already, always and forever, forgiven.

My hope is in Him and my prayer is that He will help me keep my eyes on Him so that I don’t get carried away again.

I pray that He helps me to remember that every single teenager needs to know the love of Jesus. And I am supposed to be a beacon shining that love to those around me. I can’t do that if my focus shifts from Jesus to one single individual. Even if God has given me that individual to love.

Join the Conversation

I don’t know if you have any cross country runners in your life, but have you ever let something take your focus off Jesus? Whether it’s your mama bear instincts, something work-related, or something else entirely? Have you ever felt yourself get distracted and noticed a change in your demeanor? I’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation in the comments below.

Her mama bear instincts might have run amuck, but they are not greater than our Savior; they are not stronger than our Jesus. Click To Tweet
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  1. Hi “Mama Bear”! I think you’re just a normal mom, and yeah, we do get caught up in the moment sometimes to the detriment of our witness. There is grace for that! Thank you for your honesty. We can all learn from being real with each other, and thus, your “Candidly Christian” self is that reminder. Blessings, Lisa Q

  2. I . LOVE. THIS.

    You gave us some great insights. Sometimes we think that whatever we do in the ‘mama bear’ moment is fine, because we’re protecting the children God gave us, but I love how you remind us that we’re either shining for Jesus or not in every situation.

    Oh, also gotta say that I liked how your ‘mama bear’ moment wasn’t even for your own kid. I get that way sometimes for my step-children and always ask myself if you can have a ‘mama bear’ moment with kids not your own: thanks for answering that for me! 😉

    1. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the dirty looks, I might never had had my heart-check moment. But they definitly gave me pause and snapped me out of my mama bear pride.

      And I am sometimes blown away at how much pride and “mama bear” instincts I can have for a child that isn’t mine.

  3. Been there, done that too only usually in other surroundings. We can get so caught up in the moment that we take our eyes off Jesus and only look at what we want as our outcome. And the world watches us and then questions our hearts for God.

  4. Interesting post, Heather. Love this tweet, “Have you ever been so wrapped up in the moment you forgot that there were other people involved?” And the answer is yes! Gosh, I’ve even done it at church, so involved in a moment celebrating with one person that I forgot others were in the room or nearby. Our heart means well, it really does. We just forget how it might affect others.

    I guess we think we have the right to celebrate or cheer someone on without everyone else being so sensitive to every little thing. But that’s not a Jesus attitude. He would never cheer on one person and pass the others by. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    By the way, one of my best friends from college is a teacher and cross country coach at an elementary school. I couldn’t do it either.

  5. Yes, I have experienced those times of taking my eyes off Jesus and putting my sights on something for self. I am thankful God loves me and forgives me and gives me more opportunities to get things right. 🙂

  6. Oh, Heather. It’s dads too. I’m so competitive. I’ve totally been there cheering my son on at a track meet for 6 year olds encouraging him to destroy them. Not my proudest moments.
    Your point is really good. How clearly am I focused on Christ? How dedicated am I to acting more like Christ? I’m so glad of the truth you shared, there is no longer any condemnation.

  7. I love that you figured it out SO QUICKLY! I can’t run a mile today, but I ran cross country in middle and high school. It isn’t for the faint of heart to be certain! Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus is ALWAYS bigger?

  8. I was a cross country runner and I am a motherbear of six athletic, competitive, and successful children. I can so relate to this! They’re all grown now – fullgrown, between 24 and 40, but the area of my children is still where I do most of my handwringing. I pray worried prayers. I circle my worried thoughts around in front of Jesus and call them prayers. I lose sleep. Does Jesus love my children? Yes! Does he guide their lives? Yes! Yet this is my hot mess spot. Your words are great reminders. The sovereignty of God impacts this faith issue. They are all his, and he takes care of them. Always – in hardship as well as in Blessing. When I’m gone, he still will. Thanks for this post!

    1. Oh Melinda! That is such a great reminder. I can’t tell you how much I have worried for my children (and even my “close enough” children) It was bad enough this week I had people asking me what was wrong because my worry was written all over my face. But maybe that’s a blog post for another day…

  9. Dear Heather!

    One aspect I like about your blog posts is that you’re sharing from the heart. Many Christian bloggers write what they “think” would look good in a blog post, but your blog posts are different. ‘

    I enjoyed reading about your and this boy.

    This is the best way to learn and share the experience; by giving it to each other unfiltered and as-it-was.


  10. Thank you for being real, Heather. I think many mamma bears can relate, I included. I do like how you came full circle to this one truth: “I pray that He helps me to remember that every single teenager needs to know the love of Jesus. And I am supposed to be a beacon shining that love to those around me. I can’t do that if my focus shifts from Jesus to one single individual. Even if God has given me that individual to love.” I agree, sometimes it’s hard to be a parent that shifts from one single individual – our children – to others. We mamma bears love them so much, we can get a bit carried away. Love your heart, Heather!

  11. Hi, Heather!
    I have to admit, I have been that “Mamma Bear” on more occasions than one even when it isn’t my child. My daughter played basketball, volleyball, softball and field hockey. These were all team sports which you do become a family, and I have always been about protecting the people I love and care about. However, it wasn’t always pretty or even Christ-like at times. God has taught me some valuable lessons about friendship, humility, and forgiveness. It came down to not wanting my testimony to be tainted by this ugly side of myself. Thank You for your honesty, because it allows the rest of us to be honest too!

  12. I literally just watched a FB video of fathers punching each other during the handshakes after a pee wee football game and made all sorts of comments of how disgusting their behavior was. My goodness, do I feel convicted right now! Apparently I really needed this reminder to not be so quick to judge.

    1. I love your honesty. It is so easy to judge, isn’t it, Valerie? We get so wrapped up that we forget that everyone is a sinner in need of a Savior, and we all miss the mark. I know I did that day. And if someone posted a video of me on Facebook, I’m sure I would get some pretty nasty comments, too. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t throw stones, He offered grace. So glad God brought you to this post at just the right moment for you.

  13. Thank you for sharing this simple experience with big insights. We all have those mothering moments, and it’s such a great reminder to know that Jesus is bigger than those failures. Visiting from the Grace and Truth link up today!

  14. I can appreciate your message, but I could hardly get past how much you love someone who is not your own. Pouring yourself into someone else’s child is something not many take the time to do today and you will receive an extra jewel in your crown for it!

  15. Oh, yes, a time or two, I have let the mamma bear unleash. However, one time I went in an though I had delivered quite the speech with dignity, compassion, and hopefully results. I walked out, holding my head high with a bit of pride while gulping down an extra-large diet coke. My child quickly found me took one look at me, and asked, “Where did you get that diet coke?” Oh, my goodness, there I was drinking the teacher’s soda. I had taken it off the desk, thinking it was mine

    1. Oh, Maree, how mortifying! One time I had a particularly hard conversation with a teacher and left my drink. I wasn’t about to go back for it. But I can’t imagine taking their’s ? – okay, I can. That’s totally something I might do. It shouldn’t have been within reach #amiright? Thanks for sharing a laugh with us today.

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