I can distinctly remember the first time I felt a genuine desire to be a mother. I was in my teens and babysitting my mentor’s children. She and my youth pastor had three beautiful little girls at the time, the youngest being around one year old. After putting all of them down to sleep and feeling very accomplished I settled down on the couch to watch a movie (I may or may not have been watching their wedding tape…). Suddenly I heard a shriek from upstairs. I bolted up to the nursery room and found the littlest girl crying hysterically in her crib. I swept her up in my arms and sat down in the rocker, gently patting her back and humming in her ear. Between singing little lullabies and the natural “sh sh sh” that seems to be built into all women, this precious little child slowly drifted back into blissful sleep. Whatever terrifying dream that had awoken her seemed to have vanished like a wisp of smoke as she laid heavily in my arms leaving only the remnant of drying tears on my shoulder. I stayed in that rocker for longer than was probably necessary, but I couldn’t help but soak up this wonderful moment. The sweet smell of a baby mixed with the quiet, heavy breathing of deep sleep filled my heart with joy and the hope of one day getting to experience such blessings on a regular basis–to be the Mommy who makes everything better.
My perception of motherhood has always been centered around moments like the story I just shared–the beautiful, happy moments (moments typically seen in movies). Before actually having children of my own I naively believed that the pictures in the Babies ‘R Us magazine were an accurate representation of what motherhood would look like. Then the reality of breastfeeding, projectile vomit, sleepless nights, fevers that drive you to the emergency room, and little to no “alone” time rushed in with the blessing of our first child. I quickly realized that motherhood was less about being a part of a “perfect moment” and more about being perfected in every moment.
My husband and I have often mused that couples should have the opportunity to take “PreparentalCounseling” during the nine months they have to prepare for their first baby. Much like marriage, parenthood can benefit from preparation and a heavy dose of reality. While there is no limit to the amount of pithy statements people will offer you with “the best of intentions” as they notice your growing belly (“You will never sleep again!” or “Say goodbye to your figure!”) it is rarer to receive real, Christ-exalting, practical advice.
You see, the moment your baby arrives you are suddenly catapulted out of your magical, dream-like fantasy of what motherhood is all about and dropped into a mandatory life of sacrifice. Even the worst of mothers must, inevitably sacrifice her own desires for the wellbeing of her children to some degree. Those of us who, by God’s grace, desire to tenderly care for these little ones find that we are quickly confronted with our own selfishness as the needs of our children present themselves all. the. time. It quickly becomes apparent that one of the primary blessings of caring for children is the sanctification that Christ provides through them.
There are indeed many beautiful and perfect moments that mothers are blessed to experience. There are times when I think my heart will burst with all of the love and joy I feel when I am with my children. Every day I am given the incredible privilege of being the “Mommy who can make everything better,” and yet, every day I am confronted with my own self-centered, self-serving, just plain selfish self! Every day is an opportunity, through the abundant grace of God, to give up more of my own rights, more of my own desires for two precious souls who are utterly dependent upon me. Every day is an opportunity to give myself over to the sacrificial life that Christ calls all of his disciples to live. Every day is an opportunity to be conformed to the image of my Savior. Every day is filled with gracious blessings.
As mothers, we have a choice to either believe the world and view the daily difficulties of motherhood as an unfair burden or to believe the Word of God and view them as divine gifts meant to draw us closer to our precious Savior. The fruit of believing the world’s lies is anger, bitterness, discouragement, and dissatisfaction, but the fruit born from the Spirit as we trust in the eternal Word of God is joy, peace, perseverance, and sanctification.
For this reason, I would submit to you that your children are not just blessings when they are clean, obedient, joyful, and sleeping peacefully all through the night. No, children are a blessing in every way, even when they demand all that you have and seem to suck the life right out of you, because it is then when they have indeed sucked all of your selfish propensities and self-centered desires from you, that you reflect your Savior the most. It is then that you must cling ever so close to the cross and allow his sanctifying blood to drip over you and create in you a new person–a mother who delights in sacrifice.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good (even middle of the night breast-feeding), for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV, Parenthesis added by me)