About a year ago, a piece I wrote about motherhood was published on Desiring God. In it, I talked about some of the daily struggles and sacrifices that being a mom entails. Most people found it encouraging, as it was intended to be, but there was one man who commented that had a very negative reaction. He was “outraged” and said that motherhood is a blessing and therefore, never a sacrifice. The main objective of the piece was to display the beauty and purpose of motherhood despite the struggles that could make it difficult so I was a little stung by his harsh words (I really need a thicker skin).
At the time, I decided it would be wise to just not say anything, but there have been many, many times since that I wish I had responded. Many times when I have found myself in those difficult moments and thought, “This is absolutely sacrifice.” Like when I emptied my lunch in the toilet during my first trimester and it splashed me in the face. Like when my children have awakened me in the middle of the night or they’ve vomited on me when they’re sick. Like when my back has ached from caring for my children all day while also caring my third in my womb. And many, many others.
Now, I want to be absolutely clear. Motherhood is the greatest blessing and privilege of my life. I know there are many women who have lost a child or struggle with infertility who would give anything to be in my shoes. I can’t imagine their pain and I never want to complain. All of these things, which are relatively small, are nothing compared to the joy of being a mother to my children, but just because motherhood is a joy doesn’t mean every second of it is a joy or that it doesn’t take very real, sometimes very difficult, sacrifice.
The Sacrifice of Motherhood Reveals the Great Worth of Motherhood
From the second we see those two pink lines, we begin giving up things for our children. That’s just the simple truth. Being honest about that truth does not denigrate motherhood, but rather, it magnifies its beauty and worth. Calling something a sacrifice doesn’t make it a negative thing. It makes it a beautiful thing.
One definition of sacrifice is “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” So, sacrifice merely means relinquishing something in order to gain something else, but no one sacrifices for something they don’t value. On the contrary, they sacrifice for it because they value it. The runner endures hours of training and pain and struggle because they value the reward of finishing the race. The person aiming to lose weight foregoes certain foods because they value a healthy, fit body. The married person gives up certain freedoms and takes on more responsibilities because they love and value their commitment to their spouse.
When we give up things for our children, our time, our energy, our personal comfort and preferences, our very bodies, we are essentially saying to them and to the world, “I cherish you more than a good night’s sleep. I’d rather have you than a perfect home or a glamorous career. I want you more than I want a perfect body or even a healthy, pain free body. You are worth far more to me than all these things.”
To love another is to give them a claim on your life, to voluntarily relinquish and restrict your freedoms and comforts for their sake. That’s what motherhood is. Its inherent beauty and worth is not diminished by calling it a sacrifice, but rather, magnified.
The Sacrifice of Motherhood Makes Motherhood Holy
In its latin roots, the word “sacrifice” breaks down into sacer, “holy,” and facere, “to make.” The word literally means to make holy. Motherhood is a holy endeavor not because we are holy, but because it makes us holy. It makes us holy because it makes us like Jesus.
Jesus’s entire life was a sacrifice. He gave up heaven to come down for us. He gave up His glory to become a tiny, helpless baby cloaked in mortal flesh. He gave up His absolute right to condemn us as judge and surrendered that flesh to pay for our sins. For us and “for the joy set before Him,” He literally became a sacrifice. Because He loved us more than He loved His glory, His rights, His body, His very life. Because we were worth more to Him than all these things.
Motherhood is a holy calling because it is a calling to be like Jesus. Sacrifice is not a hindrance to this calling. It is the essence of it.
I do want to be careful not to over-exalt mothers. Motherhood does not put us on some kind of exalted, saint-like plane. Rather, I think it keeps us very rooted down to humility. It calls us to be like Jesus and also exposes how much we are not like Jesus. It reveals our very great need.
I know many amazing mothers and no, they’re not super-heroes or saints. The truth is they’re all just very ordinary people doing their best to be faithful in very ordinary ways because they have an extraordinary love for their children.
So, moms, I say to you on this Mother’s Day, keep going. Keep loving. Keep giving. Keep serving. Keep giving yourself grace when you fall short. I know you sacrifice constantly for your children and you are allowed to say that. Your sacrifices are real and your sacrifices are seen, by God, by your children, and by the world. And your sacrifices are absolutely, 100% worth it.