How to Curse Your Motherhood

I sometimes write for Mother’s Day, but this year I found myself shrinking from the idea. I usually look forward to the day with anticipation, but this year, the idea of being celebrated doesn’t bring gratification. Rather, it makes me feel something more akin to shame. As I look back on the past year of motherhood, I don’t see much worthy of celebration. Instead, I see a lot of impatience and irritability, short tempers and harsh words, tears and frustration. No, I’m not describing my two year old. I’m describing myself.

The past year has been filled with lots of joy. Adding our third child. Seeing his sweet smiles day in and day out. Seeing my older children grow and bond with each other and dote on their baby brother. But it has also been filled with a lot of struggle for me personally. Often, this job pushed me farther than I wanted to go and asked for more than I felt like I had to give. The long winter months when all of my children mysteriously decided to stop sleeping. Countless sibling squabbles. Endless messes. All of it often left me frayed physically and emotionally.

We hear a lot about the power within us, particularly for women. Self-actualization is the gospel of our day. We just have to tap into our inner strength. We just have to think positive and then positive things will manifest in our lives. All that we need for strength and happiness is within.

What an attractive lie.

Even in Christian circles, we can dress this up with a little religious language and call it truth. God wants you to discover your own strength. God wants you to stop holding yourself back. God wants to unlock your potential. God has a special plan for special little you. We can treat God like a magic genie who puts us center stage.

In actuality, the God of the Bible is never interested in nurturing the delusion of our inner power and strength. The woman who trusts in herself? The one who depends on her own strength? The lie calls her empowered, but God calls her cursed. The lie promises she’ll be a flourishing tree, but God tells her she will be like a dried up bush, thirsting and dying in “parched places,” in “a salt land where no one lives “(Jeremiah 17:5). Talk about some harsh imagery.

If I’m honest, some days of motherhood, I feel like that bush. The world tells me I’m enough, but most days, I feel like I’m never enough. Never enough patience. Never enough grace. Never enough energy. I can feel dried up and spent and buckling under the weight of of my children’s relentless neediness.

I keep trying to scrape up my strength, but God just keeps pressing on my weakness. He keeps wounding my pride. He keeps bringing me to the edge of myself and pushing me over it. But if wounds from a friend can be trusted, surely those from my God should be held dear. He is too kind to puff me up, too good to let me believe that I actually have what it takes.

God’s purpose for our lives isn’t to build our self-confidence. It’s to destroy it. And He will use our motherhood to do it.

Everything the world promises, He flips on its head. We cannot get to life without going through our death. We cannot get to glory without going through our humility. We cannot get to strength without going through our weakness. The world tells us that weakness is shameful, something to be overcome, but He tells us it is something to be embraced. It is not the strong in spirit who are blessed, but the weak, the needy, the poor (Matthew 5:3).

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man…but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5,7-8).

I’ve often prayed this verse over my children. It has become a sort of vision statement for my motherhood. How I long to see them be like that tree, planted and rooted in Christ. Yet, how often I forget to be that tree myself. How often I try to put down roots into the thin and deficient soil of my own strength and righteousness. How often I wander in salt places and neglect the stream of living water.

Motherhood will show us just how shallow the well of our patience and self-control and peace and graciousness really is. Even the exalted, fabled, maternal love will falter. Even it has limits. On its own, this weakness is a shameful thing. But in the hands of our God? It is transformed into beauty. It is transformed into power. Why? Because it leads us to a well of living water whose depths cannot be plumbed, a love whose limits could never be reached. It pushes us toward the One who, unlike us, lacks nothing, whose strength is never depleted by the neediness of His children. Only magnified.

I don’t have what it takes for motherhood. Not even close. But my God does. So, I want to live by that well. I want to plant myself by that stream and send my roots deep. Blessed is the one, blessed is the mother, who does.

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Motherhood Is A Sacrifice And That’s Okay To Say

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.

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Lessons of Motherhood: A Love Like His

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I still keep kind of forgetting that this holiday and that word, “mother,” apply to me now. I am a mother to a beautiful little boy who lights up my world when he smiles and melts my heart into a puddle when he reaches out his arms to me. People tell you before you have a baby to prepare to love someone like you’ve never loved someone before and it’s true.

It’s funny how much I love him really given how little I really know about him. I know the way he smells and the way he smiles, but there’s still so much I don’t know, like what kind of books he’ll like or his sense of humor or his favorite subject in school. There’s a lot left to know about him, but one thing I do know. I know that he’s mine and for that I love him wholly and completely.

After he was born, the thing I kept thinking was, I’ve never been so sure that I would die for someone as I am that I would die for him. If it was him or me, I’d choose him. If he was in trouble or danger, I would take his place. No questions asked. Because he’s my child. Because selflessness and love are two different words for the same thing.

Isn’t this how God has loved us in Christ? I think back to the Garden of Eden and how right after the fall, God immediately promises to send Jesus (Genesis 3:15). He didn’t have to think about it. He didn’t have to weigh his options and decide if we were worth it. No, the instant He saw that His children were headed for death, Jesus stepped up to the plate and said, “I will take their place.  I will do whatever it takes, pay any price that they may live.” His plan was always to save us.

I know I will not love my son perfectly as God loves us. I know it will not always be easy or fun to love him. I know that real love is costly and hard, but I’m thankful for the privilege of being his mother and for this small, but clearer glimpse into the love of our Savior who so eagerly, so willingly paid the high price to purchase us as His own.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” Psalm 103:11-13