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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Lessons of Motherhood: Identity Crisis

As women, we feel a lot of pressure to do it all and have it all. Really though,I think this pressure might come more from within ourselves than from without. We feel like we need to be the perfect mom, wife, homemaker, career woman whatever. Our house needs to look like a Pinterest board. It needs to be clean all the time even though, hello! People live here. We need to come up with awesome, innovative ways to help our kids learn and grow so you know, they’ll be reading by the time they’re two. We need to make DIY furniture, laundry detergent, and anything else we could possibly “do ourselves.” Oh, and we need to look fabulous while doing it.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, it’s all just a little overwhelming. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I feel discouraged because that is just so not how my life looks. I was wallowing in this tonight. Here’s a brief sound byte of what was going through my head. Oh my gosh this place is a mess. I just picked up. How is it already this big of a disaster? How come everywhere I turn, I see something I need to clean? It’s like impossible to keep things clean. I have one kid. What am I going to do when I have a whole bunch? Other women seem to be able to do it…Gideon’s face is covered in snot…and now so is my shirt. I always told myself I wouldn’t let my kids walk around with snotty faces, but there you have it…He still hasn’t started waving or clapping. I’m probably not doing enough to teach him and aid his development. He’s probably going to be slow because I didn’t teach him to wave…I haven’t showered and my hair is a mess. I used to have good hair, but now it’s kind of blah. I haven’t put make up on in days and I live in t-shirts and athletic shorts. That’s it. I’ve let myself go. I’m frumpy mom…

So there I was, wallowing and feeling just generally kind of depressed when God, as He sometimes does, opened my eyes and let me see. He showed me that I was doing it again. I was finding my identity in my “job performance.” Being a mother, wife, homemaker is currently my primary job, but it shouldn’t be my primary identity.

The story of Mary and Martha came to mind. Most of us are familiar with the story. Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. Martha is busy serving and trying to be a good hostess and she gets upset that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping, but is sitting at Jesus’s feet. I’ve never felt like I related much to Martha. I’m a thinker. not a doer. Just the word “multitask” gives me anxiety, but I think maybe now I understand her more. I think maybe Martha was letting her performance as a hostess and as a woman define her in ways that it shouldn’t. Maybe Martha was so upset because her identity was too tied up in it all. I think Jesus saw that. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. {Luke 18:41).

It got me thinking about what I want my son and hopefully, other children to remember me by. What do I want them to learn from me? Do I want them to remember that I was always stressed about having it all together or that I always sat at the feet of Jesus? Do I want them to learn that our worth is in our performance and image or that our worth is in Christ?

I want to choose the good portion. I want to be like Mary, who felt free to not strive, but rest in the presence of her Lord. I want my children to know from my words and my life that one thing is necessary. One thing, one person, Jesus, is our peace, our hope, “the sure foundation for our souls.” I want them to know and so I need to know that Jesus is enough and we more than enough in Him.