I have a soft spot for mothers who are in the trenches. Mothers who want to do selfish things like wash their dishes, catch up on laundry or partake in full body hygiene, without wondering if the house will be pulled down around them while they do so.
I'm no longer there but those years aren't so far behind me that I don't well remember the moment by moment battle with the flesh not to grumble. Peace seemed out of my reach because I had so much to do and not enough hours to do it and I felt constant pressure that tempted me to despair.
Children are a blessing from God. Blessings often require work. And though all of life is filled with work (other seasons of life may come when you work just as hard as you do now), I do believe that for most of us, motherhood is really the first time we've been tested to any real degree. Our spiritual muscles are weak. They have hardly been used up until now, and we come face to face with that reality and we're blind-sided by it.
Mothers in this position can sink deeper and deeper into a pit of guilt and self-pity. It goes like this:
"I'm a terrible mother."
"I can't possibly give them all what they need."
"They would be better off with someone else caring for them."
"My house is a wreck. I have no idea how I will ever have the time to clean it because I can't even keep the basics done."
Here is the truth about our guilt. It is self-condemnation. And it is rooted in pride.
We long to be able to approve of ourselves. We can sometimes master not seeking the approval of all the other moms we know, but approving of ourselves is another matter.
I am telling you, I have to remind myself of this constantly. That the way my heart harasses me is more a function of my pride and self-sufficiency than it is a sincere desire for godliness. Because if faithfulness before God is really what I was all about, then one look at the cross and empty tomb would be all it took. There my imperfect faithfulness is counted as perfect. But no. To my shame I am often more concerned about the approval I have of myself, than His approval of the work I am doing here at home.
There is crushing guilt behind the desire to simply be a good mother (or wife or homemaker) if our hearts get off-course, which is so easy to do.
How to get back on course? We must continually remind ourselves who we are in Christ. And beg God for understanding of the truth of that.
And right now you're thinking, "What does that even mean? How does knowing 'Who I am in Christ' help me with the dishes? With potty training? This is too vague to be any practical help."
I think part of the reason we see this as vague is because we don't really understand it. It takes effort to understand it and about the time we begin to internalize it, the next day we have to remind ourselves of it again. But it is worth the effort. And here is why: because even on the best of days, when by some miracle the laundry is caught up, the kids are well-behaved, the marriage has seen no conflict in weeks....we will still have no lasting comfort from those accomplishments because they don't satisfy our souls. Only Christ does.
Knowing who we are in Christ satisfies our idolatrous, prideful hearts so that when the work is overwhelming we can still have peace in the midst of crazy-over-the-top-busy seasons of life. Because even if I could offer you a solution for time management or 15 minute healthy dinners or the best child training tip that guaranteed more well-behaved kids, the truth is this challenging season hits us at ground zero. Heart level. And there is only one heart level solution and that is to get more Jesus.
And so my one piece of advice to moms in the trenches is this: read your Bible. Read it even if you don't feel like it (been there). If there is no desire to read it, confess that to God and read it anyway for it is the sick and malnourished who have no appetite. You do lots of things you don't feel like doing, so why would this, which is far more important, be any different? Turn off Facebook and open your Bible and be reminded of the riches of your inheritance. God has promised himself to you. He is the fountain of all joy and will never, ever leave you. If you are his, he has given you the ability to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Glory!
Mothers, when your heart accuses you and tells you that you are worthless and that you have failed again and that the children God has given you are too much for you to handle, you can confidently answer, "I know I am worthless on my own. I know it is too much for me to handle on my own. I know that on my own, I am nothing but a failure. But God has made me righteous in Christ. He loves me no more today than He did the day He opened my eyes to His gospel. He is faithful when I am faithless. So I am going to get up out of this bed. I am going to silence the self-pity and self-condemnation. And I am going to serve these kids and husband even if it is two steps forward and one step back on the housework, meals and child training. Because I know he is here with me, sustaining me, granting me grace and approving of my sincere though imperfect efforts, even when I don't approve of them myself."
Our failures are not greater than his grace.
Motherhood and the Paradox of Dying to Live
Common Sense Gone Controversial: The Training of Young Children
When There is No Joy to Be Found in Motherhood
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