I remember one of the toys in my home was a well-loved doll house that provided hours of entertainment. While I was probably more of a tom-boy who enjoyed modeling after my older brother, I would steal away to play house, pull out the dolls to form little families and get lost in imagination. Arranging little beds, tables, and kitchen supplies, I started my pretend morning with the little babies crying for their mamas, who would come rushing into the little plastic room and with straight, frozen arms to pick up the smiling baby. She would change dirty diapers, make breakfast, give the baby their bath, and clean up every mess throughout the house until it was naptime. Then, the mother would get the baby up, play, cook, and clean until the evening came. Though I was very little, I had some understanding that being a mommy meant sacrifice.
A few years ago I received a phone call about a close family friend who was joyfully growing further along in her pregnancy and had finally reached that long-awaited sonogram to determine the gender. While there was rejoicing over the news of a baby girl, the doctor had further news that required a more private meeting. He carefully delivered the news that she had cancer, and it would be wise to start treatment right away. This treatment would also require to end the life of her baby in order to save her own. My friend would tell the doctors that she would carry her child in her womb as long as possible and start treatment right away after birth. As the child grew in the safety of her womb, so did my friend’s cancer. Eventually, my friend would lay down her very life so that the life of another could begin, and she passed away a little over a year after her baby was born.
How far should our sacrifice go as mothers? And to what end? What if motherhood didn’t go as we planned? Many of us feel like we’re losing ourselves as we help these little souls. We wonder if it’s all worth it.
Any mother will tell you that motherhood did not go 100% as expected. Some families have long-term or terminally ill children, while some have very difficult children who struggle with structure and obedience. Some mothers find themselves in a world of single motherhood. If this life was supposed to be about getting what we planned, I wonder if anyone one would raise children.
Placing hope in the unseen
Motherhood is a calling that requires a tremendous amount of energy with very slow signs of fruit. We are called to pour into these little souls as we seek God, and trust him with the growth in their hearts.
When we see that God is the one who gives life and is the author of each child in our home, we can rest. And each life will go exactly as he planned it to be.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 gives life to the very hard, very costly days of motherhood:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
When we look in the mirror and see the toll that raising children has done on our bodies, youthful energy and self-esteem, the Bible compels us to take a look again, but with new eyes. We must set aside what we can see and take hold of the unseen. Because while our bodies are wasting away, there is a miraculous, eternal inner self that looks more and more like Jesus every day as we abide in him. This inner self, this new creation in Christ, is what we attach all our hope and all our value to, it will never fail us. While our minds and bodies are slowly fading, it’s our inner new creation, powered by the holy spirit, that gives us the strength to bear with another dirty diaper, the sleepless nights, another meal to prepare, the unexpected sickness or hospital stay, and the requests to sit in our laps when we just want to be alone.
Jesus gives us the hope that the sacrifice is worth the cost.
If you’re like me, and you’ve sat over a sink full of dishes, or baskets full of laundry, or floors that are covered in filth again, we know it can be very discouraging. We love our children, but high needs of little ones can sometimes feel like more than we can handle. Not to mention the enemy who loves to prowl around just behind us as we pick up toys and old milk cups and whispers, “Don’t you remember all the bigger dreams you had than this? Dreams where you’d at least be out of your pajamas everyday?”
Hopefully when we hear that voice, we can sit down amongst the noise and remember this truth about Jesus in Philippians 2:5-9
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”
There are many of us mothers out there with talent, potential, creativity and dreams. These gifts can be so valuable and should not be dismissed. But God teaches us something here in Philippians that very much applies to us when we wonder if our gifts are being wasted when all we do is change diapers and cook endless meals. Jesus himself had the highest status, the most glorious home, a perfect view, a loving communion, adoration, praise, and he set it aside and humbled himself as a man to sacrifice his life for his children. What an honor for us as we get to reflect this to our children. Jesus knew the sacrifice of leaving his place in Heaven was a heavy cost, and he can help us walk through the cost of our own motherhood too.
I wonder if this verse we discussed above from 2 Corinthians came to mind when my friend received her cancer diagnosis while pregnant. Though her time in motherhood on earth was short, her sacrifice had eternal implications. On the outside she was being told that her body was wasting away, and she looked to the inner self, empowered by Christ, and placed her hope in what she couldn’t see. All mothers who belong to Christ will one day get to look him in the eyes, and he will say “Well done, good and faithful servant”, and we will rest.