You know that feeling, when you’re deep in the fray of school, and the calendar slowly, dramatically turns to December and you realize, ahhh!! Finals are coming, time to buckle down and study like never before!! Are you imagining it? Lately, I’ve been in the midst of what feels like the spiritual equivalent of December before finals. It’s exhausting and thrilling, and I’m struggling to keep up with everything God is teaching and whittling away at in me. So of course I turn to writing, in an effort to make sense of it all and hopefully be of some encouragement to you along the way too!
My heart has many corners undergoing His refining fire, but perhaps none more so than the area of motherhood. Doesn’t just the word “motherhood” conjure up such tender images of mother and child, sitting quietly together or sharing a poignant moment before bed? Well, those times do exist to be sure—but it’s the less-than-Norman Rockwell, everything-in-between moments that have laid me out lately. It’s difficult to grasp until you’re in it, but my word—the ability of a two-foot-tall tyrant, who can’t even speak yet, to bring you to your very knees is stunning, remarkable really.
In the midst of the chaos accompanying the seemingly simple task of caring for two such toddlers, God swept down and pressed upon my heart His firm yet loving conviction: thus far, I’ve pretty much been mothering my babies in my own strength. I didn’t even realize this hollow reliance on my own resources until God gently whispered it into my heart. And, after about a thousand sippy cups leaking milk on the new rug and temper tantrums and refusals to share that toy that you weren’t even interested in until your sister picked it up, the harsh realization hit:
I’ve run out of gas.
I’ve reached the end of my own resources. On my own, I have no more patience, no more kindness, no more love. I desperately need Jesus in the midst of all the spilled milk and temper tantrums (theirs and my own!). I need Jesus in the daily battles over screen time and gum. I need Jesus in the exhaustion and sheer borderline rage that threatens to breach the surface when I’ve prepared a meal and my son turns up his nose and begs for animal crackers. I am so tired, so very, very tired, because I’ve been running on empty now for months. Running on empty, when the Source of all life, strength, and love has been standing patiently by my side, waiting for me to look up and find Him at the end of my fraying rope.
It’s painful, this reaching the end of your rope thing, but in the pain I’m finding beautiful relief. And I never cease to be amazed at how God pursues and meets us, sometimes in unexpected ways. My Bible study group is going through Priscilla Shirer’s powerful study of Gideon, the subtitle of which is “Your Weakness. God’s Strength.” Approaching this study, I expected to find strength in my writing goals or something along those lines . . . I never expected to be undone by the realization of my weakness as it relates to motherhood! But oh, how thankful I am that He’s teaching me now, now while my babies are still young and many of our problems can be fixed with a vacuum and a good, warm bath. Or a well-earned stint in time out.
Normally when I write, I like to share the main concepts of what God is teaching me, or scripture on which I’m relying. But today, this post is coming to you from the middle of the weeds, where I’m stretching tall to peek beyond their scrubby silhouette, aching for a glimpse of what lies beyond. I don’t have any answers or much advice—this is a season for me to learn, to be still, and to know that He is God. He is God, who will be exalted above the nations (see Psalm 46:10), and He is God who will carry me in His arms, close to His heart, gently leading me as I mother these babies He’s entrusted to my care (see Isaiah 40:11).
I do want to share two things that God is pressing into my heart, however, in the hopes that maybe you can relate and be encouraged as well. Perhaps we can learn together, or perhaps you can offer me your hard-earned wisdom, which I welcome with open arms.
First, I’m learning that the lies of the world can quietly, insidiously creep their way into our hearts, without us even realizing their presence. I love being a stay-at-home mom, and there is nothing else on this planet I’d rather be doing right now. But when Priscilla waxed poetically about the great work of raising the next generation and what a high and holy commission that is, I was dumbfounded to discover that deep down, I doubted the holiness of my calling. And while I wouldn’t choose anything else right now, deep down I harbored some of those lies the world entices us to believe. The lies telling me that now—because I no longer work at the CDC—I’m not quite as valuable. Now—because I wipe noses and bottoms and prepare endless meals and snacks—my work isn’t contributing as much as it once did. Now—that I’m “just a stay-at-home mom”—I’ve lost my place in the world, so to speak.
Dear reader, these are lies, bold-faced lies the enemy would have you and me believe! And I didn’t even realize they’d furtively tucked themselves into my heart, as I would have denied their presence in my life with honesty and fervor. In the same vein, because parts of my heart believed that this calling to motherhood wasn’t such a big deal, I believed the lie that it was a task I could handle in my own strength . . . well, as previously noted, the error of that lie has made itself known, loud and clear! The lies of this world are sneaky and cloaked in apparent reason and rightness, but oh, how wrong and destructive they are, and how thankful I am that God is breaking me free from them! And God will be faithful to break you free from lies as well, should you find yourself falling for them inadvertently like I did.
Second, the beauty and meaning inherent in the small things is perhaps greater than anything the seemingly “grander” things in life can offer. Through the life of Gideon, God illustrates how critical a task it is for us to be faithful in all the small things in our lives. Faithful in the mundane, ordinary tasks we face each day, no matter what circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our ordinary tasks may look different, but they all play a role of key importance: they are preparing us for the tasks and the calling that comes next in our lives. As Priscilla points out, Gideon practiced the boring, laborious task of threshing wheat—separating the hearty, viable grain from the useless chaff. Little did he know that God was preparing to use him to separate His people from the worthless idols they were following.
I don’t know what grander things God is preparing you for today, nor do I have an answer for myself. But this I do know: whatever things He may or may not have in store, no matter how “grand” in the world’s economy, nothing will be as beautiful and meaningful as these leaky sippy cups and diapers that need changing. Nothing will be as poignant and breathtaking as scrubbing dirty, cherub faces at the end of the day and rocking those sweet bodies until peaceful sleep settles over them. Nothing. As mothers in particular, we deal with so much ordinary and mundane on a daily basis, it’s easy to miss the truth. There is so much beauty in these small things, and we need only to exchange our earthly eyes for spiritual ones in order to see and be undone by it all.
In her beautiful book “Surprised by Motherhood,” author Lisa-Jo Baker describes motherhood as “a sacred marriage of the mundane and the eternal.” I can think of no better description than that. May God give us eyes to see and the strength to persevere in the mundane, knowing that through the chaos and the quiet, He is paving the way to that which is eternal.