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Weekly Word

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Tuesday
May122015

Motherhood in Perspective

Today is Mother’s Day and as such we are going to talk about how important it is for mother’s to keep things in proper perspective.  By way of illustration I am going to read a short letter from a college student to her parents, which has no known origin.  By the way, this letter is not purported to be an actual letter, but was more than likely created to emphasize how perspective affects our outlook.  Here is the letter:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Just thought I’d drop you a note to clue you in on my plans.  I’ve fallen in love with a guy called Jim.  He quit high school after grade eleven to get married.  About a year ago he got a divorce.  We’ve been going steady for two months and plan to get married in the fall.  Until then, I’ve decided to move into his apartment (I think I might be pregnant).  At any rate, I dropped out of school last week, although I’d like to finish college sometime in the future.  (Letter continued on the next page)…

Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that everything I’ve written so far in this letter is false.  None of it is true.  But, Mom and Dad, it IS true that I got a C- in French and flunked my math class…and it IS true that I’m going to need some more money for my tuition payments.

Being a mom is a difficult task that presents a unique set of challenges.  Yet, it is easy to lose perspective about it.  What is it I am really supposed to do?  What is success and what is failure?  Today we are going to look at three phases of life for moms: before being a mother, during the child rearing years, and after the kids leave the house.

Is Motherhood To Be Desired?

Over the last century being a mother has come to be a despised thing in some circles.  Whether it is Margaret Sanger calling for a 10 year moratorium on child births in the 1940’s or modern arguments that refer to motherhood as an enemy to women, a mom and dad raising a kid have much to overcome.  So, for a young woman, a very serious question to wrestle with is this: Is motherhood to be desired?  Is it some ancient form of slavery and restriction of women?  Does it necessarily ruin your professional and marital life?

Now before we deal with this question, I want to recognize that there are many women who, for one reason or another, have not or cannot have children.  I do not intend to diminish the difficulties of desiring to give birth to a child and being told you can’t.  Let me just say to those who are in that situation, trust God and talk with Him about your desires.  He may have something different for you that can be just as rewarding, whether becoming a foster parent, simply blessing kids around you, or mothering children spiritually.  So don’t make the act of birthing a baby of your own, the end all, of life and purpose.

Let’s go back to the question of the desirability of being a mother.  In Genesis 1:27-28, we see that motherhood is part of God’s design for women.  A man and woman coming together in a committed relationship to create the next generation is part of God’s design of humanity.  Whatever motherhood is, women were designed for it and it is not just a good thing, it is a God thing.

We also see in this Genesis passage that God refers to this process with the metaphor of being fruitful.  This is a powerful picture because no one would say that a tree without fruit is useless, and yet a tree that has fruit is something quite different altogether.  Throughout the Bible fruitfulness is more than physically giving birth to a child.  It is at its core a giving of life.  Yes, a child is birthed.  But it must be cared for and nurtured for it to be able to come to a point where it can live on its own.  Thus a woman’s fruitfulness is more than giving birth.  It is her ability to come alongside of another and give life to them.  This can be done regardless of one’s ability to conceive.  In fact the case can be made that the physical fruitfulness becomes a curse if the higher fruitfulness of physical and spiritual nurturing is neglected.  Rotten teens are not an argument against raising children.  They are an argument against the lack of a higher order of birthing that must happen.  The conception to birth process can be seen as an analogy of the higher order process that brings a child from birth into adult society.

In Psalm 127:3-4 we are told that children are an inheritance from the Lord.  In other words it is a portion that he has for many women that they can enjoy and tend to it.  It is not the only possible inheritance for women in life (If you are unable to have children recognize that God has an inheritance for you).  But neither should it be slighted as undesirable.

Motherhood is something that is good and desirable.  Take time to walk with God and He will make it clear if you are to be a mother or not.  Don’t lose perspective of the fact that you will come to the end of your life and there will be no going back.  Yes, we all have regrets, but don’t wall yourself off from motherhood without first spending the time in prayer to seek God’s will.

Am I A Failure As A Mother?

Once a woman has had a child, or more, it is very common to be plagued with doubts as to your success at it.  In fact they are very rarely doubts.  Generally you may feel quite sure that you have failed at it.  In Psalm 119:105, we are told that the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  Thus, if you feel that you are a failure and don’t know what to do, turn to God for wisdom.  Let His Word shed light on what you should do. 

James picks up on this in James 1:5.  However, he not only counsels us to let God’s Word be a light to our path, but also counsels us to pray and ask for it.  Reading God’s Word is the content side, but we also have a spiritual and emotional side.  Spend time in prayer asking for wisdom to raise your child.  On top of this we can take our anxieties and worries, and put them in God’s hands because we know that He cares for us both emotionally and practically.

Now here are some rapid-fire encouragements that all of us know, but need to hear often.  Be realistic in how you judge yourself.  We can expect far too much of ourselves and our children.  In fact, a unrealistic expectation can make our “failures” even worse, by an unhealthy emphasis on perfection.  Relax and realize that you are not God.  There is only so much that you can do.  God does not expect you to be super-mom.  But you can be a supernatural mom by relying on God for His help.

Also, learn to prioritize.  Priorities help you to decide between what is going to get done and what isn’t.  Being a parent is one of those jobs that is never done and you’re always on the clock.  Many things that we see as failures are simply our limitations as a human.  You can’t do everything and God doesn’t expect it from you.  Prayerfully set priorities that make the really important things primary and the not so important things tertiary at best.

Another important thing is to find some friends that can understand what it means to be a mother.  The power of being able to talk with someone who understands us cannot be underestimated.  Don’t wall yourself off from others because you are such a “miserable failure.”  Isolation can make a person feel lonely even when they are surrounded by family.  So purposefully counteract it by seeking out friends who are raising kids themselves.  Alongside this, you can pray for God to lead you to a good mentor who is further along in life, a seasoned mom who can help you gain perspective.  In the now it feels like it is never going to end.  But a mom who has raised her kid can help keep you encouraged.  Normally this would be your mom and/or grandma.  But if this isn’t an option for you, don’t sit there.  Proactively seek out a mentor.

Lastly, moms, trust God.  Ultimately this is what we all have to do.  Many kids have come from horrible homes and grown up to become amazing servants of God and society.  So clearly you don’t have to be perfect for them to become all God wants them to be.  However, this is not an advocacy for not even caring.  You will have to give account to God for how you raised your kids, but not in the perfectionist way that you often do to yourself.  Your kid is going to grow up and make their own decisions.  You will be a powerful influence on them, but yet only an influence.  It doesn’t take perfection to do a good job; it just takes a love that is willing to be perfected.  “Lord, teach me to love my kids as You would have me!”

What now?

It is called the empty nest syndrome.  Some people look forward to the empty nest with far too much glee and, yet, others dread it with far too much gloom and depression.  A hyper-desire for what is down the road can adversely affect our actions in the now.  No, you don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be engaged in the here and now.  Emotional abandonment can be a very heavy thing to place upon the shoulders of a child.  On the other hand, those who are depressed over the emptying of their nest can develop an unhealthy selfishness and lack of faith that God has other good things ahead for you.  If God gave you kids to enjoy then He will be faithful to give you things to enjoy at the next stage.  Yes, all you have known for the last 20-30 years is suddenly gone and you face an unknown future.  But you have been there before.  The same God who has led you to this point has a plan forward.  Take His hand and rejoice!

We see such attitude in Hebrews 11:24-27.  Moses is given a task by God.  He knew what was being asked on the macro-level.  But there was much ahead that required trusting God.  Surrender to the next stage and let God lead you forward just as God led Moses.  There is a reward ahead.  This highly transitional time can go in many different directions and will definitely go through several transitions.  Some of them will be your choices, and yet, some of them may not.  Many a couple has emptied the nest only to immediately be presented with failing parents who need their care.  Or perhaps you have an adult child who has special needs and will never be able to live on their own.  Many things can lie ahead: grandkids, travel, new professions, hobbies, and expanded horizons.  No one thing is necessary for you to have a full and rewarding life.  The only thing you really need is to trust God as He leads you into the next phase of your life.

Let me close with a passage in Titus 2:1-4.  Here Paul encourages the older women to help the younger women to see the importance of loving their husbands and children.  Though he doesn’t use this word, I would see this as mentoring.  You have alot of experience that you can share with younger women.  It should not come across as a “know-it-all” attitude.  In fact mentoring is not so much about showing a young mother what she is doing wrong (this can short-cut her own learning and developing process).  At its heart is one woman telling another woman that, if she will lean on Jesus, she will be woman enough to meet the daunting things in her life.  Encourage them and keep them trusting in Jesus and His wisdom.  And, a practical tip from time to time won’t hurt at all ;)

Motherhood in Perspective audio