My husband and I have had a tough year as parents–as I’m sure many other parents have too. Our two year old started to show more of her personality, which kept us all on our toes. Our middle son began displaying a new level of misbehavior that stopped my husband and I in our tracks and, at points, left us broken down in tears. The dynamic between all three of our children took a new turn we weren’t prepared for. And on top of that, COVID and the related restrictions brought an extra layer of stress. All of this has created new areas of tension in our marriage that we’re still trying to sort through.
I share this to underline that although I wrote a book on motherhood, I’m still very much living out the challenges and joys described within its pages. This is real life, and it’s the perfect place for our Savior to meet us and help us. The struggles of motherhood are fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ. Here are just three ways he is so often at work in the hearts of moms.
1. Motherhood Humbles Us
Before becoming a mom I thought I was a pretty good person. But then motherhood squeezed me like a sponge, and God showed me all the sin and weakness that poured out of me. I wasn’t as strong and resilient as I thought, nor as patient as I thought. I could also get angrier than I imagined possible. It was humbling for me to realize that I needed help (from God and from others), and to have to ask for it.
Motherhood is humbling because it shows us who we really are and then points us to who God is.
In light of our sin and weakness God is an ever present help in time of need–a buttress, fortress, and refuge. God works best in weakness, because his strength is exactly for those who are weak and needy, not those who feel strong and independent. When Jesus walked this earth, he was the champion and supporter of the weak and the sinner. Those are the ones he came to save. So, when God uses motherhood to humble us he is wielding it as a sharp tool to cut away the rough edges and make us smooth–to make us like his Son.
2. Motherhood Teaches Us Rest
Mom guilt. It’s a thing. For me, this is one of the biggest reasons I don’t take care of myself. I’ve always struggled with feeling bad for needing a break from my kids.
But we don’t need to feel guilty for needing to rest. Before sin entered the world we were created by God to be needy and dependent. It was when Adam and Eve felt like they didn’t need God that they ate the forbidden fruit. It was the pride of self-sufficiency and independence that led to the curse of sin. The pride of “I’ve got this.” The pride of “I don’t need anyone.”
As motherhood teaches us humility, it leads us back to the rest we had in the Garden of Eden. Our place of perfect happiness and peace is admitting and accepting our original design–that we are created, dependent beings. There is only one creator, and he is the only one who has no need of rest. He is all sufficient in himself.
When Jesus took on flesh he showed us what it means to return to the true design of humanity. He accepted the limitations of having a human body. And often, that’s what we need to learn to do too. Think how often we moms act like we can be in multiple places at once–physically, mentally, and emotionally. Jesus modeled for us spiritual rest and physical rest– even, and especially, when life was busy and overwhelming. Jesus’ ability to rest was his humility at work. Motherhood makes us more like Christ when we accept rest as a regular rhythm of our lives.
3. Motherhood Teaches us to Persevere in Service
Though Jesus modeled rest for mothers, he also modeled a life poured out in service for others. This is the true essence of motherhood: a life poured out in service.
Serving our children is following in Christ’s footsteps. We can serve them in a variety of ways, just like Jesus served in a variety of ways. There is the demanding physical labor of caring for little ones, but we also serve our children mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. This will carry on into the teen and young adult years. All these types of service can be draining and exhausting, so we need perseverance and to rely on the help of the Spirit.
But our service is not in vain. Jesus’ life, ministry and death show us that a life poured out for others is never a wasted life. In the moments when I feel like I am squandering my prime years on motherhood, I come back again to this helpful truth to instruct my emotions. And then, like Christ, I set my face like flint and trek on. Motherhood makes us like Christ when we submit to persevere in a life of faithful service to our children.
In these ways and so many more, motherhood is a tool God uses in our lives to bring us to the feet of our Savior and impart more of himself to us. May the Holy Spirit help us to turn to him.