I’ve heard a few clichés over the last 23 years of being a mom: “Your kids will grow up in the blink of an eye.” “Don’t worry, this season will end and things will get easier.” “Just love them unconditionally! That’s all you need to know.” Any of these ring a bell? If we are honest – none of these are really true, let alone easy. So I thought, in honour of Mother’s Day, I would put together some insights (from hindsight) for the benefit of a younger Christian woman; a dose of truth about Christian motherhood from my experience.
Saying Goodbye to Me, Myself & I
A few years ago I sat beside my husband at the graduation of our eldest daughter, Jessie. It was a blast from the past, with memories of my own graduation in the same hall 27 years beforehand. It felt like yesterday that I was a carefree student posing for photos in my cap and gown, eager for the future – a future in which only three people featured – Me, Myself and I. Three years later I got married and admitted as an attorney. Life continued as usual, with perhaps a slight modification to my expectations of the future – now featuring Me, Myself, I and My Husband as the main characters.
Motherhood changed my narrative irrevocably. My vision for the future was blurred by sleep deprivation, depression and mom-brain
But four years after tying the knot, on the coldest day of 1996, we brought home our adorable but strong-willed, insatiable, colicky baby girl from the hospital! Motherhood changed my narrative irrevocably. By 2003 I was the mom of three daughters and a son, lost in the thick forest of nappies, naps, feeding, taxi driving and homework. My vision for the future was blurred by sleep deprivation, depression and mom-brain, which remained unabated for at least a decade. The actors in my life narrative did not feature Me, Myself or I. In fact, these characters had disappeared from the cast and I wondered if the old Me would ever return to the set. Who was she anyway?
Getting Some Perspective
The truth is that perspective disappears when you’re a mom in the trenches of raising small children. Especially for those locked down in a pandemic! But today, as mother to three daughters and a son (aged 23, 21, 18, 16) my role has morphed into a completely different character. My children no longer grumble or spit out their food, but think their mother is a wonderful cook! I get to enjoy robust Bible studies with them, laugh at their endless banter, and jog with them. I even get to watch them take care of each other, sharing the load of counsellor, nurse, tutor and referee that once weighed heavily on my shoulders.
Two Helpful Mistakes
So today, standing further from the action, I look at motherhood through a different lens. A lens which has clarified two skewed perceptions from earlier years. First, I trusted in God too little as a mother, and second, I underestimated the power of small but important things done day after day, year after year over a long period of time.
I trusted in God too little as a mother and I underestimated the power of small but important things done day after day, year after year over a long period of time.
Three Valuable Truths
Here are three valuable truths about Christian motherhood I was able to gather in hindsight which I want to share with you.
1. Your End Goal is Eternity
Christian motherhood is about raising your children for eternity, not just for bedtime or an ‘easier’ season of independence. Keep looking into the eyes of your children and know that God loves these little people deeply; Jesus invited all children to come to him. God has entrusted them specifically to you to lead them to Himself. And He has not made a mistake in making you the mother of your children.
They are your ‘home group’, your mission field and your closest community. Your children are the lambs you feed first, for you have been appointed as their shepherd. They are your first port of call for Christ’s Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. Starting at home, we are to teach them to observe all that Christ has taught us (Matt 28:20). If we believe the truth of the Gospel, this is one job we have to do diligently.
To be winsome and credible to our children, we need to first cultivate a dynamic and devoted relationship with Jesus ourselves.
The Gospel is Caught, not Taught
Yes, there have been times when my children didn’t want to hear about God. No amount of diligent discipleship or bulldozing could compel them to love the Lord. But I also know that to be winsome and credible to our children, we need to first cultivate a dynamic and devoted relationship with Jesus ourselves. We need to be a Mary who sits at Christ’s feet, not a Martha who just gets the job done. Children smell hypocrisy a mile off, and the Gospel is primarily caught, not taught.
Early on in my mothering, I read God’s command to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 and felt its weight as a mother. Over the long haul, it is this passage that has been my rudder and spur more than any other. For mothering starts with loving the Lord with our own heart and soul and might. Love for God is inextricably linked to the act of taking hold of God’s word and passing it on to our children, day in and day out, like a baton in a relay. Love for God and obeying his design for godly parenting cannot be separated. If you have ever objected to being your child’s teacher, the Bible takes issue with that! Your work as a mom is done line upon line, precept upon precept, over a long period of time.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Early Foundations
Christian Motherhood is not a fixed term contract. In fact, I have more opportunities to teach my teenagers today than I ever did when they were small. We talk about everything, from politics to evolution. From transgenderism to the post-truth culture that is shaping everything they learn at school and university. Our children need to become thinkers, as opposed to robots who simply process information and accept ideas without exploring the implications for all of life. Our teenage children need to learn how to give a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15). But all these conversations are built on the early foundations.
They remember the time spent reading, reciting memory verses and praying together. The Holy Spirit made sure his Word didn’t come back empty
The Power of God’s Word
Years ago I thought none of my children were listening to me reading Leading Little Ones to God or The Child’s Story Bible or Little Pilgrim’s Progress. Sometimes we all nodded off before the end of our devotion! But today they remember the time spent reading, reciting memory verses, praying and going to Bible Tots together. The Holy Spirit made sure his Word didn’t come back empty and by God’s grace all of our children have soft hearts towards the Lord.
Small family habits, rituals and casual conversations over many years do not have the power to save our children. But they are like the careful laying down of paper, twigs and firelighters in a hearth – ready for the Holy Spirit to light the match and breathe life into their hearts.
3. Your Undercover Boss is Jesus
In the monumental task of Christian motherhood, it’s easy to feel that your potential is being wasted. That your work is futile, endless and invisible. But your mothering matters to the King of Kings! He made you in his own image, to be fruitful and multiply, to rule and reign over his Creation, which is your home for much of your life. Your work is not just giving birth, putting food on the table and tolerating your children until they’re civilised! It is correcting and training your children day-by-day, building good habits and creating order from chaos. Just as God did at Creation.
Your mothering matters to the King of Kings!
Lean on Christ
On those days that you’re staggering under an unbearable weight or find yourself controlling your family with an iron fist, remember that parenting is God’s work, not yours. Jesus is the boss and the Saviour, not you! Mom, learn early on the hidden power of surrender: surrender in rest and restoration, surrender in repentance. Surrender in prayer, surrender in dependence. Because it’s not all up to you.
The Blessing of Christian Motherhood
Finally, use these precious years to bless your family! Don’t waste the chance to say these simple words: “I’m proud of your perseverance”. “I loved watching the way you cared for your sister”. Or “thank you for being an amazing husband”. Christian mothers, honour and encourage your family. And don’t waste a single day on needless fretting.
When you’re tempted to throw in the towel, remember how Nehemiah responded to Sanballat when he tried to divert him: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down!” (Nehemiah 6:3).