I am thankful that God sometimes gives us opportunities to see that His work in us has not been in vain; that the process of sanctification is actually taking place even if we sometimes can’t seem to see it ourselves. Just such an opportunity occurred a week ago for me. I ran into someone I had not seen in a long time and as we were catching up, she asked “that” question – which, if you happened to be a stay-at-home mom, you know what I’m talking about:
“So what else do you do?”
Translation: “do you have a life outside of motherhood”?
“Well, I homeschool my 4 kids, uh, we have some animals….” And my voice sort of trailed off with an awkward pause as I desperately tried to come up with a more impressive answer while at the same time trying to hush my toddler and not be pulled off my feet by the 4 year old who had decided the conversation was over (which, at about that point, I agreed).
The point of my story is not to point a finger at this sweet lady and say, “how insensitive!” She had been a stay-at-home mom herself once upon a time and had not meant the question as an insult. However, regardless of her intentions, had that question been asked of me 8 years ago, it would have sent me into a tizzy of self-doubt, and discontentment with my season of life. After a few days, I would have been able to pull it together and put it back into perspective and buck up and press on…but that was a quick Band-Aid treatment of an inner state of being that was not…what it should be.
Prior to motherhood (which for me began 8 years ago), “success” was always demonstrated with accolades of some sort. When you’re a kid it’s from your parents, then it’s your grades, colleges that accept you, programs you get into, degrees and awards you are given. Then it’s the job you land, possibly the husband, or the promotions you get. There are always tangible measures of success to which you can hold yourself to and then – depending on your personality – either guilt trip yourself into doing better or feel good about how much better than most you are (I am of the former personality).
THEN I became a stay at home mom and WHAMOO! GONE was all of that outward approval and affirmation. And not in a good, relieving sort of way; more in a, “if I am in the forest of my own incredibly messy house, alone, and I’ve wiped a 4th poopy bottom, changed an 8th diaper, been thrown up on 6 times and had to pump after every 2 hour nursing session… DOES ANYONE HEAR ME?!”
Or more seriously put, “if what I am doing is not rewarded in any way by external accolades or another’s approval – in fact can’t even be seen by anyone – to what end then am I striving? The work itself always has a measure of its own merit and/or own end -otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. But there’s more to why we do what we do or how well we do what we do.
What motivates us to do life well?
To think well and live well and chose well and strive not just to survive; but to thrive. Up until motherhood I think, to my own shame, a big part of my “why” had been my Ego. Reward. Accolade. Pride. Achievement. Accomplishment. The approval of others.
Motherhood: HOW do women do it? How is it possible that humankind has continued to exist when bearing and raising children is SO INCREDIBLY HARD? My mother has always taught that life’s trials are in part to teach us how to become a bondservant of Christ. Bondservant as defined as “one who has no rights or will of their own but does only the will of his master”. I agree and think that is why God gives women husbands and when that doesn’t do the trick He gives them kids. And what about those kids that don’t sleep or have colic or are “high-needs” babies? Was I then, a tough-study, or what?!
This is NOT an accurate description of the entirety of my experience of motherhood. But I would say the transition itself was pretty brutal. And a big part of that was the lesson that God was teaching me – is teaching me about is what it truly means to live by faith. The scriptures say, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is a sin.” (Romans 14:23) For me, the first step was taking a long look in the mirror and recognizing how much of my motivation for “achieving” at life was based on man’s approval and not Gods.
Psalms 16, starting in verse 8 has been my life verse since college.
“I have set the Lord continually before me, because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices. My heart also will rest secure, for Thou will not abandon my soul to Sheol. Neither will Thou allow Thy holy one to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the path of Life. In Thy presence there is fullness of joy. In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Simplistic translation: “Put God first and trust in Him and rely on His strength and despite the circumstances, I will be okay…” I realized that for years I had believed I was walking this verse out while in reality, my idea of trusting in God for strength was like putting on a life jacket and never jumping into the water. It was a nice idea and a good back up plan, but mostly it had just been lip-service. I’d never needed to truly rely on God for strength, didn’t even really know what it meant and I certainly hadn’t been relying on Him as my only or main source of approval.
The past few years of my life have been the hardest I’ve ever experienced and ironically the verse that has seen me through is the very start of Psalms 16. “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
I hadn’t so much jumped into the water as I had been thrown into it… but the process of being forced to truly learn what it meant to rely on God daily for the strength to survive has been a beautiful, albeit painful at times, journey. Beautiful because when I was at my lowest point and absolutely could not continue on my own strength – God was indeed there, had always been there in fact, I’d just never really turned to Him fully.
Romans 12:2 says,
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I have to renew my mind daily (at least) to see the seemingly mundane or menial tasks that often consume motherhood not as unworthy or beneath me but in fact as the very things- the “good, acceptable and perfect things” – that God is using to draw me closer to Him and transform me more into His image. It is often not very pretty.
But sometimes it is beautiful.
Christy Postma: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Lover of Jesus and all things outdoorsy and adventurous.