Motherhood is a Means, or, Give Them a Beautiful Inheritance!

Motherhood is one of those things that we instinctually know is important. Yet it isn’t the end.

It is the mission field of the mundane. Daily giving up myself for the sake of my short people. Daily pouring out every truth and fact and shred of insight and wisdom that is stored up in me to impart it to little hearts and little heads and little hands.

Yet, I don’t control the end. I don’t write the story. I’m just a character in it. I know how I’d write it if I were doing the writing, but I’m not. And we (especially me) should all be very very grateful that that’s the case.

The end and final chapters for my kids will mostly likely be without their mom. I’ll be written out–dead. They will start, in a very short time, making decisions quite independent of me. The influence I’ve exercised over them, as all parents do, will be spent. I recognize that I can’t save my kids. Saving is God’s work.

But what is it all for–this motherhood that we all know in our gut is some of the most important work on the planet. Anyone with a good mom will attest–having a good mom is important! And anyone with a bad mom will doubly attest–having a good mom is important!

It’s because motherhood is a means. It’s a means to our kids’ salvation. It’s a (often THE) means to imparting wisdom and Biblical thinking and the anchor that will hold in the high and stormy gale. For a child, the authenticity of the Gospel story is played out in living color by their parents–their mom. Here’s an example: I believe that Jesus is God–He came to earth and lived a sinless life, died on a cross to take the penalty for my sin, and my old self died with Him. Then three days later rose again and I am raised to new life with and in Him.

So how does that play out before their eyes in my life? How about in line at Chipotle at lunchtime during a workday, when the restaurant is filled with professionals and we bustle in breathless with grins on our faces at the thought of food prepared with someone else’s hands! I’ve got the 2-yr old in my arms and the other three are swarming around my legs. We cheerfully bounce into a line about 4 deep and are followed up by 3 or 4 more hungry customers. I glance around with a smile surveying the temperature of the patrons.

It’s cool, to put it mildly. Directly behind us is a woman whose face is visibly annoyed. Perhaps she was concerned that our order would take a long time because she inches closer, willing the line to move ahead and willing us out of it. In front of us is a “young adult.” Older than a teenager, but clearly not out of the teenager phase of life. He pretends like we aren’t behind him. How embarrassing to stand in line by children.

My response to this says something about what I believe the Gospel to be about.

So, I quietly stand my ground with my kids–they’re mine. I look in their faces with love and happiness–happiness that they exist and that we are together. I do not look embarrassed or try to apologize for their existence. I hold my baby and kiss her head. When our turn comes I order with dignity and help my 4 yr old to see over the counter what’s happening. I explain what a carnitas burrito is and why guacamole will be their favorite when they’re old like me. I claim them, I value them, I protect them, I teach them and mostly, just by our sheer existence in that place, I say, these kids are mine, and they’re worth sacrificing for, they’re worth being poured out for, and I’m doing it. That’s what God does for us–claims us.

Also, these kids are not accessories. They’re people. I don’t “wear” them. They aren’t dogs either–there to love me unconditionally and perform some tricks. No, quite the opposite, I serve and love them. That’s what Jesus does for us.

It’s part of a Gospel picture. There are a million more that we paint for our kids by how we respond when they’re vomiting on Palm Sunday or at Christmastime or whether we yell and pitch a fit over the third cup of spilled milk, or chuckle and grab the paper towels. And I fail, don’t get me wrong, I fail. They even get to see how grace covers me when I sin and fail–another portrait of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Bottom line is that the Gospel story, the true story, must be told with words and it must be borne out in the moments of our lives. These are the means of motherhood to bring a child to trust the Trustworthy One. A trustworthy mom who stands her ground and loves her kids in a hostile Chipotle is like a line falling in a pleasant place for those kids and the line points to the Savior–it is a beautiful inheritance. It’s not guaranteed, the secret things are God’s, but it is my calling. May you do it, Lord, for Your Name, El Kana.

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
(Psalm 16:5-6 ESV)

note to self: be a drop-out.

I sporadically participate in a competitive world of comparisons.

Note to self: drop out.

This is a plague for moms of every stripe.  Especially young moms with young kids (I think anyway, but who knows maybe it infects the moms with older kids too).

It’s as simple as seeing another child do well at something and, instead of rejoicing for them and moving on, we check to see how our child measures up and are either happy or disappointed at the result.

Or perhaps we see the deftness with which another mom disciplines her kids and we immediately begin to think of what we would have done and find that we fall very short.

So, I say it’s time to drop out of the competitive comparison rat race.  I’ve only dropped out a ga-zillion times before.  But somehow, without realizing it I find myself re-enlisted.

I need to love my kids more by not basing their success on the observation of other individuals who are very different from them in every respect.  Instead  I should focus on who God has made my children to be and expect growth, not perfection.

The same goes for myself.  Concentrate on growth in who God has made me to be.  Cling to Jesus’ sufficiency.

And the dirty little secret is that when we base our children’s success or worth on a standard outside the Bible, such as the measure of other children, we are not loving our kids, we are using them to fulfill our own need and desire for happiness in them through their good behavior or achievement.  We are observing what we think will bring us happiness in the behavior or achievement of other people’s children and applying it to our own kids.

The Bible tells us our children are valuable because God made them.  They are gifts to us.

Plus, the standard of “other people’s children” or the way “other parent’s parent” will never be a high enough standard.  We will be selling ourselves short of the biblical mandates that are the BEST for us and come with the power of Christ working in us to help us in our weaknesses!

I will make a disclaimer here, however, that not all comparisons are bad.  Only the bad ones are bad.  The ones that make you upset with who God has made you and your children to be.  The ones that stir up discontentment and produce smugness or condemnation or apathy.

There is a type of comparison that stirs us up to love and good deeds, that inspires, strengthens and convicts.  I know this kind of comparison because it happens when we are surrounded by people who want the best for us and our kids and who we experience unconditional love with and for.

This good “comparing,” or observing, models for us Biblical commandment-keeping in action.

It happens when I see the families in our small group lovingly parent their kids towards Christ and obedience and I’m inspired and grow in my love for God and for my kids.  Or when I see another mom, humble and lowly, not using her kids to show-off (Lord forgive me for the times I’ve done this), simply nurturing them in the instruction of the Lord.

Comparisons are complicated.  If we’re engaged in them in order to make ourselves feel good about ourselves, the opposite will eventually happen; we’ll feel deficient and we’ll see our children as deficient (and if we don’t smugness and ugliness will overtake us).  But if we look at what godly brothers and sisters do with an attitude of humility, love and learning, we will learn and grow and love.

So, yep, I’m a drop-out.  But just of that bad, competitive kind of comparing.  The other kind I’ll keep: it’s valuable stuff!