“And yet over the years I have come to realize something else about my role as a mother. As important as my role is, and as important as my children are, they are not to be the center of my life, and my central calling is not motherhood…it could even become a form of idolatry. My calling as a mother is the same as any other Christian’s: to fulfill God’s will for our lives and glorify Him…and I am to delight in him and worship him and praise him in whatever circumstance I find myself.”
– Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood, p. 14-15
This section jumped out at me this morning. I was contrasting my first time through Chapter One about five years ago and how I am reading it now. There were many other things that struck me the first time through, but this quote felt both as a drink of cool water and a bit of a dash of the same- to the face. I have lived this reality.
My childhood friends continue to be amazed that I am a mother of six children. I think I’m as amazed myself. As any of them would tell you, I was not a calm person- I was flighty, passionate, willful. I was going to travel the world! I was going to make a difference! I might not even get married! I was not a ‘kid’ person and I didn’t intend to be.
Funny how life gets in the way.
I met and married my beloved; and a baby boy came soon after. Then another. We wished for a little girl, and she arrived, fresh as a rose in spring. Each child changed my heart in different ways. I learned so much about my own relationship with my Heavenly Father through their eyes…what mercy, grace, and redemption meant…what bigger dreams were being dreamt for me and for my family and my life.
As a young mom, I felt like a lost ship at sea. I knew vaguely some of what I wanted for my children- some of the things that I craved from my children that had been lacking in my own childhood- but I struggled to articulate that. I wasn’t even sure how to frame it in terms of my faith. I felt very lost. The community around me was not a community that really seemed to support me in any way. At church I’d be viewed with two heads when I’d mention that I was curious about this or that subject, and especially if I mentioned that I was beginning to realize that more children might be in my future. I was told more than once that I was insane to even consider the whole stay-at-home-mom thing. Who would want to?
I didn’t really know the answer to that myself.
Around that time, I found a lot of helpful mothering books that I had never heard of before. I don’t want to knock any of them at all, for that is not my intent (and The Mission of Motherhood was one of them)- but- I fell hook, line, and sinker for some idealistic version of motherhood that meant I sewed and cooked and made my own bread and homeschooled my children and was absolutely fresh as a daisy when my husband came home at the end of a trying day. Looking back, I can see that there were many valuable and useful skills that I did need to learn- many things that truly helped me grow and mature in my mothering journey.
This pursuit of ‘motherhood’ to the abandonment of all else quickly became a burden- a toxic mix of legalism and perfectionism. It was if I couldn’t see the forest for the tree. I was so obsessed with that perfection and picture-perfect womanhood that I couldn’t see how miserable I was making my family and myself. I can see now what a trap it was- and how little room was left for the Holy Spirit to move and instruct in my life.
I can say honestly and truthfully now that I don’t think every mom is a mom who stays home and homeschools and on and on. I really can’t stand the whole working moms versus stay at home mom debate. My honest prayer is that each family is doing, prayerfully, whatever it is that they are being called to do– and that it is to the glory of God. Who am I to say? As I would soon learn, God likes to blow up the boxes we tend to try to pigeonhole him into.
As you know if you have read here long enough, life went absolutely sideways not too soon after. The economy tanked. My husband lost his job. Neither of us could find employment. I had to be more frugal than ever before, by necessity now, not by choice. It was the darkest, scariest period of our life. We lost a child. We had a cancer scare. Later, I would become very ill and spend nearly a year and a half recovering and dealing with a ‘new normal’. Everything that I has set up as an idol of motherhood quickly came crashing down. I would join my husband in the work force, working a job from home that often amounted to 80+ hour work weeks. There was no choice for either of us as our jobs went- we had children and they needed to eat.
I wrestled with the guilt of my perceived failure as a mother for a long time. Amazingly, during my most recent illness last year, I was finally able to lay it down. First, I wrestled with being sick again, and the whys and wherefores- but had been through it enough to realize that to push too hard and be ‘perfect’ would ruin my health even more- and I sunk back into the comfort of recuperating. It was through this time that God softened my heart and spoke kindly to me, and pulled all those expectations of myself from my grasping hands. He made me realize that I wasn’t giving Him any room to work in my life- I had it all figured out what a perfect mom and wife was- and I heard nearly audibly- but what if the wife and mother I am calling you to be isn’t that? Can’t you trust Me?
This is what I am re-learning this time through. Can I trust God enough to be so hidden in Him that my children and my husband go looking for me at His feet? Can I trust my children and husband to my God and let go of my desire to control? Can I let go and fly into the dreams my Lord has for me?
I am delighted that my dear friend Elizabeth is joining the Nester for her annual ’31 days…’ blogging challenge– speaking about something that is very near to my heart- Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood. This book changed my whole paradigm a few years ago, and I find that I already need a refresher course. I will be joining Elizabeth this month as she chats and journals through what the mission of motherhood means to her.