A few years ago I was reflecting on motherhood. Or more accurately my own mothering. It was painful as I faced the reality of my less-than-perfect attempts to raise three sons. I knew they carried the wounds and scars of my humanity and I prayed they would navigate life in such a way to find healing through the mercy and grace of God as I had. I promised myself that if they ever were in town together on Mother’s Day, I would take THEM out for dinner to celebrate the fact they survived my motherhood.
My three sons. My amazing, gifted, loving three sons. Now they are all married to strong, gifted, incredible women and they are raising their own children with the grace and mercy I wished I had displayed more often as a young mother.
I am deeply grateful. I am humbled. I am awed by God’s gift of my family.
But it was not always how I felt many years ago when I had no clue what being a mother meant. As a young teen my babysitting career ended after my first job. I had fallen asleep after the kids were in bed and the unreasonable parents were furious with me. I never babysat again. Nor did I ever volunteer in a church’s nursery or children’s department.
I never had dreams of being of a mother.
Until I woke up with three sons under the age of 3. Literally woke up. Three C-sections in three years. Their arrivals were not quite part of my overall plan. My plan was to build our home, pay off the mortgage and then start a family.
Instead we moved into our unfinished house a couple of weeks before our first son was born. The boys were teenagers before the last detail of the house was completed. And they were out of the house and married before we made our last mortgage payment.
Nothing worked out the way I had planned. Of course in hindsight everything worked out much better. However it involved living what seemed at times to be a bad dream.
The first five years of surviving babies are a blur in my memory bank (I didn’t have a single full night’s sleep during those years). The toddler-preschool stage was a nightmare because the boys were out of control, or more accurately, I was out of control. Then God called me to homeschool them through junior high. (Seriously God?!) It was really rough when they entered high school.
Thankfully God gave me a husband who was one of 12 children. He knew how to change diapers, loved playing and wrestling with the boys, taught them how to drive and basically, stayed calm while I nearly went insane.
But then an amazing thing happened as each left home. I began to have hope that indeed we would all survive my motherhood. And we did.
For all the potholes I describe above there were more often stretches of laughter at funny antics, adventures on camping trips, evenings of family devotions and Jon’s storytelling, celebrations of achievements and many other moments of togetherness.
I look back in awe of God’s wisdom and mercy. The road through motherhood was pretty rough for me but it shaped me in profound ways.
I have been transformed through motherhood, even “saved.” Being a mother has taught me more about God than any other life experience and has been the most powerful context for “working out my salvation” (Philippians 2:12).
I think I get a sense of what the Apostle Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:15, one of the most perplexing verses in the Bible for women.
But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
When my third son was born I was in a spiritual pit, not sure whether I was still a Christian or if God existed. A motherhood crisis was coinciding with a faith crisis. It turned out that as I struggled to respond to the cries of my babies, God responded to the cries of my heart. And he saved me. He met me in the pit and restored faith.
Since the years that followed my faith rebirth, I read my own story into that verse and I see how childbearing has helped save me from myself. My anger. My efforts to control my life and others. My selfishness. My discontent. Childbearing helped me to find my heart and it led my heart straight to Christ who mothered me through motherhood.
I know that Mother’s Day is a day for children to celebrate their mothers. Some can do this more than others. Many have mothers who were absent or inflicted great damage. Others have no children with whom to celebrate. But we all have a perfect Father who is also a perfect Mother, One who answers our cries, nourishes our souls and walks us through life. Where I have failed as a mother, God will be to my children.
Happy Mother’s Day, God.