Confession: There was a good-sized meltdown in the house today.
Facts: It wasn’t the pre-schooler. It wasn’t the tween. It wasn’t the dramatic 8-year old or the feisty 6-year old.
Conclusion: It was the Mother.
Yes. I had a meltdown this morning. There was really no justifiable cause for the meltdown. I’d been feeling it building for the last few days, and today the tears came like a flood. This actually happens fairly routinely in a cyclical pattern that most women (and their husbands) will understand. Approximately every four weeks there’s a day or two during which my unreasonable desire for recognition and appreciation for everything I do for our family gets out of control and causes me to fall apart. (To those reading this who think this is foolish – you're right. NOBODY gets thanked for everything they do. I know.) Thanks be to God I have a husband who treats me like a queen, listens to me, hugs me, then thanks me for everything, and responds sympathetically when I explain the hormonal influences at work.
Also after my meltdowns, my wise, loving husband usually encourages me to go for a run, knowing full well that’s where God speaks to me, the endorphins kick in, and my mind clears. Today was no different. In the midst of fresh air, exercise, and the most stunning fall morning possible, God gave me the reassurance He always does: “Rebecca, I see your hard work; it is not unnoticed, and I am audience enough.”
He whispered that to me as soon as my feet hit the pavement and I wrestled with it for the next three miles. In a world of social media and immediate gratification, God is all the audience my heart ought to need. Is that as tough of a challenge for you as it is for me? I wish it wasn’t hard for me. I want to walk in the humility that doesn’t desire human recognition, because it’s absolutely true that God is audience enough. His approval is the approval that matters above all others. Colossians 3:23 has been running through my brain all week as my frustration level built: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Although this was written to primarily household servants, it’s admonition is applicable to all of us. My husband and my children are not my masters…but sometimes we moms might feel like we are servants to the laundry or the schedules or the constant pile of dirty dishes that just never goes away no matter how often we wash. I think I’m not the only one who wonders if anyone notices that the dishes somehow get washed between suppertime and breakfast. Does anyone notice how the clean basket of laundry magically appears on her bed, folded and ready to be put away? Does anyone notice that our vacations, holidays, and special events are actually planned and thought out carefully? Does anybody appreciate the hours of shopping and preparation it takes to fill a pantry and put supper on the table each night? DOESN’T ANYBODY NOTICE????
Of course we know the answer is yes. Although we know our families deeply appreciate our efforts, I think we all know how the work of motherhood can feel defeating and exhausting. Because we forget who it’s really all for. More often than not, I go through my days short-sighted, thinking my efforts are for five humans, when really, my efforts ought to be to honor Jesus Himself. I mean, I love my five humans. But if I work for them alone, I’ll grow weary and sometimes bitter. So I need to recalibrate my aim. For whom am I really working? For whose glory am I planning meals and organizing closets and signing homework binders? For Jesus. For the One who has called me to this ministry of motherhood.
During the last year this blog has sat mostly quiet while I’ve attended to the work of motherhood that God has called me to in this season. Even though the blog has been quiet, my mind is never quiet – there are constantly blogs rolling around in my head…but by the time I tuck my kids into bed and the house grows quiet, I’m too tired to write (because I’m getting old!) But during this time God has been speaking to me about this ministry of motherhood. Ministry is all I’ve ever done as work. I started in ministry during Jr. High as a volunteer Sunday School teacher and vocational ministry is the only thing I’ve ever done since. Ministry makes my heart sore. When I get to teach the Bible, God’s Word is like a fire in my bones and I cannot keep it in (Jeremiah 20:9). I was made for ministry. Yet, in this season of my life God has called me to step down from formal ministry employment to focus on a totally different kind of ministry.
And ministry really is the only right way to think about our role as mothers. It’s a ministry through and through. On a regular basis I tell God that I miss full-time vocational ministry, and He kindly but firmly reminds me that I am IN full-time ministry and this IS my vocation. God has to tell me all the time that there are four precious children who need me, right here and right now, and THIS IS MY MINISTRY. It is holy and sacred work ordained by God. And it is in fact work. Hard, laborious, work that often feels unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s a work that strains me mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and financially. It’s a work that starts before sunrise and goes strong until I collapse into bed. Many nights (every night for Moms of infants) it’s work that lasts all night long. Sometimes I feel like if I hear the word “Mom” one more time in a day I’m going to lose all of my marbles. “Mom” “Mom” “MOM!” “MOOOOMMM!” Mom!” “Oh MOOO-OOOOM” Mamamamam-MOOOOM!” Aaaaggghhhh!
However, it’s also of course the most rewarding work on the planet. Praise the Good Lord there are four little people who call me Mom. That is an honor I could never, ever deserve. And the rewards are MANY. (I mean, I get to go swinging almost every single afternoon!) I text my husband often just to thank him for letting me and encouraging me to stay home (but let’s be real…I also text him way too often with my laments). Mothering certainly has rewards that no other job could match. This morning while it was still dark and quiet, my four-year-old asked me if I would lie on his bed and “hug with him” for awhile. Fifteen minutes of hugging my boy was all the reward I should have needed (unfortunately my sin nature got the better of me, and two hours later I was melting down and asking for recognition from my husby). Last week I spent 30 minutes lying on each of my daughters' beds, listening to them talk about everything on their minds…a reward greater than gold. Absolutely, motherhood is a ministry with immense reward.
Motherhood is also a Gospel-centered ministry. The Gospel is the driving force behind everything we do as moms. Because Jesus laid down His life for us, we can lay down ourselves for the sake of others. We can forsake our own wants and desires and dreams, or at least put them aside for a season, so that we can raise our children. This is a privilege and honor, and it is fueled and enabled by God alone. Motherhood is so much bigger than ourselves, with results that we can’t envision during the years that are most intense. When Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy, he comments that Timothy’s strong commitment to Christ was modeled to him by his Grandmother Lois and Mother Eunice. Timothy, a young man in his early 30’s when Paul wrote to him, was a mighty servant of God who’d been persecuted and imprisoned for the Gospel. Eunice likely couldn’t have imagined how God would use her son, but she certainly used her role of motherhood to raise him in the Lord, and the result was powerful and eternal. Moses’ mother (Jochebed), by God’s design, got to raise her son until he was just 3-4 years old, and yet in that time must have instilled such knowledge of and trust in the One true God that Moses still knew Him after decades of living in the Egyptian palace and the Midianite desert.
Indeed, this is a powerful ministry we’ve been called to, friends. And maybe you’re like me in that you occasionally go through days or weeks of feeling down or bitter or unappreciated or lonely in this hard work called motherhood. I get it, girl. Some days around 5:00 I'm like, "WHAT??? Do we really have to have ANOTHER meal!?" (Can you believe my pathetic-ness? Millions of moms around the world would give their limbs to be able to feed their children another meal). Even though we get weary, this is powerful work my friend. Every time I go visit my 91-year-old grandfather in the nursing home, he grasps my hand and tells me that I’m doing a great job of mothering my children. Last week he was holding my hand tightly and said, “Mothering isn’t easy work, is it? But oh, it’s so important. You’re doing great.” Often in these moments he closes by squeezing my hand and saying, “Lead them to Christ.” Because that’s what mothering is really all about, right? I mean, sure it’s also important to raise healthy kids, feed them good food, protect them, clothe them, read to them, and, and, and. But ultimately, mothering is about leading our kids to Christ.
I invite you to join me on this journey as together we explore what it means to parent our children towards Jesus. In a world in which recognition is so sought after, what does it mean to embrace this ministry and do it with our whole hearts, as working for the Lord and not for our kids – or our friends – or our husbands – or our Mom-groups - or our Facebook audience – or for Instagram likes? Simply, for the Lord. This hard, holy work is for Him and Him alone. This is our mission. This is our aim. This is our call.
I’m so grateful I’m not in this alone…. It's sweet to know that when I have a “motherhood meltdown” that interferes with the mission set before me, I can be confident I’m not the only one.
I’m so thankful to walk alongside you in this ministry. It's vital to have sisters in Christ to help us recalibrate our aim - we are doing this ministry for the Lord, not for the approval and recognition of the world.
And when you have your next meltdown, let me know. I’ll provide the chocolate.