Finding Redemption in Motherhood

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The image of modern motherhood is held to an impossible standard, measured by the twin tragedies of comparison and resigned failure. But Christ can redeem this blessing turned burden if we focus on Him.

God created me to be a Type A person (read: perfectionist) and then allowed me to endure the struggles of depression and infertility. He eventually then blessed me with four children between my 27th and 35th birthdays. Over the course of those seven years, I went from overachiever to snarky mom. From seeing children as a blessing to seeing them as a burden. Neither extreme is much fun.

When my firstborn was six months old, at my regular weekly Bible study group, I watched a mom whose son was two weeks younger than mine prop her baby successfully on the blanket in front of her. I was shocked because my son couldn’t sit up yet. However, I proceeded to throw his baby blanket on the floor in front of my feet and continually try to sit him up, only to watch him keel over time and again. 

I felt embarrassed, threatened. Then guilty for being embarrassed and threatened. It was ridiculous to compare my mothering successes to another’s, and at the expense of my son. Talk about a mom fail. (But I proudly fed my son unprocessed food, washed his pacifier every time it hit the ground, and taught him sign-language by ten months old.)

Seven years and three kids later, I find myself on the opposite side of the motherhood spectrum. I laugh with knowing cynicism at the snarky mom blogs, proudly post my own mom sarcasm on social media and throw back another glass of wine in not-so-well-hidden sorrow. Motherhood is too hard, there’s no way I’m winning THAT award, and I feel hopeless. 

The Perfect Mom

But my Father God has different plans for me, and it’s about time I accept them.

The picture of the good wife painted in Proverbs 31 can seem an impossible standard to meet. She works, cooks, cleans, makes her family’s clothes, supports her husband’s career and manages all the servants. She handles finances, advises her husband, and, of course, raises the children. 

And after doing all that, she apparently knocked it out of the park, because her family praised her. 

“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also…. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:27-30 English Standard Version)

But it’s that last part that speaks to the true value God finds in this woman, and in me and you. A Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t try to do it all on her own. Her faith is in the Lord.

“I Will Never Forget You”

Our souls cannot be fulfilled with perfect Bento boxes or cabinets well-stocked with wine. We can pat ourselves on the back when we send them off to school with bunny-shaped sandwiches instead of screaming. And it’s okay to occasionally end the day with a tall glass of red. It’s when we find ourselves tending toward either extreme, looking for worldly approval or shared misery, that we need to turn our eyes to Jesus.

To say I get overwhelmed as a mother of four, two with special needs, is an understatement. And though I gravitate towards impossible standards for my family, I also easily sink into the lies of failure. When I focus on who God is, I remember:

  • My kids are going to be okay because God loves them even more than I do.
  • He has plans for me, many of which don’t involve motherhood, that are also part of who I am.
  • He knows every right and wrong thing I have done, and He has not forsaken me nor will he ever.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15, ESV)

Whether it's the pressures of being the Pinterest perfect mom or its counter-image of the snarky, wine-guzzling mom, motherhood feels like an impossible burden to bear. Where can we find our joy again? By remembering our Creator designed us for many things, and His grace abounds. I believe God’s design for motherhood looks much more like a beautiful mess, and less like a hot mess. 

He knew who our children would be and He gave them to us anyway. Not because we could handle them, but because we can’t. He wanted to use our problems with motherhood as yet another path to a closer relationship with Him, taking our fears and failings to His feet. Motherhood is imperfect by design, to bring us to our knees, seeking guidance from God. Through Christ’s redemption on the cross, we are already forgiven, our messes will be redeemed, and through it all, we show our children who God is for us so they can learn who He is to them.

Instead of striving for Pinterest standards, let’s seek God’s standards (you know, the ones full of love and grace). Instead of wallowing in self-pity, let’s immerse ourselves in the hope we have in Christ, that tomorrow is a new day and love wins. Let’s share the good news: our experience with motherhood, no matter how messy, can be redeemed!

ESV brought to you by Crossway (a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers)

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WomanhoodKathie Harris