Early this morning, while I was still in bed, a friend called me on my cell phone. A young mom of 4, her plate was full with work, family, an ill family member, money issues, and weariness from dealing with her teenager.
All of the stresses in life can seem even more overwhelming at Christmas. We imagine that somehow our lives are unusual because we fight to maintain a "peaceful" spirit of Christmas in a desire to honor the advent of our Lord, and yet, our weariness and moments of the demands of life get the best of us. None of us has a perfect home, a perfect plan, perfect children, a perfect marriage, and yet, the work of building our ideals in the direction of God's design matters every day, all the time.
As my friend and I concluded our phone call, I prayed with her, and we both acknowledged how imperfect our worlds were, and yet, how grateful we had lived long enough to see that our faith and tiny steps of faith had built redeeming stories in both of our lives. It reminded me of another time I saw into the heart of a mama much like me--who sometimes looked at her failures more than the grace of God through her in living out her love through motherhood.
How amazing that we remember, at Christmas, that even Jesus, the perfect son of God, was placed into a family, into the arms of a mother, who sang to him, nursed him, loved him and taught him to love the word of God. Perhaps God was saying, "Yes, family is the best way to bring righteousness in the world. Even in the life of my own son, this fragile, dependent babe, came so innocently coming into the dark world to save it."
Journey with me to another memory when a mama did not feel adequate, but learned to live into this powerful design.
The hotel ballroom was packed full of women from all over California. The hum of excited conversation, laughter, and discussion filled the room. We had just finished the first evening of a conference on becoming a wholehearted mother and were moving toward the exit doors to get some needed sleep. A few women lingered to ask me questions about their children and home or to encourage me about the messages being shared.
One woman, however, stood behind me, conspicuously alone, pulling away from the crowd. With downcast eyes and slumped posture, she waited quietly until all the other women had gone. Then she timidly approached me and said, with tears streaming down her face, "I don't know if I should talk to you or not. You see, I would love to be a great mother to my children, but I don't know if I can. What you spoke about tonight is meaningless to me. My mother was an alcoholic, married three times. My stepfather abused me. I have never experienced a loving relationship in my life. So how can I do something that I have never even seen in real life? I've always longed to feel and give real love, but I don't know if I am capable."
As I travel throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, I continue to meet women who express these same needs and desires and frustrations. Some have suffered the brokenness that results when God's design is ignored. Others, like the women I described in chapter 1, feel confused and adrift in a culture full of conflicting messages about what it means to be a mother.
Many with whom I speak are not Christians; yet they identify a design in their hearts, a deep longing to have a center for life—a home where love, marriage, and children are part of a complete picture.
At the same time, they feel uncomfortable with these desires. Either they have little confidence in their mothering abilities, or they simply can't reconcile their heart longings with their mental image of a successful woman. They long for purpose and meaning and a sense of peace in their homes, but they have no understanding or clear idea of how to grasp what is already written in their hearts.
I think that these women express these desires because they were designed by God to enjoy and affirm in their hearts what we were made to live out in our lives. Yet many have become confused by voices that try to define femininity apart from marriage, physical design, motherhood, or family—and many have been directly damaged by their own families or by a culture that has drifted far from God's design. The yearnings of their hearts are often belittled or subdued by the stronger cultural voices that picture feminine success in terms of emotional independence, career accomplishment, and a kind of personal fulfillment that may have little to do with God's design on their lives and therefore cannot bring real happiness or satisfaction.
The heart of motherhood has been broken by sin's perversion of God's design throughout all of history.
Families have been broken apart. Parents have failed in their calling, and children have rebelled. Men and women have demeaned and mistreated each other and their offspring, and those offspring have passed along the painful results to their own children.
Yet the longing for a stable and secure home and a desire for a defined and meaningful family heritage have remained a foundational part of the human psyche, built into the yearnings of each person. To understand where this came from and why it has persisted, we must go back to the Word of God to examine his original design for mothers and families—and to some of the ways that our culture makes it difficult for women to live as God intended.
God's Word, you see, gives us the map or plan for the family so that we might better understand what he had in mind for us. Few things will last after we die, but our children and their children will live throughout eternity. What we do as mothers, therefore, has eternal significance, so it's especially important to understand God's original intentions in this regard. Exploring his design for families and for motherhood cannot only help us understand what has gone wrong, but also how, with God's help, we can move closer to the joyful, fulfilling, and vitally important role he intended for us from the very beginning.
This Christmas, remember that your family is a holy place, as it was for Jesus, a place where the work of eternity, of bringing glory to God through the love, celebration and living of His truth within its walls.
The Mission of Motherhood discusses this topic in depth and really paints a picture of what motherhood was intended to look like! You can find it here: Mission of Motherhood