Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Self-Denial of Motherhood

It happens every day.

I sit down to do my Bible study, attempt to catch up with email, drink a cup of tea while it’s still hot, or (God forbid!) go to the bathroom by myself, and I get interrupted. One or the other, or sometimes both, of the sweet, precious little humans I helped make needs something, and once again, my needs get pushed aside.

So often I let myself get frustrated easily. Can’t I ever get five minutes to myself? I grumble silently. I never get any alone time. If somebody wakes up early in the morning or from naptime, my first reaction is disappointment for not getting time to do what I want or need to do.

But a recent discussion at the moms’ Bible study I attend gave me some much-needed perspective. First of all, I do get time to myself, at least a little bit every day (and it’s almost always much more than five minutes!). Sometimes I don’t use that time very well (looking at you, Facebook), but I do get it.

Second, motherhood is all about setting aside my own needs for the needs of my children. That doesn’t mean that my needs don’t get met, of course; I do get sleep, food, showers, and a chance to go to the bathroom! But my needs are rarely met according to my terms or my timeline. That’s just part of life as a mom of small children.

More importantly, though, that’s part of life as a Christian. Our Bible study discussion centered on Luke chapter 9, where Jesus taught his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). As a Christian, all my actions, words and attitudes should reflect those of Jesus. Everything he did, he did for others, and nowhere was that selflessness demonstrated more vividly than on the cross. He literally “took up his cross,” carrying it to Calvary, and was willingly nailed on it, in order to pay for my sins and the sins of the whole world.

That grumbling and complaining I do when my kids “interrupt” my plans? Jesus took care of those sins. Those nasty words I snap at my husband when I’m short on patience and sleep? Gone, paid for on the cross. That bad attitude I get when naptime ends or morning starts too soon? Erased by Jesus’ blood.

By making me a mother, Jesus has given me a perfect opportunity to learn how to be more like him. No other role in my life requires as much self-sacrifice and selfless love as that of mommy. No other vocation requires me to “deny myself and take up my cross daily.” My children are amazing, loving, precious, sweet little boys, but like me they are sinners, and they are small children with lots of little but immediate needs throughout the day. Meeting those needs requires me to put my children first, and deny my natural, sinful tendencies towards selfishness, laziness, pride, unkindness, and impatience.

Despite its challenges, motherhood is an immense privilege and joy, and if I remember to look at this role with an eternal mindset, it becomes a vocation with eternal significance. Changing diapers, nursing babies, fixing snacks, tucking small boys into bed, all become little acts of worship to my heavenly Father, little expressions of my love for him expressed in my love for my children. As Jesus denied himself for my sake, I am privileged to mimic that in a small way for the sake of the little ones entrusted to me.

This time of mothering tiny, needy people is short. Soon I’ll be able to take an hour for Bible study, drink my tea hot, and go to the bathroom unaccompanied. But in every season of motherhood I know God will use new ways to continue to mold and shape me to be more like him.

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