I have realized over the past few years that I live in a bubble of middle to upper class American mothering mentality. I do not understand nor encounter the challenges of a single mom in a poverty stricken life. Nor do I attempt to speak to that life. I do not get it. Never walked in those shoes. But this place where the Lord has allowed us to live our family life, this place where many moms have the option to work or stay at home, invest in their children or invest in themselves, I feel is something I can speak to.
When the girls were both under the age of two, or three, or four even we would head out for our day knowing that some odd comment might be made. There was the woman (white) who came over to me and whispered "what a great thing you are doing for these kids!", inferring that because our skin color wasnt the same, that I had picked them up from some ghetto and was giving them a better life. Or the comments on how close they were together in age, like the one from our pastors wife, "you do know how birth control works dont you?" Or there were the voices of family, women my age or younger and even friends who, upon hearing our decision for me to stay at home regardless of the financial burden, expressed their pity. I still have that even today.
Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers - lie from the pits of hell - and all of this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen!
Children, according to the majority of the voices telling me how to live my life, ranked way below my college education, "you spent all that money and now are wasting it?" Way below world travel, "you cant go anywhere or have any freedoms once you have kids!" Way below the ability to go on dates or enjoy my husband, "you will never have any privacy unless you get a nanny, and you certainly cant afford that not working!". And seriously below any job I may have or hoped to get. "You have become the ultimate woman: an interior design firm all your own, based from your Ralph Lauren clients and travels!" In fact, apparently my children rated below my desire to sit around and read design or fashion magazines while drinking coffee, if that is what I wanted to do! Certainly, as an adult woman, I should be able to do what I want to do! Below everything these children rated! Even ministry. Yes, certainly my children ranked below any bible study I might lead or mentoring group I might guide. Children were, apparently, the last thing I should ever spend my time doing. No one put it exactly that way of course, they were far too Christian for that. But when futher examined... that is exactly what they meant.
How much did I listen to these partial truths and half lies? So much that I bought them and drempt constantly of life alone, pursued my personal dreams/desires to work at Ralph Lauren and ultimately to open my own design firm. And boy did the accolades come in! I was so proud! I was so praised! But never was I able to put to death the truth I knew which was this: the story people will read of my life will be my investment in these children. I do not want to be known as the bible study teacher who sent her kids to be discipled elsewhere, or the interior designer who appeared in 6 publications this month but didnt demonstrate the openhanded submission her mouth spoke of. I didnt want my children to see me as a fake. But I was a fake. The only way out of that cycle of clinging to self then clinging to God was to place both hands on one side. And even after that choice full Peace did not come immediately.
I make enemies using those words. I know that. Gnashing of teeth and such. There is a reason for that.
Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. Hobbies are defined as things "done for pleasure and undertaken in ones leisure time." How many children/teenagers fit exactly into that category? Moms love on their kids until it becomes difficult and then throw their hands in the air wanting someone else to solve it (done for pleasure)? Or only have time for their kids AFTER they have led their bible studies, worked at their beloved or "needed" career/project for the day (undertaken in ones leisure time)? Tell me how that is not seeing motherhood as a hobby?
More enemies, I know.
The moms I admire most, and those that leave a legacy of life behind them, are the ones who carry their children in hostile territory armed and ready. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike whether you are in the city or the suburbs. In the city you are clearly devaluing your educational choices and not living up to your adult potential. In the suburbs you are just missing out on the fun you could be having. But you, standing there with them, are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel. I know many moms of young ones who are doing that, many who read here. I write this for you today because you are making good choices, life giving choices, legacy writing choices and I encourage you to continue. Read that last sentence again. I mean it.
What are we afraid of when we choose to hold on to our lives, our entitlements, our dreams, our..., our...? What do we really think we will lose? Ourselves? Isnt that when Jesus said that we would really live? Laying down anything that you really treasure (love) is really scary. But our life as Believers is about a resurrected life - one that died but has risen! What might your life become if it were to die to self and be resurrected? Could you be brave enough to walk it out and see? What do you have to lose? Yourself? Remember what Jesus said. Do you believe Him?
What I know is that Jesus loved children and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. Our God takes pleasure in our children, so we should also. But I remember when I was listening to all those voices telling me who and what I should be - I found it hard to delight in my children...they seemed a burden. Because I was listening to the enemys lies being stated by those around me. What is the Truth you know about how God sees your role as mother? What is His priority? What does He say about children? Do you know?
The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? I did! Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely? If not, how do you get to a place where that freedom of love flows? I think many want to get there, but are exhausted and dont know how. I know I was.
It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.
Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty and life.
Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to your children than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it.I wish I had understood that better when our girls were small. I thank God for those around me who know it while theirs are little.
If you find yourself somewhere in these thoughts today, can you look yourself in the mirror and stop the self clinging - turning instead to cross clinging? I promise, there is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than, truly, you could ask or imagine. Losing yourself will change your life. But only in great, great ways.
Only you know your true heart priorities. But many can tell by looking at your life whether you are living them out or not.