Motherhood Is Application
Note: This article now appears in Desiring God’s free ebook Mom Enough, available in three electronic formats, as well as paperback.
If I had to pick one word to describe motherhood, I think that word would be “transforming.”
The days of a busy mother are made up of millions of transformations. Dirty children become clean, the hungry child fed, the tired child sleeping. Almost every task a mother performs in the course of a normal day could be considered a transformation. Disorder to order, dirty clothes to clean, unhappy children to peaceful, empty fridge to full. Every day we fight against disorder, filth, starvation, and lawlessness, and some days we might almost succeed. And then, while we sleep, everything unravels and we start again in the morning — transforming.
Days of these little cycles add up and suddenly you see a big transformation. A nursing infant has become a boy on a bicycle, a baby bump has grown into a toddler, and children have been changed into brothers and sisters.
Then there is the kind of transformations that we do — not because we work at it, but because we were created to do it. You eat your lunch, and your body transforms it into nourishment for a baby. Taking something too big for an infant, and still finding a way to feed them with it — with the goal of growing them up to do it themselves.
Pregnancy and nursing are only a small part of a child’s life though — and this cycle is clearly not only a physical one. It is the spiritual cycle of food that is so much more important, and so much less talked about. Christian mothering is a constant cycle of nourishment — both physical and spiritual.
We Apply What We Believe
In the same way we take the food we eat and make it into something the baby can eat (and our bodies simply do this without us willing them to), so we take what we believe about God and the gospel and faith and life, and we apply it in the places that seem too little for it.
Imagine yourself in your kitchen trying to make dinner for a group of little kids who are tired and should have eaten a half hour ago. Imagine that things are going wrong beyond that — maybe you are out of something you assumed you had, children are fussing with one another, and maybe your littlest is still at the age where they come stand on your feet and pull on your pant leg. Bonus points if you are wearing maternity pants and this little person is actually capable of pulling your pants down. You are hot, you are tired, and you are sick of it.
This is no time for a gospel presentation. There isn’t time. There isn’t anyone to lead the discussion around the felt board, because you are still scrambling to figure out dinner. This isn’t a time for a gospel presentation because it is a time for gospel application. This is a time to take the grace that God has extended to you, and feed your children with it. Apply what you believe about God’s mercy and kindness and long suffering towards us, and pour it out to them — in a form they can believe in. Unrest like this is just like a baby crying for a bottle — only what they need is spiritual milk. They need you to feed them, not with a lecture, but with application.
You Have Everything You Need
Mothering is a job that is full of difficult moments. Diapers blow out in stores when you have too much in your cart to just walk out. Sudden carsickness can leave you pulled over on the side of the road wondering just how much can be done with half a bag of wet wipes. You need to take what you believe and apply it to these difficult moments. Does the Bible teach us that God is disgusted by our frailty? That he doesn’t want to carry our burdens? That he doesn’t have the energy to deal with us?
The good news is, you don’t need to have been through some elite mother’s training camp to apply the gospel in your life. You need to believe. Trust God, give thanks. Laugh. Believe — and that will feed your children. Rest in God, and your children will learn to. Extend God’s kindness to you, to them. Forgive them the way God forgave you. You have everything you need to spiritually nourish your children, because you have Christ.
The gospel is not just something to talk about Sunday morning while you are in clean clothes and the kids are looking orderly. It is not limited to quiet times and reflective moods. It is something to apply while you are in a difficult position in the back of the car trying to buckle a child up who is playing the kazoo and needs their nose wiped.
God is not above these moments. He is teaching us, and leading us, and refining us, in them. He wants to see our faith in action. He wants to see us feeding our children with the grace that he has given to us.
Mimic the Gospel
Of course, this side of heaven we will not do perfectly. Harsh words will be spoken, patience will wear thin. Frazzled mothers will act frazzled. And when this happens, our own sinfulness does not detract from the power of the gospel, it illustrates why we need it. Do not use your own mistakes as an excuse to wallow about what a bad mother you are. Repent, seek forgiveness, get it right, and move on. Believe. Be forgiven. Extend that forgiveness, that belief, that joy, to your children.
As you go about your daily transformations, set your heart on the truth. Mimic the gospel in what you do. Bring peace, bring order, bring joy, bring laughter. Bring it because it was brought to you. Give, because it was given to you. The gospel is not too big to fit into little situations. It is too big not to.
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