How Does She Do It?

The Making of an Atypical Woman

“How does she do it?”

It’s a question we often think when we see someone doing something out of our range or capacity. I remember watching a mom with many kids volunteer, serve, prepare meals (for her family and others), while I held my first newborn all day and wasn’t sure how to keep the house clean or get supper on the table.

Imagine my shock when ten years later I found myself in a situation — not unlike the mom I’d observed all those years prior — when a new mom said to me, “I don’t know how you do it! I only have one, and I’m barely getting by!” When had I become that older mom? It had happened so slowly. Day after day, week after week, year after year.

God was slowly adding weight to my load. Sometimes it was noticeable, but more often it was imperceptible. I told the young mom, “I wasn’t given all of this at once.” God has grown and continues to grow me right alongside my kids and my responsibilities.

Spent Yet Full

Now I look at women farther down the road than I am — women who are available to babysit grandkids at the drop of a hat (with joy!), who can whip up a meal for twenty or thirty or more on very short notice, who are writing curriculums and going overseas, who are organizing graduations and weddings and baby showers while handling the full-time care of their own aging parents, who serve and serve and serve in the local church — and I still say, “How do they do it?” The pouring out never seems to stop, yet they always seem to be full!

“He takes us — the un-super, regular, sometimes scraping-by women — and he works on us.”

I have the same sense of awe as I did when I was barely getting out the door with my newborn and couldn’t fathom how the mom with multiple kids managed to have all hers dressed, present, and cheerful.

Yet, isn’t that the beauty of God’s work in our lives? He takes us — the un-super, regular, sometimes scraping-by women — and he works on us. He gives us something to carry, not everything. He gives milk when milk is needed, then switches us over to solids at just the right time. Yet, even with his patient pacing, we often spit out the real food in favor of the bottle (1 Corinthians 3:2).

He takes a typical Christian woman, simply plodding along in seasons that span decades, and bit by bit he transforms her into something as atypical as they come. He makes her his — “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). She barely notices the changes in herself — being so in the habit of looking to Christ instead.

The Poison of Comparison

So many of our disciple-making efforts fall flat because we don’t know people well enough to gauge the load God’s prepared them to bear at this moment in time. How do we “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, [or] help the weak” when we don’t know who is who (1 Thessalonians 5:14)?

We look at the young mom with the newborn and compare her to the older mom. We think her responsibilities are smaller, therefore she should be able to do more elsewhere. We forget that her capacity may also be smaller, because she’s at the beginning stages of growing into motherhood. We forget that mothers are children, too — God’s children. And he grows us up as mothers alongside the children he’s given us.

“God gives us each something to carry, not everything.”

Of course, these truths apply everywhere, not just to moms. God’s growing all his children. If you just started a business, you should expect that your capacity for work and productivity will be smaller and less effective than the person who’s been steadily increasing their responsibilities for twenty years. If you’re a young pastor, you should expect that your capacity for equipping the saints and bearing burdens and defending the sheep from the wolves will not be the same as the man who’s been laboring for his lifetime. But God will not leave you where you are right now. He knows exactly how to get you from point A to point B, from immaturity to maturity, from an exhausting walk around the block to a steady marathoner (Ephesians 4:11–14).

One important thing we can do as we walk alongside those who are spiritually younger than us, who long to grow, yet who have smaller capacities for service, is to encourage them rather than shame them. Applaud good efforts. Cheerlead, but don’t belittle. Strengthen, but don’t exhaust. Stretch them, but don’t exasperate them. And whether our years on earth are many or few, we keep setting an example by our lives (1 Timothy 4:12).

Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

I remember how my arms would get so tired when our first baby was put in them. I had no endurance, no practice holding babies for long periods of time. My muscles have strengthened since then. I can hold our youngest, a 5-year-old boy, longer than most grown men because of the gradual increase of weight over time.

“God is in the business of growing you and your capacity: for work, for joy, for others, for him.”

So, whatever your situation, remember that God is in the business of growing you and your capacity: for work, for joy, for others, for him. He’s working on you — giving you fit arms and legs. He knows how to teach us to strengthen our weak knees and lift our drooping hands (Hebrews 12:12). He knows how to make grace abound (2 Corinthians 9:8). He knows how to grow you up in him.

It may seem imperceptible, but ten, twenty, thirty years from now may we all stand back in gratitude and awe at how much he’s grown us.