Mothering Little Children with a Big God

I remember the night clearly. Fortunately, Ray doesn’t. Baby number three was crying again at one o’clock in the morning, even though at nine months Dane should have been able to sleep through the night. Fearing that he would wake Eric and Krista, who all shared a small bedroom, I had been getting up to comfort and feed him, and now he had come to expect those nighttime visits.

I was exhausted from the daytime demands of three little children and the persistent nighttime needs of a nursing baby, and that night I lost it. When our baby started his routine crying, I looked over at Ray, who was himself sleeping like a baby despite all the noise, and my fatigue and resentment began pouring out through sobs into my pillow. When that didn’t rouse Ray (how do young dads manage to sleep through so much?), I tried shaking his shoulder and crying in his ear. Startled, he sat up suddenly. “Darling, what’s the matter?” he asked, alarmed at my tears. “I’m tired. I’m sooooo tired,” I wailed. “I haven’t slept through the night in months, and there you are snoring while your son is screaming right in the next room! I just can’t do this anymore!”

Fortunately, God gave me a patient and understanding man. We got through the night, and later the next day Ray kindly arranged some time away for me at an older friend’s home. Against my protests about being needed by that crying baby, Ray sent me off for a night of deep, uninterrupted sleep while he managed our three littles. I came home refreshed — and I never knew how often Dane woke up that night because, of course, Ray slept through it all.

“Motherhood calls for the best in us as women — it is where we learn to serve, to become more like Christ.”

Somehow the realities of raising a child for Christ had never entered my maternal fantasies. But very soon after we welcomed our first baby home, I realized that mothering would require more of me than I could possibly give. Where would I find the resources needed to surrender my expectation for sleep when I was tired, or my desire to eat without interruptions, or that longing to withdraw when I felt overwhelmed? During those early years, God used several truths to help me lean into his strength when my fatigue and fears threatened to overtake me.

God Welcomes the Needy

Motherhood is where many women learn to serve. When we are struggling with the responsibilities and demands of motherhood, our deepest problem is not necessarily a busy or insensitive husband, a colicky baby, or a tight budget. Our deepest problem is our predisposition to self-centeredness. Motherhood is tiring and messy and often inglorious.

Every child needs — and deserves — an unearned, unconditional commitment from at least one adult in his life. That kind of commitment is costly. But anything of value is costly: wholehearted devotion to Christ, a life of integrity, a loving marriage — and mothering little ones. Motherhood calls for the best in us as women — it is where we learn to serve, to become more like Christ. We follow the one who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

As we serve our little ones, we can lean into the welcome of the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1). His arms are always open to tired, needy mothers. Not only are his arms open to exhausted mothers — he holds our children very close to his heart. Isaiah 40:11 tells us that he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in his bosom, gently leading those that are with young. Our servant Savior is also our gentle Shepherd. So, when our bodies are spent, he understands and will lead us in ways that will restore our souls (Psalm 23:2–3), strengthening us “with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11).

When we as mothers feel depleted, isolated, and frustrated, we have a choice. We can choose to resist the continual intrusions into our time and space, letting the resentment build. Or we can choose to welcome that needy little one who is highlighting our weakness and showing us our needs. We who know Christ belong to a Savior who welcomes the needy (Matthew 11:28). The strong don’t need him. Let’s keep leaning into him.

Privileges of Motherhood

Mothers lay the foundation for future faith. A mother is the first and primary influence in a child’s life. She sets the emotional tone in her home, shaping the soul of her child, and ultimately playing a vital role in the world because of her God-blessed position. Her child is her investment in the future, bearing the imprint of her mothering throughout his life.

Through your mothering, demanding as it is in these early years, you are blessing your child with the comfort of commitment and the peace of security. You are teaching your child all the values that must be passed on to the coming generations: love, faithfulness, obedience, respect, honesty, generosity. When we serve our children well, we are teaching them to embrace the moral obligations that will eventually help them build solid relationships, healthy marriages, and secure families. Your sensitivity, affection, and unhurried attention are planting seeds that will bear godly fruit in the years ahead.

“Relish the privilege of sending one more vibrant, Christ-loving young man or woman into this sin-saddened world.”

You can set the emotional tone in your home. You can help build an environment for discovery and growth and creativity. You get to counsel and encourage your child to resist the me-centered consumerism that engulfs our world today. You are preparing him for future relationships as you mother him. Your hard work and worthy efforts will teach him how to respect his daddy and love his siblings, how to choose good nutrition and wholesome entertainment, how to value cleanliness and courtesy, and ultimately which fights are worthy of his energies and reputation.

Someone Will Influence Your Child

Think of the privilege of guiding a young mind and heart in his spiritual and intellectual and social development. Think of the blessing of introducing your child to the God of the universe and the eternal truths in his word. Think of the delight of seeing your child tell the truth when it’s hard, and express love instead of selfishness, and show kindness with sincerity. Relish the privilege of sending one more strong, vibrant, Christ-loving young man or woman into this sin-saddened world with the courage to live life well for Christ’s sake. Don’t lose heart!

Someone is going to be influencing your child during his earliest years, inculcating values and imprinting standards on that impressionable young soul. Let it be you. As a grandmother of fifteen, I can assure you that the price you will pay for mothering will fade into insignificance as you see your children grow in Christ, eventually claiming him as their own Lord and Savior. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

As we welcome the privilege of mothering, let’s be women who are willing to pay the price and submit to the sacrifices godly mothering calls for. Let us not neglect what God has called us to do or ignore what he has asked us to be — his servants to the rising generation. It will be worth it. “You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24).