No Longer I Who Mother
Union with Christ (and Small Children)
As moms, our days are often filled with the unexpected and chaotic.
We juggle multiple tasks and demands, all the while trying to anticipate and prevent the next catastrophe before it happens — for those who keep track of emergency-room visits, you know what I mean. Our personal stores of knowledge, patience, and strength are often stretched beyond capacity. The demands on our attention are unceasing. At the end of the day, we find ourselves weary and spent. And we go to sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a lot like today.
In the midst of busy days, it can be easy for us to look for help and hope first and most from created things, rather than from God. It’s easy to turn to substitutes to provide peace and comfort in the chaos. We may distract ourselves with short-term comforts by scrolling through social media, feasting on a favorite treat, searching online for solutions to our problems, or simply counting down the hours to the end of the day.
Dear struggling mom, there’s a rich store of help and hope for us, and it’s not rooted in short-term comforts or pleasures. It’s not found in distractions. Our strength, endurance, and joy can be daily and rigorously rooted in who Christ is for us and who we are in him.
We Mother as Queens
The doctrine of union with Christ is one of those foundational truths we often overlook, or if we do acknowledge it, we fail to grasp its significance. We know it’s true and that we need it, and yet many of us, if we’re honest, struggle to really experience or apply our union with Christ.
“Our union with Christ is not merely a sentiment or a teaching to assent to; it’s a reality. We are his, and he is ours.”
When Jesus Christ came to this earth, he took on human flesh and lived in our fallen world. He sympathizes with our suffering and weakness. He lived the perfect life we could not live and died the death we deserved. Through the gift of faith in who Christ is and what he has done, we are now united to him. As the apostle Paul writes, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). God looks at us and sees us joined to Christ and his righteousness. All that Jesus has, and all that he is, is now ours, as we are his.
In Luther’s work Concerning Christian Liberty, he describes this union through the illustration of a king choosing to marry a harlot. Through their marriage union, the harlot becomes a queen, and all that belongs to the king becomes hers. She is at once royalty; her filthy rags are replaced with royal robes. Not only that, but the king assumed and took on all her transgressions and debts as his own. As Luther writes,
Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all his good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in him, and since she has in her Husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is his, and all his is mine.”
Our union with Christ is not merely a sentiment or a teaching to assent to; it’s a reality. We are genuinely and deeply united to our Savior. We are his, and he is ours.
Mothering in Another’s Victory
Rankin Wilbourne explains union with Christ like this: “When we are in Christ, every part of Christ’s life, not only his death, has significance for us. We share in his life and obedience, his death and his resurrection, even his ascension! We participate in another’s victory” (Union with Christ, 45).
“Christ is for you all that you cannot be for yourself. He is the source and wellspring of all that you need.”
Throughout his letters, Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” to describe our union. “In Christ” we are justified, adopted, sanctified, and glorified (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17). We experience the reality of this union through the Spirit of Christ living within us. On the evening before Jesus was betrayed, he promised his disciples that the Spirit would come and live within them. In fact, he said it was good that he leave them for now, so that the Spirit could come (John 16:7).
The Holy Spirit is the down payment, the promise and seal that we belong to Christ (Ephesians 1:13–14). We experience fellowship with God through the Spirit. He is our Comforter and Advocate. He encourages us, convicts us, teaches us, and intercedes for us. We now live, and mother, by the Spirit and not by the flesh (Romans 8:9).
Union in the Life of Motherhood
What does union with Christ have to do with life as mom? How does it intersect with our daily life and give us hope as we strive to love our children?
When you are changing your twentieth diaper for the day, and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything else, you can remember that you are united to Christ. If you mother heartily, as to the Lord, knowing you will receive your reward from him, your parenting brings him glory (Colossians 3:23–24). When you labor for the glory and praise of Christ, no matter how seemingly menial or repetitive your work, it’s never wasted. Through Christ’s perfect work on your behalf, your labors are made holy in the sight of God. He sees your genuine, Spirit-filled love and care for your children, and he is glorified by it (1 Corinthians 10:31; 16:14).
When you feel like a failure as a mom because your child had a tantrum on the floor of the local grocery store, and everyone turned and stared at you, you can remember that your child’s performance is not what gives your life meaning and purpose. Your worth and value is not based on how well you mother or how well your children behave. It is found, through faith, in who Christ is for you and in you (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:4–5).
When you sin as a mom, when you respond to your children with impatience or anger, remember that through your union with Christ, God accepts his death for your sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Through your union, you also have his Spirit living and working within you, refining you of sin and transforming you into the image of Christ. He will finish what he started and will ready you for the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
When you feel weak, helpless, or insufficient, remember your union with Christ, who is wisdom incarnate (Colossians 2:3). He is your strength. Christ is for you what you cannot be for yourself. He is the source and wellspring of all that you truly need (2 Peter 1:3). Cry out to him for help and hope. Seek his wisdom. He is sufficient.
When your children mature and become less dependent on you, and you start to feel useless, remember that in Christ you were created for good works before time began (Ephesians 2:10). God has important and necessary tasks for you in this new season. Those good works may have been more focused on your children for a time, especially while they were small, but he will use you elsewhere. Through your union with Christ, he will bear fruit in you for his good purposes (John 15:5).
Moms, our days are often filled with challenges that stretch and test us, but we are not alone. We are united by faith to Jesus. Remember that union. Cling to him, draw strength from him, and rejoice in him.