Good morning! It's November, the whole month we dedicate to gratitude. Honestly, I'm just grateful to have survived October. It is wholly appropriate that the month ended for us with a ginormous storm. When I set about (rather foolishly) to write every day in October about the mission of motherhood, I had no idea what a wild ride it would be. God has been very direct in answering my questions. I come to this space on November 2 with a very different sense of mission than just a month ago. I'm still committed to writing 31 days on this topic. No promises about when I'll finish:-).
Chapter Four of the The Mission of Motherhood,is entitled "The Servant Mother." Lots of young moms struggle with the concept of laying down their lives for their children. Whether they want to balance a career with motherhood or they are mothers at home who claim a good deal of private time and space and expect their children to fit into neat little corners of their days, it is not an unusual struggle. I admit that this particular struggle was not mine. I definitely had those exhausted days when I felt like I couldn't put one foot in front of the other, but I didn't have the common resentment towards my children that many women describe. That just wasn't me.
I was fortunate in my early mothering days to be influenced by a community of women that was very much of the opinion that there was absolutely nothing better out there for a woman than to be "all in" for motherhood. I'm grateful for those mentor moms. I think there was a grace to those days. It's not all perfect scenario, though. With the "all in" message came another: if you parent this way, if you are attached to your children and committed to raising them in the heart of the Church, they will grow up straight and true. You will not have the terrible teens or wayward twenties. You will defy all those stereotypes of our society. Looking back, I wonder if I was truly laboring for the Lord with a servant's heart or if I was employing tremendous work ethic towards the faulty guarantees. Probably a litle of both.
I find myself now in a position simlar to the one Sally was in when she wrote the book. I have slightly younger children than her youngest at the time and slightly older ones than her oldest (and a whole bunch more in between), but I'm essentially at the same parenting place. In all honestly, I can't make you any guarantees in the what-your-child-will-be department. I've seen in my own house and in other families with servant mothers that this way of life is not a foolproof method for ensuring our children turn out perfectly. It's just not. So, it's probably not a good idea to be a servant mother because you think that's the way to churn out perfect children.
It is, however, a really good way to allow God to work on our own souls. This pouring out of ourselves into our husbands and our children and our homes is God's will for us. We entrust our children to Him and we go forward with full faith that He will answer our prayers for the good of their souls and then, we just set out to be the best we can be. We love wholeheartedly because that's the way He loved.
When my days are long and the laundry mountain grows instead of dwindles despite the constant humming of machines, when boys who are taller than me say things that wound deeply, when a good night's sleep becomes an all-night game of musical beds, I remind myself that Christians are called to suffer. And really? This isn't such a bad way to do it.
On the good days--the ones where something is baking and candles are lit, when she shrieks with glee as something for her comes off the sewing machine, when his eyes light up because he finally "gets" fractions-- I thank Him for the contentment in my heart and ask Him to gently remind me that there are days such as these even when discouragement creeps in. And I beg Him to let them remember these days. I want the good days to be their memories.
Over time, I've learned that serving doesn't mean trading my own health for meeting the whims of my children. I've learned that--for some of us--one of the challenges of serving is learning to set limits on our own commitments and our children's demands in order to ensure that we are all healthy and well enough to keep serving. Being a servant mother isn't being a doormat. It's being a prudent servant of all our resources--physical, emotional, and spiritual.
This motherhood gig isn't a short-term mission. The stages of our children's development change quickly and we are called upon to respond with grace even as we learn anew how to mother. This is a dynamic mission field in every sense of the word. Recently, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus commented on married spouses and their true vocation as missionaries. He said, "Love, which the family has the task of living and communicating, is the driving force of evangelization. It is what allows the proclamation of the Gospel to permeate and transform the whole temporal order. This love alone, when it is authentically lived in families, can be at the basis of a renewal of that genuinely human culture which Blessed John Paul II called a 'civilization of love.'"
My children know when I'm discouraged, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Like any missionary life, my days are long and fraught with challenges. They know it. I hate that. I don't want to be the model of grumbling and complaining. It is my greatest hope that when they see in me that this marathon seems too daunting that they will also see me dig deep into the well that is faith. When they see me stumble (and they always do), that they will also see Jesus steady my step.
I hope that my children know home and family as a civilization of love. And I hope that they will live out that love in their own homes and families, secure in the love they lived in childhood. I also know, though, that each of them will have unique friendships with Jesus. The paths they each walk with Christ may not look the way I envisioned them. He will be there for them, offering Gospel grace. My mission is to be sure they know the grace is theirs for the taking and to live my own life in such a way that Christ is real to them. If I am faithful to my own mission, I have to trust that God has a plan and hope that my children will embrace that plan as the mission in their lives. As with any Christian mission, this one is not complete until we all get to heaven.
We aren't servant mothers because that's how to guarantee perfect children. We are servant mothers because we love. And Christ shows us how to love perfectly. When we try to love as He did, when we keep on letting Him mold us into His own image (despite the persecutions that may happen in our own households even), our genuine friendship with Jesus deepens. In the end, maybe being a servant is sort of all about us.
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Are you thinking about the mission of motherhood, too? I'm going to join The Nester for 31 Days. I'm going to host a 31 day "retreat" here to remind myself (and anyone who wants to come along) of the mission of motherhood and matrimony. If you want to do your own 31 Days on anything you choose, head here and join! If you want to retreat from the noise of the 'net for a month and focus your own sweet home and family, grab a “Remind Myself of the Mission” button and curl up with a candle, your Bible, and this good book! Let me know your thoughts below. We can help each other hear His mission. You can add a Remind Myself button by cutting and pasting the code below.
Click here for the whole series.