I wrote a blog post about all the quirky things mothers do and was going to schedule it’s posting for Mother’s Day, and then I got on Facebook. I observed something that deeply saddened my heart, and I’ve been praying about it all week.
Today, I’m writing to the Church. I say that, in advance, because change can only happen because of the Spirit’s work. Ladies, we have some serious issues with each other, even within the Body of Christ, and these issues aren’t anything new. Look backward with me for just a sec, and then I’ll explain myself.
In the first book of the Bible (Gen. 30) we read about all the drama between Leah and Rachel revolving around child-bearing. Leah could conceive, yet remained unloved by Jacob, so she was jealous of Rachel. And Rachel was loved by Jacob, but remained barren. When Rachel finally conceived, she said, “God has taken away my reproach!” which begs us to ask why she felt reproach when she was without child. We know that in those times, fertility equaled blessing, but Rachel’s inner desire for a baby could have possibly added more pain to the sense of reproach. However, I really wonder how much Leah’s ability to conceive several times, even having the boldness to say, “God has endowed me with a good endowment,” and naming her 6th son Zebulun, meaning, “honor,” played into Rachel’s reproach, as well.
Ladies, we are no different than Rachel and Leah. Jealousy, pain, and pride often dictate how we respond to other women in and out of the Body of Christ. I have seen mothers belittle anyone outside of the “mom club” as they overly emphasize the blessings and hardships of motherhood. I have listened to envious comments over the time (or money) that they have to invest in other things besides family (career, the community, etc.). I say this next statement with sensitivity to and an exclusion of those who are genuinely grieving the loss of a baby or infertility (so cover your ears if you fall into that category). And I hate to say, women without children have the potential to be no different than mothers. Envy can seep into hearts in the same way that Sarai held Hagar in contempt after Hagar’s pregnancy, and pride can give way to hateful comments that belittle a mother’s role or a specific mother’s imperfections in parenting. I was the victim of such comments, myself, when I was newly married and unexpectedly pregnant, and the comments came primarily from Christian women.
A competitive breed we are, which shows each of us, at both ends of the spectrum, need Jesus.
I don’t think the problem lies in a woman’s desire for children. God created human bodies with the ability to procreate, and He created mothers with the unique general tendency toward nurturing relationships, so we know the desire for children is good. I also don’t think the problem lies in mothers counting their children as blessings. When the Spirit resides in a mother, He gives her a heart of gratefulness and a response of praise. But when desire becomes envy, and praise becomes pride (as if we have anything to do with the timing of the natural opening and closing of the womb), we compete, and Jesus is not glorified in that.
Here’s a bigger problem. Somehow, we took the truth that “children are a blessing,” and transformed the role of mother to those “little blessings” into the highest calling we can attain. As you know, I am a mom of 3, but may I alarm you by saying something? Though I am beyond grateful for my children, motherhood is not my highest calling. My highest calling is to be “conformed to the image of Christ,” to BECOME LIKE HIM (Romans 8:29), and God is not limited to using children to conform and transform women.
This is a very freeing truth. If my highest calling is motherhood, then every imperfection (and there are quite a few) in my parenting heaps shame upon my back and every seemingly good thing I do heaps pressure to succeed again. Motherhood is burdensome if it is my highest calling because it rests on MY bearing children and MY work toward perfection. I am also prone to compare my motherhood with the motherhood next door. I am prone to be envious of women who “have it all together,” and get prideful when I see a woman without children. For the woman without children, if your highest calling is motherhood, then you have to live with the weight of reproach and emptiness from the lack of children. You are nothing without them, forever discontented if you do not have children.
However, because, in Christ, our highest calling is being conformed to the image of Christ, then the childless woman is free from reproach and the mother is free from shame. We are free from competition, united together, contented in the Sovereignty of God, and actively being sanctified side-by-side, hand-in-hand by someone else, the Spirit. Our sanctification stories will look different (because God gets a lot of glory out of His creativity), but each of us will have equally beautiful and eternally purposeful lives.
This is not meant to downplay motherhood or childlessness. God is absolutely concerned with the ins and outs of our lives, and He sees our grief, tiredness, and desperation. But, if we understand that our highest calling is something eternal, sovereignly orchestrated by God, more marvelous than the desires of our hearts on this earth, ultimately pointing to HIM rather than US, then we are more prone to rejoice.
What I have pondered this week is what would happen if we women within THE Church began rejoicing over other women living out that highest calling instead of comparing motherhood with childlessness?
What would happen if mothers stopped saying things like, “WHEN you start your family [fill in the blank with something wonderful],” as if children were the sign that “you’ve arrived” and saw the beauty in women (perhaps even their own daughters!) who are more excited about sharing the Gospel than trying to “follow their dreams?”
What would happen if women without children stopped saying things like, “I don’t think she was ready for children,” as if they were more sovereign than God, and saw the beauty of a momma whom God sovereignly chose to refine through her children?
What would happen if mothers didn’t downsize the heartache of infertility and those without children didn’t downsize the heartache of parenting? What would happen if they chose to pray over each other than pretend to understand?
What would happen if we started rejoicing over lives being actively transformed by the Gospel with as much excitement and anticipation as we rejoice at the news of a pregnancy?
What would happen if we chose to daily recognize that God has graciously adopted the undeserved, whether married or single, mother of 19 children or infertile, and every other phase of life in between as His children to spread the Gospel and His Glory to the ends of the earth as a united force?
Perhaps then mothers would recognize the need for women without children who treasure Jesus, love and serve selflessly, and desire to be conformed to the image of Christ above all else. And perhaps women without children would recognize the need for an overhaul of the current snapshot of the American family with an uprising of moms who treasure Jesus, love and serve selflessly, and desire to be conformed to the image of Christ above all else. Then maybe, just maybe, we could celebrate on behalf of each other, that God is glorifying Himself by creatively sanctifying us in different ways. And maybe, just maybe, we’d be freed from the silly comparison games we play.
I am praying for a revival in Body of Christ with women who would do just that. Less games. More rejoicing.