For Moms, Former Moms, and Wannabe Moms

Like any holiday, Mother’s Day is sweet for some and bitter for others. For some, it’s both. I remember feeling on the outside looking in on Mother’s Day, first as a single woman and then after I miscarried our first. Our church had an entrance near the nursery called the Family Entrance. Could I use it? Were we a family? I finally just used it regardless, almost as an act of defiance. Now as the mother of a 3 and 5 year old, I can deeply appreciate someone setting aside parking near an entrance that kept me from having to walk my toddlers across a busy intersection. But at the time I was dealing with emotions that weren’t swayed by practical realities. I just wanted to be a mom. And that sign at the church entrance reminded me I wasn’t.

It is an age-old conundrum in humanity in general and Christianity in particular. How do you honor someone who has something good that you want too? How do you applaud the sacrifices of one without minimizing the suffering of the other? I don’t know exactly, but I do think there is an over arching principle that is helpful.

Motherhood is not the greatest good for the Christian woman. Whether you are a mom or not, don’t get caught up in sentimentalism that sets it up as some saintly role. The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ. Now, motherhood is certainly one of God’s primary tools in His arsenal for this purpose for women. But it is not the end itself. Being a mom doesn’t make you saintly. Believe me. Being a mom exposes all the ways you are a sinner, not a saint. Not being a mom and wanting to be one does too. We may long to get pregnant, looking at motherhood from afar. God sanctifies us through that longing. We may lose a pregnancy or a child, and mourn the loss of our motherhood. God conforms us to Christ through that as well. We may have a brood of children of various ages, and heaven knows God roots sin out of our hearts that way. It’s all about THE greatest good, being conformed to the image of Christ – reclaiming the image of God that He created us to bear through gospel grace. And God uses both the presence and the absence of children in the lives of His daughters as a primary tool of conforming us to Christ.

Single woman watching your biological clock tick away, I encourage you to look today at your longings through the lens of the gospel. You don’t have to deny your longing or talk yourself into a happy attitude for all the good things you can do without kids. It’s OK to mourn the loss. God said children are a blessing. But after the fall, we do not all get to experience that blessing. The gospel makes up the difference. While you are disappointed in deep ways and that disappointment is real, you will one day sit with Jesus in heaven profoundly content with His work in you through this disappointment. In heaven, you will have no longing for something you missed. You will not be disappointed. May confidence in that hope sustain you.

Married woman experiencing infertility, I encourage you with similar words. People can be callous with their words, especially in the church. But believe in confidence that God in this very moment loves you with a deep love. You may feel estranged from Him, knowing that He has the power to give you that sweet infant that He has given so many around you. It seems like He is dangling a desire in front of you, teasing you with it. But understand that unfulfilled desire is a tool He uses to give you even better things – things of Himself that you cannot know in easy ways. Believe in confidence that this time of waiting is not just a holding pattern with no discernible value, but it too is a blessing, albeit in disguise, as it increases your strength to run and not grow weary and to walk and not to faint. Wait on the Lord, dear sister, in confidence.

And mom who fails her children regularly (because that’s everyone else), preach the gospel to yourself this day. If you have any grasp on your reality, you are likely painfully aware of every failure you’ve made with your children. And maybe you are fatigued by the fears of future failure as well. It’s okay that your children expose your own sin to yourself. In fact, it’s the mom who doesn’t seem daily aware of her failures that most concerns me. Christ has made the way for you to be at peace. If you sinned against your kids, ask their forgiveness. If you are kicking yourself for your failures, preach God’s grace to yourself. Don’t learn to live with your sin – don’t embrace it with the attitude “that’s just how I am.” But don’t deny it either. Be honest about it. You sinned. You confess. God forgives. You get up and walk forward in confidence. It’s called gospel grace, and THAT is the legacy to leave your children.

15 Responses to For Moms, Former Moms, and Wannabe Moms

  1. Sarah May 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Thank you for the encouragement this Mother's Day – you have reminded me to see this hard time in my life as a blessing from my sovereign Father. Much praise can be given to Him, even in suffering.

    Sarah

  2. Mx5 May 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Very well said!

  3. Amanda May 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    I struggled with infertility and have forgotten how hard it is. Our identity is not in being married, having children but belonging to such a wonderful God !

  4. Teri Lynne Underwood May 9, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    Thank you for this … as one who used to skip church on Mother's day, I appreciate the thoughtful reminders in this post.

    As I shared in my Sunday School class this morning, it is not being a wife or mother that makes us complete … it is being in relationship with God that we are complete!

  5. Jenn A May 10, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    I'm one of those moms who fails her children regularly. Thank you for this encouragement.

  6. Anonymous May 10, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    Finding out that no, you're still not pregnant just kind sucks when it happens on Mother's Day. That's the way it's been for 30 odd months…but today, it felt a bit like God is just plain cruel. Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. joydriven May 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    34/single here, but taking away something from what you addressed to women in all 3 of these categories:

    “don’t have to deny your longing or talk yourself into a happy attitude for all the good things you can do without kids. It’s OK to mourn the loss. God said children are a blessing. But after the fall, we do not all get to experience that blessing. The gospel makes up the difference”

    “like He is dangling a desire in front of you, teasing you with it…. Unfulfilled desire is a tool He uses to give you even better things – things of Himself that you cannot know in easy ways. Believe in confidence that this time of waiting is not just a holding pattern with no discernible value, but it too is a blessing, albeit in disguise, as it increases your strength”

    “fatigued by the fears of future failure…. Christ has made the way for you to be at peace…. If you are kicking yourself for your failures, preach God’s grace to yourself”

    Thanks again, Wendy. These words have clout (i.e., messy, bloody-sweaty-teary genuineness rather than questionable triteness) coming from you–not only because I know you've lived it but because I've seen/still see you living it.
    ~ joy mc.

  8. Anonymous May 10, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Wendy, thank you for writing this. As one who is in the midst of my own season of infertility, I have been tremendously encouraged by your writing on the subject, and I'm so thankful that somebody GETS it.

    This Sunday, my pastor's introductory statement to the sermon was, “A woman's highest calling is motherhood,” and with that I had to leave the service. I know he meant to honor mothers, and I appreciate that… I have a mother, and I want to honor her. But that statement is as false as it is hurtful. I've been trying to practice what you've preached here, trying to preach the gospel to myself in the midst of my longing. It hurts. It's gutwrenching really. But I don't want to waste this time, and I know I can't skip over it. God has placed me here in order to shape me into Christ's image, in order to fulfill his purpose in me, and THAT, today is my highest calling.

    -R

  9. Wendy May 11, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    Thanks, Joy!!!

    Thanks also for the anonymous comments. I am SO sorry that you found out you weren't pregnant on mother's day. I hear you when you say it just seemed cruel. It does!!! But He's not cruel, and I pray that you won't give up wrestling with Him on how this very hard thing is still consistent with His very good character and His unfailing compassion on you. I pray He opens your eyes to something beautiful about Himself through that bitter pain.

    As for the pastor who opened the service that way, I can only say, “Wow!” I don't know what else to say. That's just not correct, and I don't know what exactly pastors are trying to over compensate for when they choose that type of terminology.

  10. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    It's wonderful to remind people that we are being conformed to Christ regardless of what our life is like, but your obvious lack of understanding of long-term singleness (speaking of those called to marriage; others may have a different experience) is very distressing to me. To post anything that might discourage people from at least praying that God would have mercy on our families, that makes it look in any way like it's no big deal, is horribly offensive (and far more upsetting than going to church on Mother's Day). Believe me, we are excruciatingly painfully aware of our edification every moment of every day, and there is no break, ever–no matter where one goes or what one does. You can look back on your life and have actual times–when you were single, when you were trying to have a child–and see/have experienced God's help in your life in a very real way, unlike those of us who must tell ourselves the words of Scripture without ever experiencing God's help/mercy/fulfillment of His promises in our families (for, in my case, eighteen years). At the very least, you could pray for marriages–even if, God forbid, we are too old to have children (I am 39), at least we could adopt! There is no example that fits this situation exactly, but doing the best I can, if a car falls on top of me, you can tell me as long as you want how edifying it is and how we are the same in God's eyes, etc., etc., but I would appreciate it if you could at least also do all you can, even if all you can do is pray, to get the car off of me!

  11. Wendy May 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    Anonymous, I don't know if you're still reading responses, but I'll respond nonetheless. You are hurting. I hear that. You have misread my numerous blog posts on singleness and infertility if you think I don't encourage women to persevere in prayer over the issue. But I think you mistake the nature of the car on top of you. I've written another post on this here.

    http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2010/05/all-you-single-ladies-or-at-least-those.html

    You may or may not agree, but I maintain that while persevering prayer for a husband is a right response, marriage will not get the car off of you. In fact you may wake up after marriage and feel the weight of the car 10 times worse.

  12. Anonymous May 22, 2010 at 5:49 am #

    I see your point, certainly if one marries unwisely. I also see your point, had I married in my 20s, when I (and probably many people) put marriage on too high a pedestal as “the answer” and expect too much from it. The difficulty I spoke of arises when, in all other areas of life, I see struggle and success, good times and bad, times when things looked impossible and then seeing God work things out, suffering and then growth and change, God using circumstances to show us our sin (including those that affect all our situations) so we can repent and He can transform us, etc., etc., i.e., over time, ups and downs, but in this area, nothing but utter devastation. It's discouraging beyond words to be in the spot that you wrote of being for a couple years for almost two decades. I'm exhausted. I would be so grateful for the rest of my days just for any blessings/good times in this area, just to spend any time with my future husband, just to see my children's faces (just having them be alive so that they can, I pray, spend eternity with the Lord). And in case I was forgetful of the past, there are 18 years of journals to read to remind me. I read/heard a great sermon (can't remember where) not too long ago about Jacob thinking it was Rachel and then realizing it was Leah, and how we all have that experience when are enthralled with (idolize, even) something. It sounds a lot like what you speak of. But I'm not looking for that (I don't expect not to always have [great] struggles in my sinfulness–after all this time I could probably even tell you what several of my struggles in marriage/motherhood would be!); just longing for some good times, some blessing, at some point, instead of always and only suffering in this area of life. The church as it is today does a great disservice to so many people by taking this lightly, acting like it's no big deal, or heaping the condemnation upon single people that they should just accept it like it's nothing or they are sinning (I'm not saying you did this; it just happens a lot in general). If people would just do such simple things as be sorry for our loss, be sad bacause they miss our families too, sorrow and grieve with us instead of preach at us, just those small actions would be such a comfort and would truly lighten our burden.

  13. Wendy May 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    Thanks, Anonymous. I remember a very good older single friend telling me her greatest struggle was mourning the loss of the children she would never have. I do grieve with you your loss. I am very sorry for the pain you are enduring as you live in a situation that God Himself declared “not good.” I pray for His mercy to bring blessing into your life in this area.

  14. Anonymous May 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Thank you, Wendy. It's so encouraging just to have a chance to talk about it. Thank you for your wisdom, & I greatly covet your prayers. God bless you!

  15. Wendy June 20, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Anonymous, whereever you are tonight, I am praying for you. Praying God would remove the weight of the car from your shoulders. And until He does, praying that He would help you breath under the weight.