I’m reposting my thoughts from last year’s Mother’s Day, mostly because I needed to reread it myself.
Mother’s Day is a tricky holiday. Like any holiday, it 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 4 and 6 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.
Thanks for this. I felt rather defeated just this morning for losing my temper at my son. It feels very easy to explain sin to your sinful children. It feels awful to see it in myself – especially when I know that I could have been relying on God's grace and chose not to. But that same grace does pick us up and dusts us off and points us back to the truth of gospel. And I do want my children to see that and remember it.
(I love your blog, BTW : ) I've been reading it for a few months. Keep up the good work. You point us all to truth!!
SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO helpful. I'm a single, wannabe mother if it's the Lord's will. Till then I carry on faithfully and God-enabling joyful do the work He has given me today. Today I met with some wonderful friends and shared my lifesong for this week:
Jesus, All for Jesus, by Robin Mark…especially the line: '…for it's only in Your will that I am free…'
The Lord's will for our lives is 100% perfect.
P.S. I love this blog too, I've been reading for years.
” The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ.” Indeed.
We are too quick to pick up our idols… Thanks for the reminder!
A prayer today for each one struggling with the anguish of infertility as I did-the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones-remember Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel,Samson's mother,Hannah,Elizabeth,and maybe it is even a literal promise that more will be the children of the barren woman. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful.
I think your thoughts on motherhood are just the persepctive the Bible gives. Thank you for doing the hard work of meditating and writing down your thoughts. It challenges me to do a better job of this myself. Found grace & encouragement in these thoughts today, though my sin was toward my husband today in front of my children. Oh, to be free from these besetting sins… especially my big mouth!
I quite identify with the concept of feeling fatigued over anticipated failure. Thank you for reminding me that no temptations are unique. By God's grace I will continue and cling to the hope of sanctification.
Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Wendy, I am constantly amazed at your ability to display your heart in this blog…and that many times it resembles my own as well. Thank you for the encouragement in the practical as well as the spiritual. Happy Mothers Day!
thank you for such encouraging words for the married couple dealing with infertility. The past 4 years have been my most trying ever, and your compassionate words revealed how deeply you understand the issue. Thank you for fresh hope and renewed perspective.
Great post! We do tend to sometimes glorify motherhood and the family in conservative evangelicalism. How easy it is to make “good things, ultimate things,” as Tim Keller often says.
This is my first time on your blog, but I think I might have chatted with you before on SharperIron – years ago that is!
I've been beating myself up especially hard this week because of a bit of a mess we have going on in our home right now. This was perfect, thank you. I've shared it on fb.
Thank you, from a Mother with an anger issue stemming from childhood and a strong-willed child that pushes my buttons every minute!!! I'm sure God just wishes I'd learn whatever lesson He has for me so we can get on with our lives. LOL.
Yes, thank you, well said! I’m a single woman who would love to have children someday, and have had a really hard time with the statement that marriage and motherhood are God’s highest callings for women. God’s highest calling for anyone is, like you wrote, being conformed to the image of Christ, and so I know without a doubt that that is both what God wants for me, and what He WILL accomplish in me. My prayer these last few years has been that God would keep me content, satisfied, and joyful in belonging to Him. It is so encouraging for me to remember that as wonderful gifts marriage and family are, they are still only hints at the true fulfillment we have in being Christ’s bride and the Father’s adopted children. Why should I feel left out when I have the real thing, but just not the temporary earthly pictures of them? Don’t get me wrong, I know that God is gracious in giving spouses and children to those He chooses to give them to. But whether or not those things come to me, I am still absolutely blown away that He has given me Himself! And that is enough to satisfy me eternally.
Thanks for writing!
I was single for longer than I ever wanted to be or planned to be. All I ever desired was to be a wife and mother. God did bless me with a husband, but before He did I laid my desires at His feet wholeheartedly. I still wanted to be married, desperately, but I was sincerely able to say in confidence, “God loves me deeply and knows what is best for me. I will be o.k. with whatever my life brings.” The husband God brought me had a heart transplant this past summer. I still have not experienced the precious blessing of motherhood, and I pray every day that I will. But I have experienced giving life in a different way through my husband. As Wendy mentioned, God definitely used my single years to sanctify me for the years I am experiencing now as I take care of my husband and continue to hope for a baby one day. Single women, I encourage you to ask God how He can use you to give life in your season of life right now. I know it is such a hard season, but I am testament of hope.
Thank you for your truthful post!
A much-needed entry! No coincidence that my biblical counselor reminded me the other day to preach to myself daily b/c I'm one of those moms who “fails her children regularly”. I'm also like the anonymous mom “with the anger issue stemming from childhood and a strong-willed child that pushes my buttons every minute”.
I also relate to the anonymous single woman who struggles with “the statement that marriage and motherhood are God’s highest callings for women”. They certainly are not!
This was the best writing/post I've ever seen on this subject. For years and years I struggled with Mother's Day. Knowing that moms deserve this day and wanting to honor them while my heart was screaming, “I want it too” caused great conflict in my heart. Oh how I wished that one married person would understand how my heart ached.
Thank you for your words of encouragement that our greatest good comes from being conformed to the image of God. Indeed, our goal should be to bring glory to God, and sometimes that does mean we don't get what we want even if that want is a good thing.
For those of you who are struggling as well, let me encourage you. For too long I begged God over and over for a husband and children. At 41 I have peace. Of course I would still love those things, but I understand that God has great purpose for my life – single or otherwise.
To God be the Glory!
Thank you for these balanced words. Childless women often feel very much left out of the church, and Mothers Day usually amplifies this into the upper register. But women, like men, are called first and foremost to love God, and secondly to be part of the bringing of His kingdom. We can all be spiritual mothers– any time we reach out to bring spiritual birth or spiritual growth into another life.
“The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ.”
Amen! Thank you for this post. God loves us all, moms and non-moms, exactly the same. Even if the world makes me feel less for being childless, I never am less in the eyes of God.
As a single 20 something this is a great reminder for me that having a husband and children are not God's ultimate desire for my life, I must find my satisfaction in Him alone. I feel the constant pressure to conform to the idea that a person's worth is wrapped up in the titles of girlfriend and wife/mother (yes, even at my age!). I trust that God has these good things in store for me but I trust that the most good He could work in my life is conforming me to the likeness of Christ.
Thank you for your thoughtful post.
Wendy, I add my gratitude to this long line of responses. I am so thankful that I can rejoice with my sisters in Christ who are mothers by child birth or adoption, but I am also thankful that I can rejoice that I can serve as a type of “spiritual” mother or mentor to many young people in a way that most cannot. God has truly called all of us to be godly women first and foremost. The sanctifying process may come through marriage and children, marriage and barrenness, or singlness, but His primary calling is, as you said, conformity to His image: godliness. May all of us be sensitive to those struggling today (weep with those who weep), yet, though maybe sometimes even harder, may we rejoice today with those who are rejoicing in the gift of motherhood. And may we learn to pray for each other and the struggles that come with each role.
Thank you so much for this post! It is incredibly encouraging! This is like the previous post titled “Repenting with Children” that deeply encourages me. I praise God for the continued work He is doing in me and the work of the Holy Spirit continually convicting me and revealing things to me so that I can be conformed to the likeness of Christ! Thank you again!
Yes, people can be callous in the church–I think I've experienced that (well, with fellow believers in whatever setting) with regard to my (former) singleness as well as other trials. Some people seem to zero in on whatever you DON'T need to hear,don't they?
It's exactly right that being a mother/wife is not God's highest calling across the board. It's always interesting how people take some phrases in Scripture here and there and then come up with something the Bible never actually says. And the truth is God has different callings for different women, even different callings for the SAME woman at various seasons in her life. We just need to seek deeper and sweeter fellowship with our Lord, not allowing ourselves to be tossed about by “every wind of doctrine”–including well-meant but misguided advice.
Thank you for your great words it is encouraging and its helpful to know that..and in times like this we can relay on god and ourself, and it can help us when we need
I love this: “The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ. ” This is PERFECT.