The Mystery of Motherhood

My boys are ages 6 and 8 now. I am snuggled up with one on my recliner, barely able to type these words. He has his baby blanket around his shoulders as he watches cartoons. I don’t want him to move, because he is warm and sweet and still so very much my baby. I think that across the country, a 32 year old woman was just freed from ten years of captivity, and as of today, her mother still has not seen her. Her missing persons case was closed a few years after her disappearance, and apparently no one cared enough to keep looking for her. I read her story last night and was haunted through my sleep.

Motherhood is mysterious to me. I love it more than anything I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve had the opportunity to do some pretty cool things. Swimming with dolphins is a close second, but even my hard to explain love for whales doesn’t compare to the joy I receive snuggling with my little boys at bedtime. Motherhood is an incredible gift – that comes with incredible obligations. The obligation apart from loving the gift is crushing. 2 Timothy 3:3 mentions those who are heartless (ESV) or without natural affections (KJV). Without the affection that comes naturally to so many women, great, heartless evil can be perpetuated on vulnerable children by the one who should be nurturing them. I’ve talked about Daddy Issues on this blog a number of time. Both men and women struggle throughout life with baggage thrust upon them by fathers who condemned or abandoned instead of loved and nurtured. But Mommy Issues can not be over emphasized either. The love of a mother goes far and deep toward helping our children learn to trust and bond. And a mother’s abandonment or condemnation can wound a child with a pain that lasts throughout their lives.

I love that God uses the imagery of a mother and her child in Isaiah 49 to reinforce His love for His children. Her compassion for her children is a close example of God’s compassion and faithfulness to His. But even she may forget her children. God, however, will not. He gives profound value to the love of a mother, but He sets Himself up as One of even greater love and commitment to His children. It is beautiful to me as a mother, and it is even more beautiful to me as God’s child.

13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,  that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

My boys are ages 6 and 8 now. I feel that I am right in the middle of the best years of motherhood. The earlier years with my boys were filled with the stress of just keeping them alive. Nurture was often boiled down to feeding and carrying infants. Now, though I still help with food and safety, I nurture their souls. We communicate more and more. Our conversations grow deeper as they navigate new social situations at school and other places. I can teach them more of God’s character, and they are at the age where they will remember for a lifetime the conversations we have and the example I set.

The obligations of motherhood are staggering. This morning, my 8 year old woke me out of a sound sleep before anyone else in the house was up to let me know there was a spider in his bed. And, so, Mother’s Day begins. Obligation after obligation. The drip, drip, drip of childhood need could feel like torture. But those obligations are wrapped up in a profound love, a natural affection, for these ones who have constant needs. And that love is the oil that keeps the machine of motherhood running in my life. Motherhood, like all the Law and the Prophets, boils down to the Greatest Command.

Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

*If you are hurting this Mothers’ Day weekend, here is a beautiful post from my sweet friend, Bina, on weeping with those who weep at this time of year.*

5 Responses to The Mystery of Motherhood

  1. kathryn May 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Thank you! This was so great.. and such a true testimony of what I am only beginning to understand about motherhood. Being that I am only 3.5 months into the journey, I know that I have a long way to go, but thus far it has produced irreplaceable joy that God has seen fit to bless me with. Thanks again for your writing 🙂


  2. Hannah Anderson May 13, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Love this Wendy. My heart nearly explodes whenever I think of the responsibility and sheer joy that is mothering. I had an “aha” moment the other day when I realized that when Jesus used the metaphor of the “new birth” and being “born again” to describe God's work of salvation, He was tying it to mothering in a profound and unique way. For some reason–despite all these years as a Christian–I had never connected the Spirit's work to bring life into existence with a woman's work of bringing physical life into existence.

  3. David J. May 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    “And a mother's abandonment . . . can wound a child with a pain that lasts throughout their lives.”

    Here's a question that I mean to ask out of a sincere desire to understand, not to criticize or complain. If Wendy or her readers could shed some light for me, it would be much appreciated.

    I get that there are badly flawed mothers out there. My own mother was abandoned at a young age by her alcoholic mother, to be raised by her deceased father's parents. My ex-wife's mother, also an alcoholic, caused great misery with her drinking & serial relationships & multiple marriages. But at least you can look at these women and know that they are impaired. And, at least on some level, you expect that those mothers recognize that they are failing their children.

    What I struggle mightily to understand is the abandonment of a child by a “good Christian” mom. After 29+ years of marriage & 4 kids, she divorced me. There were not biblical grounds for the divorce, but there was certainly a lot of accumulated hurt on both sides. So, while I believe the divorce was wrong & the consequent pain & disruption for the kids was unnecessary, I have a level of understanding of that.

    At the time the divorce was final, we lived in rental homes 1/2 mile apart. By agreement, our special needs daughter lived with her during the week in the school year but otherwise split her time 50/50. Our teenage son, by his choice, lived with me — he had become estranged from her after a major incident between them about a month after we took up separate residences. While he would spend short amounts of time with her (going out to eat, running errands, etc.), he rarely spent an overnight with her & then only when a friend or older sibling was also there.

    If we were going to be divorced, at least this arrangement allowed for maximum involvement of both parents in both kids' lives. But that would soon change. As soon as the divorce was final, she began dating online. Within a month, she had “met” a twice-divorced Christian man who lived 400 miles. They met in person 3 months later. They were engaged 3 months after that. They married 1 year after meeting, 13 months after our divorce was final. She relocated to his home, taking our daughter with her.

    Now, instead of having my daughter 1 evening every week, every other weekend, & all school holidays, as well as attending all her school events & her weekly bowling league & seeing her at all her brother's baseball games, I have her 1 weekend a month (& everyone has to drive 6 hours round-trip for the pick-up & again for the drop-off). Instead of my son seeing his mother throughout the week at his baseball games & to run errands, he makes short visits on the occasional long weekend. (He has visited her twice for 2-3 days at a time in the 5 months since she moved away.)

    Our daughter will graduate high school in 1 year; our son will graduate in 2 years. I decided at the time of the divorce, based on counsel from numerous sources about the time necessary to heal from a divorce (especially after a very long marriage) & about the stress of new relationships for kids, that I would not even date until both kids had graduated from high school. This “wait” of 3.5 years seemed both wise & a small sacrifice for the stability of my kids' post-divorce lives.

    All of which leads to the question that mystifies me: how or why did a “good Christian” mom choose to remarry who & when she did, knowing that it would separate her daughter from her father & that it would separate her from her already estranged son? It seems to me that she has knowingly made her daughter's post-divorce life significantly more difficult & abandoned her son & wounded him with a pain that will last throughout his life (ironically, a pain that she personally experienced from her mother).

    Can other Christian women help me understand, which might help me make some peace with this?

  4. Wendy May 13, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    David, I'm sorry for the pain you and your children have endured. I can't answer why she did that. God bless you as you and your children navigate loving and serving our God in the midst of such pain and troubling circumstances.

  5. kbonikowsky May 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    “Motherhood is an incredible gift – that comes with incredible obligations. The obligation apart from loving the gift is crushing.”

    Totally. As a mother, who didn't really want to be one, it is easy to become bitter toward the little buggers. I do my best toward them now, because I look forward to enjoying the adults they will be one day! Good post.