There’s a part of me that takes a step back from my life and evaluates. Is what I am doing worth doing? Is staying home with my children going to prove to be a fruitful task? What if they grow up and move away and never speak to me again? What if they never come to love the Lord? Is all of this exhaustion, this budgeting and stress-eating in my closet, worth it if somehow things don’t go as planned? What if they grow up to be “just” a mom−will it be enough? What if they look at me someday as “just” a mom?
The Psalms describe parenting in such detail, I can’t help but think their historical experience must have resembled ours in some way. Psalm 127 talks about rising up early, going to bed late and anxious toil. I don’t know about you, but this looks like the lines of my day planner year-round. Raising small children or building a family can be a taxing experience to say the least. The sleepless, anxiety-filled work is not just for those who already have children, but for those who long for them as well. And, from what I hear, it doesn’t stop as your children grow and have children of their own. (I cannot tell you how many times my mom has called me to subtly mention that I still haven’t put that baby gate on the stairs…love you, Mom!)
The Psalmist clearly understood that the process of parenthood and weariness often come hand-in-hand. They even sang about it in Psalm 127 as they prepared their hearts for worship! What is it about being a parent that we should be preaching to ourselves, in and outside of parenting, as we prepare to step into the throne room?
First, this Psalm reminds us that our hard work must have one singular Master. We can spend our strength to build our home−to overcome infertility, fill out piles of adoption paperwork, climb mountains of laundry, raise children that fear God and love others, make wise decisions for everything from nutrition to education to “screen time”. We can obsess over them, wake up in the middle of the night to check their breathing, stalk their smart phone GPS to be sure they’re safe, lie awake and wonder if they did finally install that darn baby gate. Yet, unless Jesus is the architect, contractor and security guard, our anxious toil is useless− and we become, in essence “just.” Just surviving. Just making ends meet. Just getting through the day.
We are called to hold our families, our hopes for them and their well-being, with open hands. Jesus calls us into His rest. He gives sleep to His beloved [Ps. 127:2a] (to the weary parent of a newborn−or a self-proclaimed nocturnal 4-year-old, this just may be the most beautiful verse in the Bible.) True rest, the kind that our wearied, nap-grubbing hearts long for, comes only in the presence of the King. Each time rest is mentioned in the Bible it is a calling into the throne room, and in His throne room you lay down your burden of control.
He builds your house. He waters the garden. He keeps watch−and you? You breathe. You worship. You rest your head on the shoulder of the only One who can carry that heavy burden−the One who has defeated the pain of bearing children. You remember that your desire for, and your exhaustion from, children are all part of being an image-bearer of the Most High. You nurture, correct, and pour out all you have because that is His nature, and you are His, so it’s your nature too.
Psalm 127 (which I have hereby dubbed “The Mommy Psalm,” tells us the WHY. The how is, as with everything, done by letting go of our need for control into the unrelenting grace of Jesus. Then there’s the WHY. I’ve chewed on these verses for weeks now:
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies at the gate.”
First off, let’s just get this out of the way… saying “My quiver is full” is just straight creepy. Can we just nix that from Christian speech from here on out? Every time I just want to yell, “EWWWWW! I don’t want to hear about your quiver!!!”
But I digress…
There is a stigma on parenting. I battle it every day. Not because I am externally judged−far from it! But because I am constantly asking myself the aforementioned questions, and referring to myself as “just” a mom. My heart, though, is restless in the “just,” and I think this Psalm has something to do with it. Gloria Furman writes about it in her book, Missional Motherhood. “I need to know that life is not meaningless, my work is not in vain, and the night is almost over. I need to experience something far bigger than myself−something grand, solid, divine.
Children are a heritage from the Lord…a reward.
Your children− biological, adopted or spiritual, are a story you and I have the privilege of co-authoring. Our heritage is being written, read, and virally shared through our nurturing. They are the gifts we pass on to the next generation, and the next, and the next.
Just a side note: this heritage and reward are not just for those who carry the title of “mom”. As Furman puts it, “…missional motherhood is for every woman (not just biological or adoptive mothers), because mother is a verb too.”
When your enemies meet you at the gate−when they count your children with judging eyes as you walk into Wal-mart. When they ask about your adopted son’s ‘real mother’. As they wonder why your grown children no longer attend church, or they make careless comments about your empty ring finger or empty womb. When they sit on the edge of your bed, keeping you awake with lists of failures. As you lie awake wondering if all of this pouring out is ever going to reap anything but tears−remember this promise: you will not be put to shame.
Your hard work, sleepless nights, anxious toil−they are handed over to Jesus. In His hands, the burden of control becomes light. His nurture becomes our nature, and the goal becomes the same−to posture ourselves and others before the throne of Jesus; who gave his all so it wouldn’t hurt so much to give ours. We are blessed with the gift of pouring out, of seeing those first steps, first “a-ha” moments, first heartbreaks, first falling into their Father’s arms. We are blessed to be called to make disciples−and blessed to have the desire to wrap-up the hurting in hugs and bind up the broken in truth. The desire that’s engrained in our image-bearing, mothering souls.