My husband is a pastor, and on Mother’s Day this year, he kindly asked me to finish his sermon with a short talk on mothering. Looking over this now, it’s interesting to see that I write differently when I am going to speak the words than when the words will just sit on the paper and be read in the heart and mind. Even so, I like how it came out, as did others, so wanted to share it here.
Steve and I have had quite an adventure in parenting, and we have had lots of time to learn about it! We had children at home for 32 years from the birth of the oldest until the fifth one graduated from high school and went to college. We raised them on two continents, and in 8 different homes. I want to talk to you today about some things that have been important to me in mothering my five children and remain important as I mother my adult children and am a grandmother to nine. I’m going to tell you about my greatest joy, my greatest privilege, and my greatest challenge.
GK Chesterton, a friend and mentor of CS Lewis, wrote in 1910 about mothering: “To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about geometry and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to everything to someone? No; a mother’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.” Even 100 years ago the world did not always recognize the importance of mothering!
My greatest joy and energizer in mothering has been getting to introduce five very different human beings to the world and all that is in it. I got to have a front row seat in participating in their discovery of this amazing earth the Lord has made, as they learned how to speak, how to cope with difficult people, found the pleasures of reading, singing and dancing, developed values, found their own strengths and weaknesses, and so importantly learned how much God loves them and their need for a Savior. I believe all mothers are natural teachers, and we teach and stimulate their creativity constantly almost from the minute they are born. Our teaching is finely tuned exactly to their minds and hearts that we know so well. And sometimes we are the only witness to the awesome power of a growing mind, heart, and soul. Mothers are the ones who get to tell a child that God has made them unique and like none other, and the world is better for them being born.
My greatest privilege and lifelong responsibility is to pray for my children. Abraham Lincoln said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” Many times in mothering, this is not only our most important job; it is literally all we can do. It is not easy; sometimes it feels like the hardest thing to do. But we must pray as if it matters, pray as if your child’s life depends on it.
My greatest challenge is to keep the vision. Mothering is a very high calling, and without remembering our vision we will quickly grow weary. We have the hardest and best job in the world, but sometimes it just seems like it’s the most difficult, most thankless, and most unending job in the world. Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). In a similar way, we have the joy of a job well done set before us while we struggle through many difficulties. Keeping the vision of why we are doing this, that our real work is forming hearts and souls, that the ordinary is glorious, gives meaning and purpose to the daily-ness and repetitiveness of the work. I believe it was a great help to me to have a somewhat mystical view of my job as a mother, to transcend the definitely non-mystical days, and keep going for the long haul. And while I learned to keep my goals high, and my daily expectations low, I also learned that it all matters.
Another energizer for my sense of mission was to ask God to help me pay attention to the joy. Allowing the fun, rewarding, cute, tender times to truly soak into my soul, allowed me to weather the exhaustion, bad tempers, and constant demands. It’s easy to let these precious moments pass by without noticing them and lose an opportunity to cherish them and thank the Creator.
I will finish with a verse from Isaiah. Though the picture is of a shepherd and sheep, I know that it is a lovely promise to mothers:
Isaiah 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd, he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently carries those who have young.
That’s you and me.