Are you in the whirlwind? Broken stuff? Interruptions to work? Demands from everyone? Disruptions to your sleep? Multilayered responsibilities at home and work?
Motherhood is much more than we ever anticipated, and its difficulties seem like huge sacrifices compared to the single life we once lived. Yet somehow love persuades us to make sacrifices, voluntarily, hoping for joy in the end. The reality that motherhood brings sacrifice hit me full force at the birth of Charlie when his heartbeat dropped and his life was in danger… and I almost lost him.
That February evening was beyond cold and icy. It was absolutely frigid. Nevertheless, we had invited Joe, a journalism student from the local university, to our house for a home-cooked meal. After supper I slipped over to the couch while Joe and Mike chatted at the table, and I began to time labor contractions. It wasn’t long before I realized that this freezing night was going to be a night of birth. Our baby would be born soon.
Joe went home. Aunt Karen and Uncle Lowell arrived to take care of little John while Mike and I headed out for the big event. Mike supported my arm as I waddled across an icy street to our little Ford Fiesta, ready to navigate the bitter cold to Mercy Hospital.
Since I had chosen natural labor without an epidural, labor soon became intense. Focus, I need to focus, I thought. My previous childbirth classes had instructed mental focus as a way of managing pain during labor. I didn’t know I would soon also need to manage the dread of losing my child. For now I just knew I needed to focus. Focus on the maroon scroll on the wallpaper. Focus on relaxation. Focus my thoughts. A verse from past readings came to mind, so I focused on Hebrews 12:2: “Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross.”
Jesus endured. This phrase gave me courage. I was in pain. Jesus had experienced pain, and he understood. The pain of my labor couldn’t compare to what he went through. Try to relax and focus. Think about Jesus…
Jesus had endured “for the joy set before him.” What joy? For the joy of me. His pain was for the hopeful joy of being united with me. Jesus longed to be together forever, and so he had suffered.
A nurse came to monitor our baby’s heartbeat. Not good. The heart rate was slowing a bit during contractions, and I began to feel scared, but here came another wave of pain. Focus…
Jesus had suffered great pain so He could offer me the gift of being declared “not guilty.” He didn’t come to pile on guilt (like people tend to do), but in passionate love, he had taken my guilt onto himself… for the joy set before him of being with me forever. Jesus didn’t want eternal death for me; he wanted me with him!
I loved this little baby inside. For the joy set before me, I was enduring the pain. With all my heart, I wanted to see this baby, hold this wee one, and have him with me. His heart rate was still lower during contractions, and the doctor was ready to intervene if needed. Now I had to face the real possibility of a stillbirth. Terror threatened to engulf me, so I turned my focus again to Christ…
Jesus had endured excruciating pain without any guarantee that I would accept the option of being with him forever. He was willing to suffer even if he didn’t receive my love in return. His love was unconditional, with no strings attached. Reciprocal love can never be commandeered, not even by God. Therefore, Jesus gave me the freedom to accept or reject his gift of being with him forever.
Though my doctor was on top of everything, I had no guarantee my baby would be born alive. And even then, I had no guarantee that he would love me someday. Children arrive without guarantees. Yet no matter what the future held, I loved him fiercely, and I would endure this and more in the days ahead for the hope of future joy.
Now I was being wheeled to the delivery room for possible intervention with forceps. Comfort was a thing of the past—we wanted to save this baby. Focus, I thought. Remember the things Jesus sacrificed…
Jesus had given up his comforts, willingly going to a sad execution to take on my punishment, a work I could barely understand. He said he could have asked the Father to send angels to rescue him, but he didn’t. He endured for the joy set before him—the joy of rescuing me. Love wanted me.
Charlie’s piercing cry announced his arrival. What a precious scream! My love wanted Charlie, and he was here. All my suffering had been worth it. Charlie was safe.
In the days ahead, I would have many more days of suffering, laying down my life to raise this high-spirited child. Always hopeful, I would pour out my life for my little one without any guarantee of receiving his love in return. And in retrospect thirty years later, I would do it again for each of my children, even if they chose to reject me, because I love each one. One-sided love is still love. And it is worth it all.
You will certainly suffer pain at times as you raise your challenging child. You will sacrifice comforts and pleasures in order to care for your little one. When that happens, remember that no matter what you’re going through with your child, Jesus understands. He experienced all types of challenges both during his life and in his death. Every pain that you feel, he felt too. You can talk to him and express all your feelings because he totally gets it. What a comfort.
And while you’re being comforted by Christ’s empathy, also remember the reason that he was willing to suffer. It was for the joy of being with you that Jesus endured the pain of the cross. He died to give you the gift of forgiveness because he wants to be with you forever. That’s strong desire. Since he rose from the dead to prove that the payment for your guilt is a done deal, you can bank on his gift. (See here) He is alive, so simply tell him “Thank you!” Gratitude is always a great response when you’re accepting a gift!
All of us have had mommy moments that we’re not proud of— moments no one else saw or moments that impacted others, worthy of apologies to kids, friends, or spouse. How wonderful it is to know that our mistakes don’t spoil us for life. No need to live in the land of shame. Moreover, when we accept God’s forgiveness, a new internal goodness comes to us. We receive, as a gift, the perfect purity of Christ living inside of us. God forgives, and he rebuilds our emotional damage.
God can help you with new attitudes and motives so your outside actions will spring up from that inner life within you. He can help you source his patience and forgiveness in dealing with your children. He can help you love your child—the one who challenges you to the core and requires you to stand at that crossroad of sacrifice again and again. As you cultivate this desire to listen to God’s perspective about living and managing your life, the results will benefit both you and everyone around you.
Amazingly, your response benefits God, too. Why? Because you bring him joy. Your smile of thanks blesses his heart. (Isn’t that what we long for from our children?) Your grateful response makes his suffering immensely worth it. You are his joy. Is that hard for you to believe? Do you sometimes feel down, depressed, inadequate, or maybe even ashamed of hidden stuff? The antidote that sets me free from spiraling downward is remembering what Jesus has done for me out of pure love. Now I can consider myself to be pure in Christ—a gift given to me, not based on my own perfection.
Because of Jesus Christ, God delights in us, and whenever I remember that, gratitude pops up. You are precious. You might think, “But you don’t know me and all my problems.” That doesn’t matter. Your value isn’t based on what you’ve done or on perfect behavior. You are intrinsically priceless just because God loves you.
So as you face the daily sacrifices inherent in motherhood, keep in mind the eternal picture. Remember that you’re a valuable woman—a one of a kind, wonderful person whom Jesus died for so he could be with you forever. And remember that this motherhood season, which seems eternally challenging right now, will eventually disappear like a puff of smoke. In our eternity with Jesus, all of the sacrifices of today will be worth it, and all the hardships will be gone. Really!
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More free chapter excerpts:
Look Inside – Intro, Chapter 1, Chapter 2
Chapter 9 – Every Child Has a Gift
Chapter 13 – Fearing the Worst
Chapter 17 – The High Cost of Sacrifice
Chapter 27 – Routine Expectations
Chapter 33 – A Letter From Charlie