Being a Mom is Hard Heart-Work

Being a mom, and especially a Christian mom, is hard. It's what I call, hard heart-work. God builds a special bond between a mother and each of her children. There's something inexplicably wonderful about the life that proceeds from a mother's womb. Which is why abortion is such a horrible and wicked thing to encourage women to do—to strip herself of the beautiful life God graciously gave her in spite of what sins she may have committed, or what sins may have been committed against her. 

Every child is an unmerited gift from God.

Therefore, in view of God's mercy, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. This command extends to motherhood also. Which means, rather than mothering our children in order to please and seek love for self, we care for our children in order to please and love God and our children sacrificially, and not just when it's easy, fun and dignified. It means we must love God and our children even when it's hard, painful and humiliating. And those three words often sum up the other side of motherhood that many of us neither want to think about or talk about. But we must.

Motherhood is a beautiful thing. It's filled with incalculable joys and fears from the moment you realize God has graced you with the ability to bring forth life.

I remember my first pregnancy; amazed that there was another human being inside of me; that God was secretly forming every part of him: visible (his body and personality) and invisible (his soul). My son was safely tucked in my womb, hidden from view and harm. And it was my job to keep it that way—to love and protect my child—to do him good and not harm all the days of his life—to train him in the love and discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). And it's still my job because a mother doesn't stop laboring for her children when she gives birth. A mother stops laboring for her children when either she or they, die their first death.

Sometimes a mother's labor results in great joy and sometimes it results in great pain. A mother has great joy when she gets to see the physical fruit of her labor—a living being from her womb; and when she gets to see the spiritual fruit of her labor—the life of her child secured in Christ. Along with these joys come the arduous, daily heart-work of keeping your child healthy, clean, fed, clothed, warm, safe and especially, Christ-honoring. A mother who fears the LORD, joyfully and willingly sacrifices her own comforts for her child's comforts. She would happily give up her food and go hungry, rather than see her child go hungry. She would cheerfully give up her sweater or coat and be cold, rather than see her child shiver. She would generously give up all her strength and be weak, rather than see her child hurting; and she would, without hesitation, joyfully give up her own life, rather than take the life of her child. A mother who fears the LORD, sacrifices everything, whether great or small, for her child's benefit, without consideration for her own. That's the way God made us. And that's what Jesus exampled for us when He disrobed Himself of His glory, left Heaven, and came to earth—to suffer, to die, and to rise from the grave, to grant eternal life, to all who repent and believe.

Being a mother isn't about fulfilling our already overweening egos. It's not about living our unfulfilled dreams and hopes through our children. It's not our second chance at life. It's our children's first chance to live the life God planned for them. Our children's lives are not about filling voids, trapping men, or something to be discarded because they're inconveniencing us somehow. Our children's lives are gifts from the Lord in spite of our sins, our frailties and ineptness; to properly love and care for another human being.

Being a mother who fears the Lord requires the willingness to suffer well and long for our children's best. It means being willing to tell your children hard truths about themselves, even if that means they won't like you...or even hate and totally reject you. It means daily feeding them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, reminding them that we're all sinners in desperate need of the one and only Savior. It means genuinely sharing your sins (age appropriate) so that they may learn and not fall into the same temptations. It means humbly asking them for forgiveness when you've sinned against them. It means living what you say you believe about Jesus; that He is sovereign, good, and perfect. Therefore, you're entire being, your thoughts, opinions, and conduct is based on what's found in the holy Word of God and not what's found in our defiled, self-absorbed world, or selves.

My hardest heart-work of being a mother has never been in the physical realm. It's always been the spiritual battles I've fought and continue to fight for and with my children, on my knees, and in my face-to-face conversations with them. I've always told my children that they can count on me to help them with anything...except sin. And I continue to remind them that I will stand against them, if necessary, with all the strength God provides, to give them what is good and not evil. It's extremely painful to watch my children sin (the same or differently than me), and this pain often causes me to want to crawl into a hole and just cry, but I don't...crawl into a hole. Rather, I follow my Savior and do what He did when He was here. I go to a lonely place (Lk 5:16) and I cry and talk to God Almighty (Ps 40:1-4, 16-17) instead of crying and talking to myself in the hole of self-pity.

I'd love to tell you that training up your children in the way of the Lord is easy and filled with stories of all the "great and amazing things God is doing" in their lives. I'd love to tell you that if you raise your children in the love and discipline of the Lord, they will love, honor and appreciate you. But I can't tell you any of these things because it's not true. Proverbs 22:6 is a precept for parents to obey, not a promise of absolute results.

We have two sons, 22 and 20. We raised them both in the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ. We imperfectly lived out our faith before them; repenting to God and to our children whenever we sinned (which for me, was and still is, more often than I'd like). We always showed them how every rule for our family could be found in God's Word so that they would know that it is by the Lord's Word and standard, and not by our word and standard that our family is established and maintained.

With all our hearts, we loved and obeyed God's mandate to parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9. Though I'm a night owl rather than a morning person, I willingly died to my natural inclinations, for how God created my rise early (Php 2:3-4). During the first 18 years of my children's lives, I would wake up one and a half to two hours earlier than my children in order to have my personal praise and quiet time with the Lord, prepare a hot breakfast for our boys, and do our daily breakfast devotional. Between the ages of four and five, I taught them how to have their own praise and quiet time with the Lord; training them to wake up an hour before school so that they would have ample time for private and family worship.

When they were school-aged, we'd continue our talk about the Lord on the way to school, when I picked them up and as we did homework and played together. We'd pray and discuss the Lord at dinner, and during our "family time". When we took them to bed, we'd snuggle them (through age 13), prayed with them, then scratched their backs and massaged their heads as we sang any three songs they chose, to worship and praise our God together.

We literally have God's Word on our walls, on our furniture and everywhere you turn in our home. We purchased our children pocket Bibles so they would have God's Word with them wherever they go. I made them bookmarks with Scriptures to help them through trials and remind them of how to humbly receive praise. I made them lunch every day and included a simple note that reminded them of God's love, sovereignty and goodness in their lives. Since we felt led to public school our sons (I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, I recommend homeschooling), I practically lived at their schools, volunteering for everything I could: art assistant, music assistant, homeroom mom, office assistant, library assistant, chaperone, etc. I basically attended school with my children and walked or drove home with them when we were done. On the way home, I would ask them about how they witnessed God's goodness throughout their day.

Our sons were raised in sound doctrine and knowing how to interpret Scripture with Scripture rather than by their emotions or worldly philosophies. We purchased them reference Bibles by the time they both reached the third grade and taught them what the little numbers and letters next to verses and words meant and how to use the concordance in the back. We purchased a Holman Bible Atlas and taught them the timeline of events in the Bible as well as go over the maps so they could see the locations and distances of where people lived, how they traveled, and how far they traveled to obey God.

We purchased the Basic Training Course so that as a family, we might learn how to biblically and effectively share the true Gospel of God's grace rather than the prevalent, man-centered false gospel. We took the course together when our sons were 9 and 11, and we did all the activities together so that we might labor in the Lord's harvest field as a family. When they turned 12, we purchased Student Study Bibles (I recommend the ESV, it's excellent) so they could learn to study God's Word for themselves, with helpful resources and notes that were applicable for their life stage. There's much more that we did and still do with our oldest son who's still home with us, but I'll stop here because I think you get the point: my husband and I, with all our hearts, poured into our children, the love of God and the holy Word as best as we could.

I don't share any of this so you'll think highly of us. Rather, I share this with you to demonstrate that though you too may love and obey God's command in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, it's not to your glory if your children grow into Christ-honoring adults, nor your complete blame (if at all) if they grow into Christ-mocking adults. As I shared earlier, we have two sons, 22 and 20. Our youngest is our prodigal and left home at 19 to live his life as he pleased and not as God pleased. Our oldest is still with us while working to receive his graduate degree in Accounting. But that doesn't mean our oldest son is perfect and never brings us heartache like our youngest son does. It just means that though they were both raised in the love and discipline of our Lord, they walk divergent paths. We love them both dearly (for how can a mother lack compassion for a son from her womb?) and fervently pray for both of them to walk in a manner that's worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ (Col 1:9-12).

Though sometimes Christ-honoring parents are blessed to raise Christ-honoring children, some of us are blessed to continue our labor for our children's eternal souls until the day one of us dies. And sometimes those who aren't Christ-honoring parents, produce Christ-honoring children (e.g., Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the famous atheist, who's oldest son William "Bill" became a Christian because of God's sovereign choosing and the faithful labor of others). This is why we can't take credit or full blame for how our children choose to live. God is sovereign and all knowing and all wise. We are not.

While the rejection of our youngest son continues to pain us, the greatest heartache isn't that he isn't reconciled to us, but that he's not reconciled to God Almighty. My heart grieves every time either of our sons sin and succumbs to ways of the world (what's cool and popular) over the holy ways of God that are good and right. But their lives are not mine to hold, rather their lives are mine to entrust to the LORD who alone is faithful (2 Tim 2:13).

Whatever stage you're currently in with your mothering, please know, there's nothing wrong with desiring godly children whose lives are eternally secured in Christ. This is the most loving thing a mother can desire for her children. And we should certainly labor for that. But it's a sin to allow this good desire to be the hope and reason why you train them up in the love and discipline of the Lord—because it becomes an idol. The only reason why we should or shouldn't do anything, is for the pleasure, honor and glory of God. If your heart's sole purpose in training your children as God commands is because you love Him first and foremost, then your hard heart-work will not be in vain. You will not be prone to pride if your children walk with the Lord, nor will you be crushed if they don't. No matter the results, you will remain steadfast in hope, persevere in your labor for your children without bitterness, be patient in tribulation, fervent in prayer, bless them if they persecute you, rejoice with them in righteousness, and live peaceably with them as much as it is up to you (Rom 12:9-21).