"You have taken me to a place of self-sacrifice I didn't know existed."
I wrote this in my oldest daughter's baby book several years ago. Any mother can attest to the truth of the above statement. We sacrifice everything to care for our children...our sleep, our priorities, our clean house. Something to ponder: Are these sacrifices truly for the benefit of our children? Or are they put in place to mold us?
This week I received two entirely separate emails from two different friends who live on opposite ends of the state. They both held the same epiphany: "Perhaps God placed me in this place, at home with my children, for the sake of my growth and spirituality more than for the that of my children's? Maybe...just maybe...God is using my children to perfect me?"
I think about where motherhood has taken me thus far. Through an endless succession of sleepless nights...through days of crankiness, messiness and frustration...through weeks of feeling inadequate...through agonizing bouts of decision making...through an ocean of unending sacrifice. And I think about where I am now in comparison with where I was 8 years ago.
I turned 30 last year. Someone asked me how I felt to be turning 30. I contemplated for a moment (which I don't always do before I speak, unfortunately) and concluded the following. "Would I like to be 24 again? Maybe. But do I want to go back to being who I was at 24? A new mother with no experience? Being unsure of every decision I was making? Being immature in my faith? No. I'll take 30."
Motherhood, while the most joyous journey I've known, has taken me to the depths of sacrifice and back again. It has molded me into who I am and has grown my faith tremendously. Let's face it. I have not had ample time to study my Bible in recent years. I have not been on a plethora of Women's Retreats where I have been "recharged." Truth be told, I even spent most of the last 8 years of Sunday mornings in the cry room, listening to the sermon from afar when I could. You would think my faith would be weak with so little to feed it. Yet I feel strong.
I find this an amazing picture of God's grace. Why? Because it means that I am being perfected by God, not only during the most obvious times, but during the minutes I almost thought were wasted.
Sacrifice. It's the sole avenue by which we can become like Christ.
While walking my baby back and forth across the floor, God was weeding out self-service. While getting up again to nurse, the Lord was molding my heart. While holding a sleeping girl, Jesus was teaching me to slow down. While the laundry piled up, God was showing me what is important. He was, in these moments and many more to come, teaching me to be, as Ann Voskamp states in her book, all here. Right now. All here, right now, anchored to this moment. Anchored to a moment while an ocean of self-fullment, chaos and busyness torrent around me.
How many moments do I lose every day? How many life lessons am I missing as I busily go about my day, "serving my family" while I overlook their true needs in a given moment?
I strive to never miss a moment to be perfected. As we busily teach and care for our children, I have to think my two friends may be right. We think God placed them in our lives so we could teach them how to be selfless, forgiving, patient and humble. But maybe we are raising them so God can teach us how to be selfless, forgiving, patient and humble. And maybe...just maybe...that's how our children learn. That's how they grow. As we walk this path of Godliness, choosing to deny ourselves for their sake (for His sake...for our sake), our children walk beside us, look up into our eyes and see an ocean of sacrifice that is deep with joy. They see. And they internalize, embrace it and swim in it until they have their own babies. And they are perfected.
And such is the way of our Lord...using what we think is wasted, lost or insignificant and redeeming it for His glory.