Sunday, November 3, 2013

Motherhood and Vocation, Part 1 of 4

Want to sit down and have a cup of coffee? - because any blog that has "Part 1" in its title ought to come with coffee. :)

(And I want to say at the start: this blog series isn’t comprehensive, not in any sense, and I’m not pretending it is.*)

In this series, my focus is on what many of us experience: getting married and having kids. This is the path a lot of us take, and so it's worth looking at it. Most of us marry rather than burn, and the result of sex is kids. Fairly often, anyway.

Given that, what does that mean for Christian women? It means that our primary vocations, often, will be that of wife and mother.

And this isn't a bad thing. 

In fact, this is a normal path for sanctification. Marriage and child-rearing require self-sacrifice and that's good. It doesn't feel good, but it is good.

I'm not sure I know another way to say it . . . I just know it needs to be said. Yes, it's hard. Yes, you have to give things up. Yes, you get an infinite return.

Your sphere of influence will be abruptly contracted and so will your choices. You chose this one thing (and in our culture, it was your choice - now there's a mercy and a judgment!) and that meant you didn't choose every other thing in the world.**

And you have to be faithful to the vocation to which you've been called. Yes, called, even though you chose it. Did you really know what you were choosing? No, probably not. We never do. We're human, which means we're finite. Which means we're stupid. (Cosmically speaking, anyway.)

You didn't know it would be so hard, and that you'd be so tired, and that you'd be so angry, so often. So, so often.

But it happens to men too, it happens to single people too, it happens to everyone. Everyone chooses one thing and not every other thing. Everyone has to deal with the consequences of their choices and the loss of freedom that follows.

But there's a new kind of freedom that comes after the choice: the freedom to be faithful. Once you know what you're supposed to be doing, you're free to do it well. You're freed to do it with your whole heart. You're freed to do it faithfully.***

Which is just glorious.

So, that first: being a wife and a mother is normal and good. Your biology is destiny, in one way. You were made to do this. You were made to bear and to nurture. You were made to give of yourself. You were made to be the strong and sturdy trellis these baby plants could cling to as they grow towards the sun. You were made to provide structure and peace around their nutty energy. You were made to soothe and comfort and feed and protect. This is normal. This is good.

And when people say it's not, they're lying.

Yes, you can't do everything you want. You can't have it all. Being a mother means that where you're going to spend the majority of your time and energy for the next twenty years is now determined, and you don't have the potential you used to, and you can't "have it all".

But no one can. No one can.

And motherhood, if you receive it as from the Lord, if you take it as from His hands, will give you opportunity after opportunity to grow in holiness. It will give you practice in giving grace - over and over - and in opening yourself up to receive it in turn. It can teach you the practice, the constant practice, of turning your face towards the Father to receive from Him the love that you need. And then you can turn and give it to your children. And then receive again - because you don't have enough of yourself, and motherhood teaches you how finite and small and fragile you are - how much you need the Lord.

And how much He gives of Himself to you. How He is ever-present, ever-sufficient, ever-kind. How He loves you through His own presence, and through the presence of your husband, and of your family, and of your church, and of your friends. Christ in every face that greets you with kindness. Christ being formed in your children. Christ when you are in tears for fear of their lives or of their souls. Christ when you're so tired you wish you never had to wake up. Christ always present, always.

This is a grace that I am sure is available in every vocation, but that I know is present in motherhood.

It should not be despised.

(Stay tuned for Part 2, tomorrow . . .)

* My experience is that of a married woman who didn’t struggle with her fertility. I know that means there are a lot of people this series of essays just can’t address. I'm writing under the assumption mothering is one of the normative vocations for Christian women. But there are other paths; those other paths exist and they matter and many good people who are not me are writing good things about them. (Try this blog, or this one, just as a start.)
**I learned this from Elena.
***This is what discipline does: it allows for freedom. Think of how working out regularly allows you take a hike in the gorgeous fall weather without getting out of breath. Think of how practicing scales gives you the freedom to interpret a piece by Bach. It is the boundaries of discipline and choice – choosing “this” and not “that” - that allow for freedom!