As mothers investing in our children, we are part of extending God’s Kingdom, promoting flourishing in our homes that radiates out into all the world.
Just a season
“This is just a season.” The kids won’t be young forever, and when they leave the house, or really as they gradually assume more responsibility and self-discipline, daily life will be radically different. Motherhood with children at home, especially little ones, is a season. I have heard this from very encouraging older mothers trying to help us younger mothers see that some present hardship will pass.
But sometimes people mean something more like, “This is only a season, and then I can get back to my real life.” But what is real life? C.S. Lewis’ brilliance does not fail us:
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life – the life God is sending one day by day.
Parenthood is not itself an “unpleasant thing,” though no one misses diapers and tantrums, and I know very well the delirious anticipation of bedtime after a tiring day. I’m not criticizing the battle-weary mother who longs for a bit of rest—I am she! I just want to avoid the attitude of anxiously staring out the window waiting for a different time, forgoing the wealth of possibilities right in front of us. Instead of, “It’s just a season, you’ll get past it,” we can also aim for, “It’s just a season, so let’s thank God now for the joy and sanctification he is working in us.”
In a way, “just a season” means this precious time is a gift from God and should be used and enjoyed to the fullest. In another way, it means that one day the things we have set aside or pulled back from in the midst of hands-on motherhood will once more be ready for us to explore and pursue.
What will I lose? What will we gain?
But what about my career? What will I lose if I pause or slow down my career during my children’s time at home, or wait to start ramping it up? Is it worth it?
Let’s not forget the other side of those questions and the other people involved. The questions the world asks lead us on toward specific conclusions, and the questions we choose to heed will determine our direction in life.
What will we gain if I have a close and vibrant relationship with my children that endures through their childhood into adulthood? What will we gain if my investment overflows in a return of children who love the Lord with all their hearts and spend their lives serving him? What will we gain by training our children for the task of raising up their own children, so that the mission of making disciples who make disciples is embedded in our family life? What will I gain for eternity, and even now in sanctification and joy, by loving and serving these eternal souls that God has entrusted to me?
It cannot utterly fail
We cannot ensure that our children will follow Christ, even if we were perfect in every way (and we are not even close). But our Spirit-empowered work of raising our children to know and love the Lord cannot be worthless, cannot utterly fail, even if our child chooses to turn away from God. Our faithfulness to Christ is itself success, and it is eternally valuable.
Furthermore, our covenant children are blessedly limited by their upbringing. Through our teaching and discipleship of our children, we help them foster a holy imagination: not about fantastical things (though that’s fun), but about what the world is missing since the Fall, and what is coming when Jesus returns. This same imagination helps them to see beyond the present world and strive toward eternity, even when the lures of the flesh and the devil come fast and strong.
We train them to see the world through the lens of aching hope: the ache comes from sin and its effects, but the hope remains fixed on Christ. The yearning hope we feel for God’s Kingdom to come in full, and which we want to instill in our children, is itself a beautiful thing to God and pulls us toward him. This is the power of parenting.
Our work as parents continues in some capacity, certainly in prayer, for the rest of our lives. Parents of those shunning the narrow path know this well, as they pray and plead and hope for the truest freedom for their children.
Joy and love
Amy Carmichael, lifelong missionary to India and spiritual mother to over a thousand orphans and rescued children, unfolds the truth of humble love in her description of turning from the work of evangelism tours and conventions to care for children:
Could it be right to turn from so much that might be of profit and become just nursemaids? “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God; He riseth from supper and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girded Himself.” He took a towel—The Lord of Glory did that. Is it the bondservant’s business to say which work is large and which is small, which unimportant and which worth doing? The question answered itself, and was not asked again. It was a foolish question, for the Master never wastes the servant’s time.
Children tie the mother’s feet, the Tamils say, and Bishop Paget said, “With the venture of faith there is need of self-discipline and of effort.” Babies are truly a venture of faith and, in India at least, they tie the mother’s feet. … We could not be too careful of our children’s earliest years. So we let our feet be tied for love of Him whose feet were pierced. (Gold Cord)
John Piper says that “love is the overflow and expansion of joy in God, which gladly meets the needs of others” (The Dangerous Duty of Delight). Being a mother advances God’s kingdom by bringing forth a new generation of people who know and treasure the Lord God and overflow this joy into the world in the form of loving service.