It was never intended for you to be mine
Only that my womb would be the secret place where you were knit
Only that my body would bear the pain that gave you breath.
It was never meant that I would get to keep you close
Only that my days would be crouched low telling you what you did not know
Listening and smiling at your every coo
Wondering at the fact I get to raise you
It was never the plan that I would keep you from falling
Only that when you did I’d come running
Holding you close while you were crying.
It was never my role to teach you everything
Only to rub that spot on your back all knotted up
While you told me you didn’t feel like you would make the cut.
It was never meant for me to hold you tight
To keep you from sin’s deadly plight
Only that I should proclaim to you
The good news that could make you new.
It was never scheduled that you would stay
Only that while you were away
I would pray, and pray and pray…
You were born that way.
One day you will leave
And it is not me to whom you will cleave
Only to another
Someone never meant to be your mother.
Kids are rowdy, they knock over our shiny religious teacups filled with anger, impatience and selfishness. But their rowdiness is no excuse for our complacency. Protecting our whitewashed lives is not what God has called us to.
When my boys were little I felt the tension between what I wanted to do with my days and what I was actually doing. Tending to my screaming toddler, appologizing to the parent of the child my child just bit and disciplining my child what felt like a thousand times a day was not in my plans. When your kids are little the days are full of unseen tasks that help them stay healthy, precious moments of firsts and tender affection. As Christians, we set out with creative ideas and plans to do what can feel like futile attempts to model loving Jesus and teaching them to say his name.
When your kids are older the days are packed with resolving conflict, long talks, hours of pleading in prayer, and casting vision for what you see God doing in their life. At this age you attend concerts that sound similar to nails scratching a chalkboard, but clap like it’s a professional orchestra. You attend baseketball games yelling, “Get your hands up! Get down by the hoop! Good try!” And all the challenging days of raising kids can feel they are keeping you from your real life. But as my pastor Jason Vance says to parents, spending all day working out problems with your kids is your real life.
Among parents and grandparents and non-parents in the church I see the same disillusion about kids. We tend to think of kids in the church as the people someone else will teach. Some of us think we’re too old, or not good with kids. Some of us think we’re too young and don’t know what to do with kids. Some of us find kids too annoying. Some of us find kids exhausting. But God has not called his people in the church to look at the coming generation and hope someone else is teaching them.
Jesus said we should not “despise” the little ones among us (Matthew 18:10). Despising children is a real problem in the church. It’s easy to say we are pro-life, but refuse to lower ourselves to goldfish, fruit snacks, snotty noses, crying toddlers and telling stories on the floor about the God who made those rowdy kids in his image and sent his Son to lay down his life for their sins so they could be with him forever!
Not everyone is going to bear or adopt children. But all of us are called to pass on the message of the gospel to the generation coming up behind us. There are exceptions of people who should not work with children due to criminal convictions, or cannot work with children due to disability or injury. But for most of us, our excuses for not teaching the next generation of kids in the church the gospel fall short. In reality we despise how children expose our pride and selfishness.
Just as we are facing a tsunami of elderly folks who need the humble-service of gospel bearing lives, we are also facing a generation of children who unless we teach them, will grow up not knowing the ways and delivering work of our God in Christ.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses commands the older generation in Israel to teach the younger generation what God has done, delivering them from slavery in Egypt. He tells them, “Hey you guys, God is telling you all to do all these things and let all He has done for you be on your heart because you’ve seen what he has done for you. But the generation after you hasn’t. So do what I’m telling you to do! And talk to the kids in your everyday life about all God has done” (My paraphrase of Deuteronomy 11).
But in Judges 2:10, after Moses and Joshua are dead and gone, it says, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” Israel had despised the children. They failed to let what God had done be on their hearts, and they failed to tell the kids among them what God had for them. Oh that we, the church in 2019 would not be guilty of raising a generation we despised, who don’t know the work the Lord has done for us!
Welcoming children in Jesus’ name, teaching them the gospel of Christ is a picture of the position of humility from which we enter the kingdom of heaven- like a little child, wide-eyed and rowdy, needing discipline and self-sacrificing love. We need to get down on the ground with the kids and remember the faithfulness of God to bear with us daily, like a grown up giving up his or her days to love and train a child in the ways of Jesus.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Yesterday on Twitter I wrote, “Motherhood is the Shadow. Christians discipling others in Christ is the substance.”
Today I spent the morning chasing shadows.
All the Hallmark ideas about being a mom were a no go at my house today. Fifteen years of raising sons in a hard, “even if” marriage have taught me not to expect Hallmark on Mother’s Day. They have also shown me that I tend to chase shadows when it comes to being a wife and mom.
I can tell when I’m chasing shadows, I feel the disappointment of reaching for a substance that slips through my fingers like air.
The message of the Bible is that God is making all things new through his Son. Motherhood included. Radical statements like, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” shake our grip on shadows. Like a person lost in the desert, desperate for water, we tend to look to the nuclear family like an oasis that will quench our thirst for belonging and love, only to find our mouths all of the empty promises of the ideal and the gritty sand of each others sin.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37 ESV
C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
There is a desire in being a mom that motherhood in this world will never satisfy. Christ’s death and resurrection has brought the other world motherhood in this fallen world makes me long for. His kingdom. His people. In Christ’s Kingdom, the beauty of motherhood is made tangible. It won’t slip through your fingers. People like Paul being gentle among new believers, like a nursing mom with her children, are very real and eternal relationships.
The satisfaction of motherhood is not Hallmark moments. The satisfaction of motherhood is giving your life to another to see them complete in Christ.
‘But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. ‘
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
“…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Galatians 4:19 ESV
The glory of motherhood is Christ in motherhood. The weightiness of motherhood is found not in having the ideal nuclear family, but in laying down your life for your children to know Christ, for the new believers in your church to grow up in Christ, for the single-mom in your neighborhood to be discipled in Christ. In Christ, motherhood is redeemed and made eternally significant. And it isn’t limited to being a biological or adoptive mother. In Christ, the fulfillment of motherhood isn’t Hallmark moments or Pinteresitc images. In Christ, motherhood isn’t having a lovely child who does lovely things. In Christ, motherhood is self-sacrificially loving a child, or any person, who isn’t lovely and doesn’t do lovely things, so that they may know the love of Christ and follow him.
“No father-no family-no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children.” (Lowe, 2003).
I recently ran across this statement in an article born out of statistics gathered in Switzerland in the 1990’s. It’s not the first time I’ve heard such a conclusion. Mom’s like me, who are raising kids without their fathers leading them to Christ, hear messages like this intended to emphasize the impact of fathers in their children’s lives, and we wonder, “What about us? What is the hope for mothers raising children against the odds? How do we press on in faith raising our kids? Shall we fear the frightening conclusion that without the vital role of a godly father in their lives their future salvation is hopeless and give up?”
By no means!
No doubt, we need Christ-like men who will do as Paul charged and act like men, being watchful, strong, motivated by love, standing firm in their faith (1 Corinthians 16;13-14). We need them in our homes and churches. Without them, women and children suffer. Our kids need Jesus-loving fathers, but their hope for salvation does not rest on their dad’s faith or lack of it. The Bible points moms raising kids against the odds to the God who defies the odds in the lives of women like Jochebed, Moses’ mom.
Jochebed’s faith saved Moses’ life (Hebrews 11:23, Exodus 2:2). When the authorities said Moses would be killed, she saw his worth and hid him. Moms, we may not have ideal situations to raise our kids in, but their lives are worth saving! Jochebed’s godly refusal to obey Pharaoh is an example of where our ultimate allegiance must lie. Yes, we will be obedient citizens. Yes, by God’s grace we will be Christ-honoring wives, even if our husbands don’t believe. But we won’t hand our kids over to destruction or enable those in authority to do evil. Moms, look at this Image-of-God Bearer entrusted to you and don’t surrender to the odds. Stand firm in your faith! Do what you can to expose your kids to people who display life-giving, Christ-like examples. And if you can do nothing more, hide them and put your hope in God! Resist evil and do good in their lives while you can.
When Jochebed could no longer hide Moses from the evil edict intended to drown him, she committed him to God’s sovereignty by placing him in a little ark on the river. We commit our children to the good sovereignty of God in circumstances that feel like a statistical death sentence against them by dedicating our kids to Christ. We do this by putting them in the church where others, especially godly men, can teach them about Jesus along side us. Single moms, moms married to unbelievers, we need our local church! Men in the local church, we need you! We need you to show our sons and daughters what it looks like when a man follows Jesus and leads others to follow him too. We need you to be like Paul to our Timothys.
Jochebed committed her son to God on the river, and God entrusted Moses to Jochebed when Pharaoh’s daughter paid her to nurse him. Moms, whatever time you have with your kids, is time God has given you to feed them the gospel and display your genuine faith. I remember a very difficult time when I was alone, in a small apartment with a newborn at my breast and a toddler at my heels. The odds were against them, but God had given them to me. So, I did what I could. I filled their ears with songs, scripture and prayers. Through the years my sons have seen my sinfulness and heard me frequently confess I’m a sinner who needs a savior and that savior is Christ. Has it done any good? According to the odds it hasn’t. According to the statistics neither of my sons will believe.
Moses’ upbringing was not statistically favorable either. Whatever age Moses was when his mother returned him to Pharaoh’s daughter, surely any statistics about Moses’ childhood would have destined him to be hopelessly lost to the Egyptian gods, wealth and power. But Jochebed’s hope for Moses wasn’t his favorable odds. If we start looking to the odds, we start setting up idols. God’s message to us in Jochebed’s story is this: Salvation for your kids is not by good circumstances or favorable odds. Salvation is a gift of our God’s miraculous grace. As Jochebed hoped in the God who rules rulers, guides rivers and gives beautiful children, we can hope in the God who placed children in our care.
Mothers, we need to put our hope in God, not the odds. And brothers, we need your servant-leadership to help us point our kids to Christ. Despite all that is against us let’s hear Jochebed’s witness and keep doing good, without fearing the frightening odds against us (1 Peter 3:6). If our children are ever going to trust and follow Christ it will be by the same grace that saved Moses, and us (Ephesians 2:8). We need to stand firm in our faith, even if our children’s fathers leave us in fearful circumstances. We need to plant ourselves and our kids in a local church. And we need to do what we can to feed our kids the gospel of Christ in our daily lives. The hope for our kids rests in the mercy of God, not our children’s fathers. Our hope is the promise that God is faithful to generations of those who love him (Deuteronomy 7:9). Our God is the God of Jochebed. He is Jesus who said, “With man it is impossible, but with God nothing will be impossible.” (Matthew 19:26).