I was asked last Wednesday to lead a short devotional at the start of a surprise baby shower for two of our co-workers (who are likely to have their babies within days of each other). While at first I was shocked, being literally only a step ahead of these soon-to-be-mommies without the massive breadth of “mommy-knowledge” that those who have many more years of experience than I. But…I agreed, assuming perhaps I was asked BECAUSE I’m just one step ahead of where these mommies are and have a fresher take on what would encourage them the most.
Of course, being a blogger that has already been sharing some of the lessons I have learned in my first couple years as “mommy,” I wanted to share my experience with you all as well. My hope is that my experience encourages (or at least entertains) my readers in some way.
So with that…let’s dive in!
When I first became pregnant with my son, I was (understandably) elated. BEYOND elated, because of the journey it took to get to that point.
For those who don’t know the whole story,
feel free to visit some of my posts here.
But as that initial shock and euphoria began to give way to anticipation and fatigue (a whole new level of TIRED I had never experienced before), small inkling of self-doubt and fear began to make their way into my thoughts. Having never done this thing called “motherhood” before, I began to worry…a lot…about whether I would be able to live up to that time-honored title of “MOMMY.”
Here’s a short version of the thoughts that kept creeping into my mind:
Seriously, Lydia…do you REALLY think you have the capacity to be a mom? I mean, you’re one of the most selfish people you know. You’re impatient. You have a short temper. You’re stubborn. You’re almost obsessive-compulsive when it comes to neatness. You lose interest in things so easily. How could you POSSIBLY think that YOU could raise a child for 18+ years and not totally and utterly mess this child up for life?
Every descriptive point above is true. By my sin nature, I am a hot-headed, stubborn, “me first” neat freak who allows her emotions and tirades get the best of her. It’s the worst possible combination of personality traits one would need to be the kind of mother I desired to be – patient and kind…seeking to love and discipline gently…not satisfied with simply changing bad behaviors, but desiring to do well in my God-given mission to help shape this child’s precious heart.
Left to my own devices, I knew I was doomed to failure.
But it was too late for me to renege on the whole baby thing. Besides, I had already written a ton of blog posts about how desperately I wanted this baby.
So the only option was to change…completely.
Of course, attempting to simply change my behaviors would not be enough. Past record shows all that would do is cause the magma of my fiery personality build pressure until I would completely blow up at the people around me – child and adult alike. No, I needed to change as a person. I needed to be a WHOLE NEW PERSON!!
And there was only one place I could find such transformation…
…at the feet of the Almighty God
As I collapsed in the presence of the Almighty God, seeking His healing and transformation of my brokenness, I was led to a passage in the book of Isaiah, where God gave the prophet Isaiah words of comfort to speak over the people of Israel in the midst of Babylonian captivity.
Isaiah 3:3-5 ESV
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
What God was calling me to do was simply “prepare the way of the Lord.” He was calling me to stop allowing my doubts in myself stand in the way of His powerful work in both my life AND the life of my child. There is purpose in the life of my child…AND purpose in my becoming a mother. His voice called to me to step aside and allow Him to smooth and level every valley, mountain, and uneven ground of my sinfulness and allow His glory to be revealed.
I had no idea what God was going to do in order to level the uneven ground of ME. But I made the choice to trust Him and to allow Him to do His work.
So of course, the question is HOW I went about “stepping aside” to make way for the Lord. Here are the steps I took during my journey…and CONTINUE to take as I continue to make way for the Lord’s work in my son’s life.
1) Recognize and call out my shortcomings.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time He may exalt you… (1 Peter 5:6 ESV)
It wasn’t simply enough to know that I had shortcomings. I had to call each one out BY NAME that concerned me. As listed above, they are impatience, fiery temperament, pride, stubbornness, the unhealthy need for perfection (in myself and my surroundings), and struggles to follow through on the things I start. By calling out these shortcomings, I had the opportunity to see just how deeply engrained the sinfulness was and how behavioral correction was not enough. I desperately needed to be healed and transformed from the very HEART of me.
2) Present and cast all anxiety and fears on God.
…casting all your anxieties on Him,
because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 ESV)
It would have been so easy to allow my shortcomings to lead me down a road of despair and depression. I could have easily given up and simply allowed my sin nature to take over because…well, nothing I could do about it. It’s true…there was nothing I could do to change my sinful nature. I needed God to do that.
So I took each one of my shortcomings and presented them to Him in prayer and petition. I praised and thanked Him for the miracle that was growing inside of me. I asked Him to work another miracle inside me to change me into the kind of mother the child He gave me would need to become all that He had created him to be. I asked God to take every rough edge in me and level it out so I could be that mother He has called me to be.
3) Seek and submit to the loving discipline and transformation that comes from God.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls
around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him,
firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering
are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,
who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself
restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:8-10)
Now, the change didn’t happen overnight. That has never been God’s modus operandi when it came to His work in my life. There have been moments in the past 2 years where patience ran thin and I raised my voice and made disciplinary decisions in anger (though never once did I strike or physically harm my child, thank God). Not my proudest moments, for sure. But each time I allowed my sinful nature to get the best of me, I began to hear the admonishment of the Lord more clearly…and I chose to take heed of His correction and obey. I knew these were the very parts of me from which I was asking Him to heal and change me. He has been faithful in doing that. It is up to me to allow His instruction to humble me and teach me and not simply become defensive. It’s a choice I have to make every day (every minute of every day sometimes).
Praise be to God that as time goes by, it is getting easier to allow love and patience to override all else. I find myself repeating the same words with patience that I have never experienced in myself before. I am able to look straight into my son’s eyes and speak in a calm, loving, yet stern tone that I never thought I would every hear from my lips. Even if I’m not 100% sure he understands what I am saying, I continue to speak into him in loving admonishment…just as God has been speaking into me. The change feels shockingly good. It seriously makes me tear up in gratitude knowing the mom I COULD have been compared to the mom I see and hearing myself being today.
In the end, I always remember that it’s about the HEART FIRST!! I’ve learned in the process of being a mom (trial by fire, and all) as well as through the counsel of those who have done this before (seriously, advice from more experienced Godly moms is GOLD!!) that my job as mom is not to simply change behavior. Just as I knew that behavior change would not be lasting change for me, it would not be lasting change for my son either. The focus for both him and me has to be the heart first. That is God’s way of doing things, and His way is ALWAYS the best, most PERFECT way.
If I ever doubt that, I simply look back at who I was…
…and then who I have become…
…and I know for SURE that His way WORKS!!
(and those who have known me longest
would probably agree with me on that)
So, for those of you who are embarking upon the journey that is “MOTHERHOOD” and are having some of the same doubts that I had, I hope that God’s work in my own experience will spark hope and joy in knowing that, if you ask, He will heal and smooth all those rough patches in the very heart of you.
You just need to “prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” He’s going to work wonders…whether through us or in spite of us. It’s our choice which one it will be.