Motherhood is already chock full of demands, but during the summer when there is no reprieve provided by school, the demands keep comin’ without much of a chance to catch my breath.
This concentrated time with my children has revealed to me that I enjoy time and space for my agenda. Summer called that agenda into question and I had to re-strategize a bit to serve my children better. I saw the selfishness in my heart, clinging to a rhythm I had worked hard to establish, and growing resentful about the fact that it was being disrupted.
I’m self-centered by nature. I think if you’re honest, you are too. I hate being interrupted. I hate getting up when I’m sitting down. I hate stopping to serve someone else more food before I’ve finished mine. I hate halting a thought-process in my own head to switch gears and answer a question about the whereabouts of a missing barbie. I hate finally arriving at my destination only to have to further delay the outing with a detour to the potty. I hate pausing Netflix 65 times to put my children (back) to bed. I want to do me, and frankly, having children really gets in the way of that, but you know what? God wants it to.
Motherhood is a refining fire
The Father loves me so much that He wants me to reflect the beauty of His Son as purely as possible.
A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold,
and the Lord is the tester of hearts.
God has used this summer to reveal a problem with my heart, and He was kind enough to show me that my children are the fire He is using to purify it. As I began to think about how I could image Jesus in motherhood, I reflected on the accounts of His earthly ministry and a pattern emerged.
Jesus was frequently interrupted. In fact, exactly like my children follow me and call out “Mooooommmm!”, people followed Jesus e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. The Bible is very specific about the fact that each time He intentionally sought out a “remote place” or “withdrew” for a moment of rest, he was followed.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there. Simon and his companions went searching for Him. They found Him and said, ‘Everyone’s looking for You!'” Mark 1:35-37
“So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, but many saw them leaving and recognized them. People ran there by land from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.” Mark 6:32-33
“When He went into the house away from the crowd, the disciples asked Him about the parable.”
“He got up and departed from there to the region of Tyre and Sidon. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it, but He could not escape notice. Instead, immediately after hearing about Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit came and fell at His feet.” Mark 7:24-25
“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus all that they had done. He took them along and withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out, they followed Him.” Luke 9:10-11a
When I began to see the frequency that this occurred, I realized Jesus could relate more to the demands of motherhood than I first assumed. The lump in my throat grew as His example convicted me and put my selfish, impatient heart to shame. What is Jesus’s response to those interruptions? Compassion. Love. Service. Death-to-self. Over and over and over again.
“So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place…as He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:32, 34
“They found Him and said, ‘Everyone’s looking for You!’ And He said to them, ‘Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.’So He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” Mark 1:37-39
“He took them along and withdrew privately…When the crowds found out, they followed Him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing.” Luke 9:10-11
Wait, Lord, my children’s incessant needs aren’t an excuse for frustration? Honestly, I could just stop there and I would have enough conviction to last the next two decades of parenting, but there was something else in Jesus’s model that provided yet more room to grow.
Jesus needed alone time
Jesus needed the power and grace to serve, and it could only come through fellowship with the Father. He longed for quiet time to recharge; silence, aloneness with God. I know you can relate. The striking thing though, is that in order to get this time, He went to pretty extreme measures to get it—sacrificial measures.
“During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12
“Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” Luke 5:16
“After He said good-bye to them, He went away to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:46
“After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” Mathew 14:23
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there.” Mark 1:35
“Then He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. Early in the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry.” Matthew 21:17-18
Jesus wasn’t traveling by car or train, so chances are, He was walking a substantial distance to be able to withdraw to a mountain or to leave the city. Additionally it appears that the only time Jesus can get this alone time is to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning or to wake before sunrise (after a long day of traveling, healing people and teaching in the synagogue). Being fully man, I know that was no easy sacrifice for Him. Jesus’s zeal to carry out His Father’s will and His desperate need for divine strength, motivates Him to give up physical rest for spiritual rest.
Too often I find myself more motivated to stay up late watching a t.v. series than I do to spend time with the Lord— and the thought of waking up early to “withdraw” from my bed and open my Bible is hard enough, never mind a remote mountain.
Being needed is hard. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s even sanity-shaking. If Jesus couldn’t do it without sacrificing sleep and strategizing ways to refuel in the presence of God, why do I expect different?
I’m so thankful for this living, fleshed-out example of what it means to demonstrate Christ to my very needy, very exhausting, very imperfect children. It reassures me once again that Jesus has indeed been “tested in every way” and can “sympathize with our weaknesses,” even those of motherhood (Hebrews 4:15). Do you know what Hebrews says this means!? It means we can come to God in prayer, BOLDLY, confident that he will give us the grace we need to respond like Jesus did! (Hebrews 4:16)
“…it is here, at this broken, depleted moment, that motherhood is most powerfully a spiritual practice. The goal of spiritual disciplines is to bring us to this place, to the place where we have lost everything but God. In this deep emptiness we must cast ourselves upon him and wait on him, for we have nothing else, no other hope.”
Catherine McNiel, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood As A Spiritual Discipline