I saw them walk into the church one Sunday, all five of them, the boys in their long pants and button-up shirts and the girls in their dresses, heads ducked low. They’d just lost their mother to a brain aneurism and I swore I’d never complain about another dirty diaper.
And then the next day my eldest son dumped the potty on the floor, a full potty, and my foster boys were fighting and my youngest fell down the stairs and got a black eye.
I gathered him up and ran to the office and sat on the floor and cried, rocking my baby back and forth wondering why God had asked me to be a mom, this girl who’d been told she wouldn’t be able to have children, this girl who had never wanted children—had only ever wanted to be famous. To be known, because of some deep unloved holes in her heart.
Sometimes I escape to the back deck and listen to the silence, to the way the snow falls—softly, uninhibited—smelling the laundry through the chute and wishing for the same kind of significance I felt as a single person. Or even as a newly married person. The ability—and time—to do something profound because I didn’t have four little boys on my lap.
And then I turn and see their tiny faces pressed against the glass of the back door, their foreheads wrinkled and my baby’s lip beginning to tremble and I know without a doubt I’m famous. Despite the spit-up on my shirt, I matter in a huge way. This mothering, matters.
And not only that, but motherhood is revolutionary. It changes the world.
We live in a culture that insists mothers deserve spa-days and hot cups of coffee and time to remember that they are women—and to an extent, I agree. I grew up as a pastor’s daughter whose mother never had time to herself, who was always serving, and she was exhausted and sad. I swore I’d never become a mother because it ruins you, it wrecks you–and in many ways, it does.
But in the same way that Jesus says a seed cannot produce fruit unless it falls to the ground and dies, we as mothers cannot produce fruit in our children (or in the world) unless we too die to ourselves.
I’ve been reading a radical little book lately called Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic. In it she says,
“You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”
Maybe we don’t get dressed until three in the afternoon, and suppers some days are Delissio pizzas or Chinese take-out. Maybe nine loads of laundry sit piled on our dryer, the floor is perpetually sticky and something brown sits pooled in the back of the fridge.
Because being a perfect housewife is not the same as being a revolutionary mom. Being a revolutionary mother means taking time each day to snuggle with your children. To read them the same story over and over, to kneel down and look them in the eyes and tell them they mean the world to you. To pray with them and take flowers and meals with them to the lonely and teach them how to fly a kite.
There will be bad days. We are only human but even on those, take your children’s hands and say, “I’m so sorry—Mommy messed up. Can you forgive me?” And this too, changes the world, because your children learn how to say sorry. How to ask for forgiveness. And how to give it.
A mother’s sacrifice is her child’s reward. They will not remember how clean your floors. They will remember how you took time to sound out the words in their Winnie the Pooh book, or how you stretched out your arms and said, “I love you.”
This changing of the world?
It makes children of us all.