Guest post by Bronwyn Lea
I went into motherhood with carefully weighed expectations: I knew there would be fierce joy, thousands of photos too cute to delete, sleep deprivation, tantrum-taming, and way more contact with bodily fluids than I’d ever had before. I also expected a few years spiritual lethargy. With less time and energy for church, bible study and ministry, I expected to change gears for a couple of years: from spiritual ‘drive’ to a humming ‘neutral’.
I could not have been more wrong.
Friends, nothing has revealed God’s heart to me like becoming a mother. Nothing.
In the early days, there was the taking of pre-natal vitamins, and watching what I ate, of giving up skiing and wine without complaint as I marveled at the tiny being utterly dependent on my welcome. In the minutes of the first ultrasound, tears spilled down my cheeks as I saw a heartbeat flutter on the screen: life within my life, a soul of another already contained within mine. Oh, how I loved! And I shivered when, in that moment, I felt the words settle in deep: If this is how you love the little one dependent on you and completely unaware of it, how much more do I not love you, dependent and unaware and so utterly precious to me?
In the late night hours, after the trauma of toddler-bedtimes was long forgotten, I would creep into their bedrooms, marveling that little bodies so frustrated and frenzied just hours ago could lie tangled and abandoned to sleep. I would take blurry low-light pictures of their long eye-lashes, their parted lips. Standing in the shadows, I could see their innocence and frailty: hope and life and presence, still wearing the paint-smears of the afternoon’s revelry. And in that moment of marvel, I was taken unawares by another voice whispering by moonlight: If your heart squeezes with tenderness at this, how much more do I not watch you while you sleep, watch you breathe, love you vulnerable, and ache with tenderness for you?
“I need a jacket,” my two-year old insisted. My offers of a blanket, socks, or a piggy-back ride to somewhere warmer were met with increasingly loud shrieks. A jacket was the only acceptable solution, as far as she was concerned. Trying hard to suppress my irritation and channel my zen-mommy voice, I engaged in a “teachable moment”: “I can see you are cold, honey, but I don’t think a jacket is the right way for us to fix this. Please trust me.” Kneeling with my child wrapped in my arms, I felt myself shifting from the position of mom to being the gently-held daughter myself. The words pressed gently into my heart: this is a teachable moment. You love your kiddo and are trying to give her the best solution to her problem, even though she doesn’t understand it. How much more do I not care about you? You are frustrated that I don’t give you exactly what you prayed for, but if you asked me for a fish, would I give you a stone? Trust me.
He hopped excitedly from one foot to another, hardly able to contain his excitement as we adjusted the seat on his first-ever bicycle. My heart was in my throat as he clamberedon, grinning at us askance as he leaned forward: ready for speed from the get-go. A few tentative pedal strokes later, he was off, laughing as he careened down the road. I clapped my hands: cheering, proud, delighting in his delight. I love watching you laugh too, you know. I rejoice in watching you learn a new skill. You’re not the only one who’s addicted to the sound of their children laughing. Your delight delights me, too.
I held back her flailing arms, squinting through tears and pinning my daughter close as she screamed while her blood was drawn. The nurse could not find a vein. My baby was her pincushion, and I sobbed for her pain, even though I was complicit in it. I know, I heard. I know what it is for your heart to break when your baby hurts. Don’t ever think I’m indifferent to your sobbing.
I’d gone into motherhood feeling I was taking a leave of absence the rich, cultivated spiritual lands of Ministry and Regular Quiet Times. I was expecting a wilderness: a season of spiritual dryness before I would be able to return to the Way I Had Known God Before.
But God met me in the nursery and planted an oasis just beside the rocker-glider. God met me aching, tender, weeping, nurturing, delighting in my children’s delights, holding them through the sadness, rejoicing in their growth, participating in their adventures, relishing getting to know them as little people. And time after time, in those moments of quintessential mothering, I heard God’s heart whisper to mine: You feel this? This moment of almost unbearable tenderness? How much more do I not love you, my precious one?
My mothering heart holds the fiercest, strongest, wildest and most protective love I have ever known. And it is nothing, nothing, nothing compared to the way the motherheart of God loves me.
I am undone.
I am beloved.
About the author: Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born mama-writer, raising three little kids in Northern California, and writing about faith, marriage, motherhood, and things that make her laugh and think when she can sneak away. She writes regularly at bronlea.com and various other places around the web. Visit her blog, and connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Also in the Motherheart of God series:
Exploring the Motherheart of God — “In Sunday school they taught us about God our Father and—if we were lucky—perhaps about Jesus our Brother. In youth group we learned about Jesus our Best Friend and in college and careers group we were taught about Jesus our Husband (or perhaps Lover, if you were a dude and ‘Husband’ felt awkward). But no one ever taught me about God our Mother. I had to learn that one on my own, and it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I really started to learn that God is not just fathering me, he’s mothering me, too. . . The language of mothering helps me to embrace the sort of tender, gracious God that wants to gather me close and hide me under her wings.” continue reading>>>
Relentlessly Tender — “Jesus is, as Brennan Manning puts it, “relentlessly tender” with me and oh, how I need that tenderness as we brave these waters of the little years and the hormonal fluctuations of the postpartum months and sleep deprivation. I need to be nurtured, to have a safe place to cry my tears of frustration or those tears of I don’t know why I’m crying but I am. To stay with me while I tantrum, ranting and raving over little things that are hardly of any consequence but that mean something to me at that moment.” continue reading>>>