Incomprehensible and Indefinable

May 12, 2012

by Maria Fontaine

Thoughts on Motherhood

Motherhood may have its ups and downs, but when we stop to focus on what is truly great, truly important, truly wonderful in this world, one thing that most people will always have at or near the top of their list is the wonder of mothers.

How do mothers do it? What is the secret of that seemingly boundless patience, endurance, and love that seems to keep reviving again and again in spite of anything that life throws at it?

Here are some of my thoughts about mothers—things that mothers do, or are, that make them so special.

What is given to a child from a mother’s heart, which has been broken and crushed and remade and filled to overflowing many times, is the confidence that, no matter what, they are valued and loved and there is always hope.

Every mother who has given from her heart to her children has placed a part of herself—her life, her compassion, her hope—into their hearts and spirits through her love and patience and caring.

Is there any clearer illustration of God’s own spirit of love on this earth than the love of a mother for her child? If you’re feeling that your own faults and failings and flaws have disadvantaged your children, even though you have loved them and given them what you could, you might want to reflect on how even God’s great, perfect, flawless love for all humankind doesn’t guarantee that we will turn out perfect and without mistakes, failings, or problems. No matter how great a job you do as a mother, it will not guarantee that those you pour your life into will turn out the way you would like them to. But one thing is certain: your loving hand in their lives—through example, through instruction, through care, and through prayer—always makes a difference for good.

What if you never personally bore a child? You partake of motherhood if you have cared for a child who needed you. You’ve imprinted a touch of yourself on that life, and when you do it in Jesus’ name and with His love filling your heart, that reflection is in His likeness.

Jesus knows the heart of each of you mothers who have done what you could, whether or not it seemed impressive and outstanding in your own eyes or the eyes of others. He sees and He knows your heart and He honors you.

The world may not see and understand, but He sees. All those long nights caring for a sick child, or those times of desperate prayer for whatever terrible thing was facing them, or those times of despair when it looked like your life’s work of pouring into them had been lost or your efforts had had no impact, or when there seemed no chance that your heart’s deepest desire for those you’ve raised would be fulfilled, all you sacrificed was not in vain. In the course of time and eternity, those seeds of His Spirit that you sowed and tenderly nurtured as best you could will become all that you hoped for and more.

Mothers are God’s great gift to each child and to this world. You have to sacrifice so much for each of your children from the moment of conception until you go home to heaven. It doesn’t end. Even when your children are grown and living on their own, you still pour out your prayers and emotions for them, rejoicing in their joy and pleading before the Lord for them in their times of trouble. It costs to be a mother. It costs very much, and that is part of God’s plan—part of His plan to provide a daily, up-front example of giving one’s life for another.

It costs to be a mother. It costs in loss of freedom to do what you feel like doing. It costs in putting your children ahead of yourself day in and day out. As one writer expressed it when writing about his mother: “I see sacrifices made for me and dreams imprisoned that mine might be free.”[1]

Motherhood costs in carrying not only your own pain and sorrow, but also the pain and sorrow of those in your care. It costs in battling their fears on top of your own and worrying as your children fall again and again. It costs in trying to muster a little more strength when yours is gone, yet more is needed to lift those who are looking to you for strength. It costs when hope seems gone, yet you know that you cannot let go for their sakes, and you hope against hope until you see them back on their feet.

You have to pay a high price for being a mother. It costs you dearly, but God is in that cost. In paying that price and in doing what you can to help your children move forward on their life’s path, you are giving an in-depth view of the sacrifices of God for mankind.

A mother’s love is so supernatural that it can’t be explained. As one poet put it:

It is far beyond defining,
It defies all explanation;
And it still remains a secret
Like the mysteries of creation.

A many-splendored miracle
Man cannot understand,
And another wondrous evidence
Of God’s tender guiding hand.[2]

Whether you feel you’ve succeeded or not, the Lord is proud of you for taking on the responsibility of motherhood, which most likely has stretched you beyond your personal talents and skills. Your endeavors to be a good parent, and to raise your children to know the Lord's love for them, makes Him proud of you. He honors you as a Christian parent who has loved your child no matter what mistakes you may have made or what deficiencies you may have.

The point that the Lord wants every mother and every husband and every child to understand is that He is proud of you mothers for taking on the responsibility of motherhood.

Even if your children have chosen other paths that you may not understand, He is with them, and you can trust in His tender care for them. If your children are struggling, He places His arms around them and holds them and continues to work to bring good in their lives and to help them resolve the issues that are bothering them. If your children are searching for their place but can’t seem to find it, He is the light that you can claim for them.

No matter what things look like right now, Jesus is proud of you for doing your best. The results may or may not be apparent in your children's lives at this moment, but in the context of this life and eternity, your love and care will have a lasting effect on them.

You can have joy because God is proud of you—even if you might feel there’s nothing to be proud of. You can rejoice in knowing that your greatest love, Jesus, notices and cares and is proud of you. This isn’t a joy that will automatically wash away all of the sorrow or difficulties. However, knowing that He understands, He honors you, and He sees all of your sacrifices and that it’s no small thing to Him, should greatly encourage you and help you. Although the struggles will continue until this earthly life is over, and even though you may often be discouraged, if you can keep the heavenly perspective and remember God’s words, “I’m proud of you,” you’ll be a stronger mother—stronger parents—because, through this heavenly perspective, you can overcome any condemnation. You can let the light of His Word in, which will be a tool to defeat the darkness that tries to pull you down.

The Lord is proud of all you mothers who have cared for His children, whether they’ve been your biological children or not. He is grateful for you who have shown unfailing love to each of those little ones, His handiwork. He honors you for giving unselfishly every hour, every day. He holds you in high regard for your enduring patience and inner strength that gave so much to each of them, so many times at your own expense. He gazes in admiration at each of you—His mothers.

What are some of our personal qualities and attributes that influence our children in positive ways?

a. Unconditional love toward them and others.

b. Balancing moral standards with compassion and mercy that teaches them forgiveness and tolerance, coupled with a conviction for what is true and right.

c. Prayer, faith, and trust as an integral part of our relationship with our children.

d. The care we show for others and our desire to bring them to Jesus.

e. The laying down of our life for our children and others in need.

f. The example of trust and faith that we show in how we react to the crosses and heartaches that come into our life and into the lives of others.

g. The resilience we show when we make mistakes or fail, and the seeking of ways to grow from the experience, so that our children, when they make mistakes, can discover the purpose of them without condemnation.

h. Humility in loving Jesus most of all and following in His footsteps.

i. Our concerted attempts to grow and fulfill our potential.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I wanted to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you pour your heart out to Jesus,
and I knew there is a God I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw the tears you shed,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you react graciously to the difficulties in life,
and I saw that I could do the same and still have joy.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you forgive over and over again,
and I learned the value of forgiveness.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you praying for me,
and I learned how to do it too.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you sacrificing to give to others,
and I learned that you truly gain from giving.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you healing hurts and calming fears,
and now I know how to do it with others.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned so many lessons about how to love and give,
and these now bring blessings to me every day.

When you thought I didn’t notice, I saw all the many times you loved and sacrificed,
and I realized that you are the proof that God exists.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked …
and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw,

When you thought I wasn't looking.[3]

I know that all of us who are Christian mothers want to be good examples of Jesus to our children. We want to be sure they are cared for in all areas of life—that they’re educated well, that their health needs are provided for, that they learn good social skills, and that they are taught good values and to be kind, loving, and giving to others. We want to be sure they are raised with strong Christian faith and conviction and principles.

Even if you might have sometimes lacked the skill or ability to give your children what they needed in some way, you have sought out others who could, because the care of your little ones is paramount in your mind and heart. Maybe you didn’t do all of these things directly, but you put your children in a position where they could be taught them by others.

If we have led our children to Jesus and made it possible for them to learn to love Him, we have done a very great work indeed.

I thought that the following example of a godly mother from history, Susanna Wesley, would be encouraging for all you Christian mothers who have made Jesus a priority in your life and in the lives of your children.

Susanna Wesley is best known as the mother of the founders of Methodism, Charles and John Wesley. From Methodism sprang a number of today's Protestant denominations. Charles and John were tireless in their efforts to preach the Gospel, which they attributed to the faith instilled in them by their mother. They were instrumental in triggering a major time of revival and missionary work in England in the 1600s that spread to many parts of the world.

Though in the world's eyes, Susanna Wesley is most famous for what Charles and John accomplished, the greatest honor God affords her is for her great determination and faithfulness to raise all her children in the ways of the Lord. She never wavered in this resolve, even though adversity constantly threatened to overwhelm her.

The specifics of your struggles, heartbreaks and battles may be quite different from what Susanna Wesley faced. But whatever the day or difficulty, it’s always a challenge to endure and stay faithful in your fight to raise your family to the best of your ability. Godly motherhood is always demanding and is deserving of both our praise and the Lord's.

  • Finances always a problem. She described her encounters with debt collectors as “living with the wolf at the door.”
  • Bore nineteen children. (How difficult is that!)
  • Nine of the children died, some in very tragic circumstances.
  • House burned down twice. Barn collapsed.
  • Family forced to be separated from each other after their home was destroyed.
  • Health failed; often bedridden and needing to manage her household from bed.
  • Struggled with doubt throughout her life.
  • Persecuted at various times: children mocked, family crops burned, parsonage damaged, family cows and dog abused.
  • Marital difficulties, with lots of arguments and disagreements. Her husband’s nature and her own strong personality resulted in many arguments, one incident leading to her husband leaving her on her own to raise and support their family for a year.
  • Brother disappeared mysteriously and was never heard from again.
  • After an accident, her husband remained weak and sickly for the rest of his life.
  • It seems that some of her children were very wayward, resulting in many heartbreaks.
  • She saw herself as not having any great abilities or as having accomplished anything great. She said, “I am content to fill a little space if God be glorified.”[4]

Yet her overwhelming desire was that the little flock that she had borne would grow to know and love Jesus and do things for God. She schooled all her children, and each day before their academic studies began, an hour was spent in Scripture reading and prayer and singing of Psalms.

Even if her two sons had not done great works for Jesus, that would not have changed the tremendous acclamation that she received in heaven. Why? Because, no matter what your children become, what counts to the Lord is your faithfulness to Him and to His commission to teach them in the ways of the Lord and to equip them to have that connection with Jesus and be able to pass that on to others if they so choose.

Nothing could deter Susanna from putting their spiritual welfare first and foremost. In spite of her not being able to provide them with all the material things that she would have liked, she gave them the most important thing. Her name, like that of all faithful mothers who ensure that their children are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, has gone down in the annals of heaven.

Many times all she could do was cling to God’s promises and refuse to let circumstances stop her in the task that the Lord had given her of pouring the standards and the truth of God’s Word into the lives of those He had given her. In spite of the setbacks, defeats, heartbreaks, loss, and spiritual and physical battles, her faith and love for the Lord and her children brought her through it all.

Eventually, in her later years, she saw some of the fruits of her faithfulness, and I’m sure much more when she arrived in her heavenly home, as you will as well, if you don’t see them in this life. Nothing you give for your children will be wasted, but will bring good results in His time.

[1] Robert Church.

[2] Author unknown.

[3] Author unknown; adapted.

[4] You can find a wealth of articles on Susanna Wesley’s life by searching her name online, as well as an extensive account in Wikipedia that can fill in many more details of this dedicated mother.