Motherhood: Laying Yourself On The Alter
When I was in Bible college I was greatly challenged by the spiritual lives of the other students and the five-times-per-week preaching I received. I came face to face with God in new ways and learned truths that shattered things I had thought about Him all my life. More than anything, I was blown away by the direct, specific, narrow path that Christians are called to walk as followers of Christ Jesus. As I stood on a beach near Santa Barbara, California, in December of 1994, my heart swelled up with the desire to commit every essence of my being to Christ and His work. I didn’t want to just repent of my sins and plod ahead through life. I wanted Christ to be my everything, my every moment, my all in all. I wanted to live recklessly righteous all the days of my life. I stood on that beach, and in the words of Isaiah (6:8), wrote in the sand…”Here Am I.”
Five years later I became a parent to our first child. The first year was glorious. The second year: a bit harder. The third through 16th year, impossible. Impossible? Yep! I found out many terrible things within my sin nature as my child grew. I found out that my heart was capable of anger, wrath, malice, impatience, unkindness and frustrations galore that were not manifested aside from the refining fire of parenting. I say it was impossible because, without Christ, I am completely unable to be a righteous or decent parent. God knew I was to have five more children and had much to change to be like Him. God knew all the lessons I had to learn and the killing of sin in my heart that would have to be battled and overcome. God knows this still happens today: 16 years later.
You see, I’ve come to learn that availability to God is not just a one-time arms-wide-open moment on a beach. Availability to God is a laying down your desires moment by moment in whatever circumstances you are challenged in. God has used parenting as the ultimate sanctification tool of my heart, thus far. I’ve come face to face with many idols and have had to smash them one by one with God’s help.
In the Bible, we read of the Jewish sacrificial system. At the proper time, each family would take the most perfect lamb it had to the Temple to be offered as a sacrifice to cover the family’s sins. As the lamb was killed and laid on the fire to be burned, so Christ was bloodied and beaten and nailed to a cross for the past, present, and future sins of His children. Christ Himself offered up His own life at Passover as the eternal perfect Lamb, covering all sin.
In a similar fashion, we are called to be living sacrifices unto God. My every moment is to be lived for His purposes and not my own! Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Have you considered your mothering as a spiritual service of worship? A sacrifice was bloody and without rights. A sacrifice had to be a perfect lamb. Here in Romans 12 Paul calls “Christians” a holy sacrifice. We were made clean at the cross for our lives to be able to be a holy sacrifice. This is a sacrifice of all you are . . . for all of Christ. Your will, soul, mind, body.
Consider that from the time you are pregnant, you give up so much! Your comfort, sleep, time, body, bladder even. In Colossians 1:24, Paul says to his spiritual children: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
As your child grows you continue to give up most of your time, your money, your quiet, your brain cells, your energy. It is constant, it is endless, it is very demanding: and yet, this is the ministry and mission field of our very lives, mamas! Being a mother is a moment by moment sacrifice!
Do you give of yourself to your children’s needs as cheerfully as you serve at church?
Do you see parenting as a mission field?
Do you minister to these natives in your home as kindly and patiently as you would to unbelievers outside your home or country?
Do you consider that your children, if saved, will be your brothers and sisters in Christ?
The one-another’s of scripture apply right here and right now in our parenting.
One who is engaged in laying down their life as a “living sacrifice” is not concerned with self. Christ laid down His life without uttering one complaint. He did not accuse, lash out in anger, or show frustration. Indeed, He asked God to take the horrible “cup” from Him, but then put feet to faith in God’s ultimate plan and humbled Himself to fulfill the Father’s plan. God’s plan is for us to lay ourselves down, too. In the throes of having needy little ones, blossoming middle ones, deeper thinking teenagers, or recklessly independent young adults, we are called to give up our own “rights” and serve these gifts of God in all of the ways listed in the Bible of how to treat others.
In Romans 12:9-21, Paul continues his charge to righteous living with others. As you read this, think of it in the context of your home and family:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Within the home we can sometimes feel like our spouse or our children are our best friends, but sometimes, even like our worst enemies. As I have told my own children in their struggles with their siblings: “Christ calls us to love the brotherhood, and even to be kind to our enemies, so either way, you are called to bless those around you above yourself!” The first place you need to be like Christ is inside the four walls of your home. Your children need to see your servanthood foremost to your spouse and to them, then in the context of the church!
Consider how biblical leadership of the church teaches, instructs, and disciplines us. They encourage, exhort, and proclaim truth to enliven our hearts to obedient action. We would expect them to do it patiently, kindly, and with loving calls to our hearts. If anger, impatience, selfishness, and hypocrisy are dominating your parenting, then you need to reconsider Christ’s call to you. Peter exhorts us in his first epistle, chapter 4 verse 7:
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
The day of the Lord could be any moment! Are you serving in your home in light of this? Are you being watchful of it for the purpose of prayer: praying for your kids’ salvation? Are you fervent in your love and letting that love cover a multitude of sins as Christ does with us? Are you treating your guests like family and your family like guests? Are you “letting no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear?” (Eph. 4:29) Are you laying down your every little moments on the alter of self-sacrifice or are you filled with unrighteousness, complaining, anger or selfishness?
If you are serving in love, then you are being a worthy servant of the most high God and the Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matt 25:21) If you aren’t, then you need to remind yourself of Colossians 3:12-17 and 23-24 “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
Do you find yourself weary of always being the one who is serving? When the kids are crying and the sink is full and the husband wants a kiss and hug too, remember Christ’s perfect sacrifice.
Do you find yourself on an endless roller coaster of wanting to serve and then bottoming out, seeking idols of the heart or responding in anger? Call out for His help, go be faithful to your calling, and find your mission field full of the harvest of worship.
Finally, may I suggest that you don’t follow the world’s ideology of “me-time?” This can so easily become an idol that you sin to get, or sin to keep. I suggest you find “HIM-time” every single day! A slave doesn’t get “me-time,” but is constantly concerned with the wishes of the Master. Be filled up and renewed by HIM.
Let us work heartily, sisters in Christ, it is the Lord Christ whom we serve in our homes!