I had the opportunity to write a little something for a friend's blog while she's out on maternity leave. Why not muse on motherhood and identity?
I have two other drafts of this blog post. One is witty and humorous, and sneakily, makes me look witty and humorous and rather good. It had to be tossed because this isn't about me, a lesson I'm perpetually learning. (Shocking, but life isn't about me.) The second came off a little preachy and started to sound like a research paper for a theology class. Two more nerdy heartbeats and I would have added proper footnotes. So, I’ll just say you’re welcome for tossing that one.
Here I sit. Third draft. Second iced coffee. Same single topic: identity.
I’d like for you to know that I’ve been a mom for about a hot second. Four months ago this week, I gave birth to the most beautiful and wonderful lady baby to have ever existed. I’m being entirely objective, and I’ve based my observations on irrefutable scientific evidence. I know, I know. Your babies are also the cutest little ones ever. I guess that makes sense since God is in the business of designing beautiful humans crafted in His image.
But in all seriousness, I'm certain that the addition of Wren into our family has rocked my little world. I’ve never been so fascinated by someone’s tiny toes or the way she smiles at me as I peek my head over her crib in the morning. Who knew that making fart noises on repeat could bring two people such outrageous happiness? God knew. He knew our love for our children would be unmatched by most other loves because He loves us with such extravagance, unabashed joy, and perfect knowing. He is the perfect Father.
Wren is a constant point of God’s mercy and love in my life. I adore being a mother, but I am reminded continually that being her mom is not my identity. Motherhood is a role to take seriously, certainly, and I understand the responsibility in being entrusted with this tiny human. My job is to instruct and discipline her out of love and to God’s glory. My job is not to lose myself in my love for her. By doing that, I replace the focus of God in my life with a tiny, sinful human, and then everything is out of sorts.
Thanks to the Fall and sin’s entrance into the world, we are left marred. We wonder about our identity. What gives me worth? How am I fulfilled? Who am I? We hear messages from wrong sources about our parenting styles, pants sizes, career options, and more. We believe that if we try harder, be more organized, stay focused, or simply be better, we’ll know who we are and why we exist. We want adventure and romance and a big story starring ourselves as the heroine. We want to be the Pin-able girl who exudes class and coolness and effortless perfection. Or maybe only I think of those things. But I’m guessing maybe a few others do too.
And just like all other perfectly-designed-by-God things in life, motherhood is also twisted by sin. Instead of being a God-created role to teach and to raise up new disciples who love Him, we make it about us and we let it define us. We start to look towards our children to let us know that we’re good and worthwhile. We let our children’s behaviors, accomplishments, personalities, and even their outfits become our identity. Do you see how well my kids are behaving? Do you know my child is smart? Do you notice how perfectly dressed they are in my Instagrams? Do you see me?
It’s an old battle, this wanting to be seen and known. We’re desperately searching for that which will fulfill us and give us purpose. We can do the same thing with our careers, our marriages, our social media accounts, our anything. I think motherhood can so easily slip into the place of our identity because we deeply care for our children, and often times, we spend the majority of our time with them. We serve them, take care of them, and delight in them. They become a huge part of our lives, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they cannot become our lives. God designed us to be satisfied in Him alone, so no matter how much we love our children, they will never satisfy us. We will never be able to look at them and see who we are and feel at peace.
But we can look to the One who made us, the perfect Father, and we can rest in knowing where our identities lie. We were made in His image out of love, which gives us extreme value. So much so, the Creator of the universe sacrificed His own Son in order to rescue us from our sin. We are cherished children and named co-heirs with Christ. This is an identity worth celebrating, an identity in which to cling. Our purpose is made clear in our design: we exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Our children will fail us. They’ll embarrass us. They’ll be demanding. They’ll leave our wishes unconsidered as they seek out their own. Because they’re humans and just like us, they’ll live in rebellion. If we’ve made them our everything – our purpose, our justification, our scale of worth – we will find ourselves crumpled in defeat with broken hearts and smashed pride. But mama, there is a hope which does not fail. It uplifts us, confirms us, and refreshes us. It’s the truth that we are loved and treasured and delighted in by our Father, and He has called us His own. From that name, we live our lives.
Right at this exact second, as I watch my handsome husband hold our lady while she naps, I am grateful that my identity is steady and firm outside of them. Because while they’re angelic and picturesque in this moment, I’ll bet you $5 that within the hour, I won’t get some sought after recognition for a chore that I did, and my child will demand I feed her while my own food grows cold. So I’ll try to rest in knowing that I serve because Christ was the ultimate Servant, I love because I'm loved by my own Father, and that I'm called His.
And because I’m His, I mother.