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Just a Mom

"And what do you do?" Her words hung in the air as I contemplated how best to answer. I wanted to give her a long list of my daily activities that include anything from nurse to PE teacher, to scientist, cook and maid, to master snuggler and character instructor, to teacher and yard hand, to blogger and car pool connoisseur. But, so as not to terrify this unsuspecting young girl whose zeal for life reminded me much of my own at that age, I felt I should simply reply, "I stay at home with the boys."

Even before saying it, I knew it would sound so vanilla coming out of my mouth. Plain and boring. I couldn’t help but wonder when, "just a mom" had become so mediocre? When did the long list of plates a mother juggles at one time, become not enough to prove her worth as a women? In this self-saturated world, we have become convinced that to be worth loving, listened to, and accepted, we have to be something. Being a mom is no longer good enough. We have to be THE mom. With the longest resume of success. And an equally long list of struggles to prove we have fought hard enough to earn the top dog title. As a new mom I bought this lie, hook, line and sinker.

For so many years I spent an exorbitant amount of time and energy in the pursuit of others approval. Trying desperately to prove I was good enough as a stay at home mom and worthy of the title. To prove that I wasn't just sitting at home watching Ellen and eating chocolate. That I actually was doing all the things that Facebook and Pinterest said a stay at home mom should do. But even as I wrestled with this endeavor there was always another stay at home mom who did more; who had more kids, more struggles, more things to juggle than I did. This realization always left me feeling like a failure and pathetic that I couldn't be more like her. Stronger. Tougher. Able to successfully maneuver through my days while keeping the plates life has thrown my way, balanced on my tray.

And then, suddenly, in one fatal swoop all the plates crashed to the floor. God in his grace removed many of the titles I used to wear and with nothing to hide behind to prove my worth and gain others approval, I was forced to come to grips with simply, "just mom". And I say grace because, while painful and often confusing, redefining my life without all my titles and labels has, by far, been one of the best things God has ever done for me. Looking to Jesus alone for my affirmations, love and acceptance has been so freeing!

Nevertheless, the process of being stripped of my labels and learning to love myself and the position God has placed me in, however plain Jane it may feel, has not been an easy one. When you live your whole life wrapped in the sole pursuit of arriving at a place of purpose, and there finding all the validation, acceptance and approval you long for, and then it's suddenly taken away, it’s jolting. How do you define yourself without a place of prominence in the world? Even if it’s just prominence in your corner of the world.

The simple solution, we so often miss, is Jesus. It seems too easy to just live our lives as a willing vessel for God, wherever that takes us. Whether a working mom of 6 kids, or a stay at home mom of one, a garbage collector or a missionary in the heart of Africa. God does not define any of us by the man-made identities we wear here on earth. That is so counter cultural to all we have been taught since we were young girls. We had to grow up, find the man, get the job, graduate from the college, enter the career your parents wanted, have a baby, or babies by a certain age. And if you don’t fit that mold, it means you are not successful. You haven’t arrived. And then fear starts to take over that maybe we never will. This fear drives us to grasp at any and all attempts to find validation in the physical things around us, whether from people, or the things we do. We are exhausted in this endeavor, left with little to actually give to the things God calls us to.

This was never God’s best for us when he said be fruitful and multiply, or to go to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel. He never wanted us to find our sole identities, love and fulfilment in anyone but him! While we can rest assured, he has put us on this earth on purpose, for a purpose, it will never be found in our list of achievements or failures. If this was the case, his love would have run out a long time ago and each and every one of us would have been disqualified from ever being used for his glory.

What God does call each of us to, is a deeper understanding of his all sufficient, unlimited grace and love that he pours on us from the moment we are conceived. His desire is to dwell in us and with us. Covering our faults and failures and using our messed up and unworthy souls for something good that brings him glory. In and of ourselves we can do none of this! None. It’s not that we come to the gas station of God, ask for more patience, help, and endurance, get a little extra fuel and then walk away and do it on our own. It’s that as we continually admit our weakness, his Holy Spirit fills us up and then goes to work through us being strength for us because we are incapable of ever flourishing on our own. That is the only way we ever succeed in this life.

In light of this truth, no success is ever of our own making. It’s not half us and half God, it’s only God. While we may say we know this, maybe even give some credit to God on occasion, I don’t think we truly believe this. I know I wrestle with it. We love the tangible of achievement that we can see marked against our failures. It’s no easy task to learn to live in the security of the name God gives us as his beloved daughters and no other. To be okay doing the thankless job of motherhood knowing it will not get any awards but from our heavenly father. Growing into a place where we don’t feel the need to prove our self-worth to anyone, even Jesus. That we, at our worst and best, are equally loved by God and nothing can change that. That truth goes against everything we are taught here on earth. But it is vital to our survival here as we wait for eternity.

When we are forced to set down all the plates we are juggling, take off the name tags, box up the degrees and awards, and just stand before our creator, just as we are, simply with the name he gives us, it can be a bit unnerving. We will be tempted to reach for something, anything, to give him or show him or to prove our worth. When this happens today, I hope you can hear him saying,

“Beloved, I sent my son to the cross for you. I don’t need your gold medals, I don’t ask for your resume, I don’t need to see your social calendar, or your bank statement. I am not Santa; I don’t keep a list of your right and wrong to weigh on the scales before I decide if you are worthy of my love. Because I knew you never would be worthy on your own. That’s why my Son came. That’s why the blood was shed. For you! Don’t taint my grace and affection for you by striving so hard to prove something I never asked from you. You are exhausted from the weight of trying to do and be it all. What the world says about you, I never hear! I offer you freedom from all that. I am the great judge; I have judged and under the blood you are innocent. Covered in my robes of righteousness, your worth is never put into question. Take my hand. Trust me. Lean on me. Search out the truth of who I have called you to be, and live in peace there. I love you! I will never stop loving you!”

I hear her ask the question, “And what do you do?” And this time, wrapped in Gods name for me, “just a stay at home mom” even being vanilla, tastes a little sweeter.

Photo Credit Julia Costanzo Photography

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