Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Joy in Sacrifice

I had an interesting moment in the doctor's office yesterday. A nurse was taking my vitals and asking the basic questions before the doctor arrived (I've been dealing with 2 months of persistent congestion that I probably got from my little germ spreader!). Marshall was with me and being a bit fussy and squirmy.

She looked down at my protruding belly for a moment, then asked, "How far apart will they be?"

"17 months," I replied.

"WOW," she said. "Your life is going to be CRAZY!" Her tone wasn't a sympathetic-but-it-will-be-worth-it tone. It was more like one of those thank-God-that's-not-MY- life tones. She wasn't super friendly with Marshall, either, so it was obvious she wasn't a kid person.

When she left the room, my first reaction was to feel defensive, wanting to tell her how much I really DO enjoy life as a mom. Then I felt pity for her because I thought she probably doesn't even know what she's missing! But finally, I suddenly remembered that was ME a few years ago. I would've had the SAME reaction if I saw a mom with a toddler and one on the way. I would've been thankful that wasn't ME and been SO glad I had my OWN life of freedom, unburdened by the demands of little ones.

Yet now, I AM that person I used to pity! And I can honestly say..I couldn't be more joyful! But by joyful, I don't mean my days are rosy and carefree. There are plenty of hard days. But even on those hard days, there is a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment that I have never experienced until now. Maybe not every mom feels this way, but I think most do.

Perhaps there are a few reasons for why there is such fulfillment and sense of purpose in being a mom. Biblically speaking, women were created in God's image and specifically gifted to be caretakers and mothers. That's not their ONLY role, but it's one that God clearly intended since Creation. So it is NATURAL for us to enjoy and even thrive as mothers!

But I think there is a secondary reason, which has to do with the process of DYING to ourselves. As painful as it may sound, there is something JOYFUL in sacrifice. There is something deeply fulfilling in living in a way that is not all about ME and MY NEEDS. Instead of making decisions all day long about what I want to do, I am thinking about my husband's and son's needs first (most of the time, atleast!). And while that would've sounded stifling to me a few years ago, it is deeply rewarding as I live it out today.

Let me give 2 examples.

Sickness. I rarely used to get sick and when I did, I could take a day off work, lie in bed, veg out, watch TV and allow my body to fully recuperate. That isn't the case anymore. Even when I'm sick, I have to get up at 6am, change, feed and tend to Marshall. It's hard and exhausting. But at the end of the day, I love that I can't cater to myself anymore. And I am amazed at how much TOUGHER I've become just by realizing I don't have that option!

Time. Before we had Marshall, as a married couple, Jim and I could spend our time however we wanted. Going out to movies, sleeping in on the weekends, taking a last minute trip somewhere because of a good deal on Southwest Airlines. It was OUR time. Now, Marshall sets the schedule. There are nap times, meal times, and bed times that we structure our lives around (I guess some parents don't take this approach, but you usually pay for it if your child isn't on a schedule!). While we definitely miss our old life of entertaining ourselves whenever and however we wanted, we both agree that sacrificing our own schedule for Marshall's is ultimately worth it. It means we spend a lot more time at home together, reading and going to bed earlier. But again, within that sacrifice of structure and loss of freedom, there comes JOY.

Finally, we have no better example of someone who died to Himself than Jesus Christ. He did not demand His needs or wants. Instead, He loved on people, He gave of Himself, He healed crowds who were constantly following Him, nagging Him, needing a piece of Him. And He gave, willingly, lovingly and joyfully. Up until His very death, He gave of Himself. He didn't demand His rights. He could've struck His tormentors down with a lightning bolt and killed them in one instant if He wanted to. But He didn't. That wasn't His way. His way was the way of the cross, the way of death to self, one of humility, love and sacrifice for others. He is our ultimate example.

As I continue to face new challenges each day being a mom, I want to lean on the fact that my Lord and Savior can relate to me. He has walked before me on this path of "death to self." He knows what I am going through. While it is painful and frustrating at times, He understands. And in the process, I can draw closer to Him through this experience. I am comforted by the words in Philippians 3:10-11, which say, "I want to know Christ - yes, the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3:10-11)

I look forward to knowing you more, Lord Jesus, as I embrace the challenges of motherhood and sacrifice in the years ahead!

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