This post originally appeared at Domestic Kingdom, edited by Gloria Furman.
I collapsed on the couch beside my husband, exasperated and thankful that the bedtime I looked forward to all day had finally come and gone. “These children are going to be the end of me,” I sighed.
“No,” my husband responded, “they are the end of you.”
I am in my third trimester counting down the weeks until the arrival of our third child, while two little girls and 90-degree heat have me pretty constantly wiped out. Most days, “tired and weary” feel like drastic understatements. In fact, I am fairly certain I am the oldest 28-year old I know. I often feel like a shell of the woman I once was – I used to be smart, passionate, engaged in the world and in the lives of others, but lately my body aches and my soul grumbles. I look at little peanut butter-covered faces and the resentment begins to boil. “They’ve sucked the life out of me!” I will lament to anyone who will listen. “I don’t know who I am any more!”
Two Tempting Directions
When thoughts like these cloud my mind, my heart is tempted to go in two possible directions.
On “bad mothering days,” I look back at the woman I was – that elusive woman with all the energy and ambition – and I determine that I must summon her return. I allow the resentment to linger until bitterness takes root; I snap at my children and push them aside and set out to make a name for myself, determined to define myself on myterms.
On “good mothering days,” I look to my children and silently accept that they are the sum of my life now. I hold up the call to motherhood and remind myself of how important it is, and so I give it everything I’ve got. I read the blogs and pin the pictures and set the goals and make the list and resolve that this will be the new me. I aim to find my purpose and identity in my ability to meet their endless demands and live up to my calling as Super Mom.
In both cases, I fall into bed at night exhausted, either basking in the glory of my supposed accomplishment or (more likely) sulking under the guilt of my many failures.
A Different Identity
But Jesus offers a different solution to my identity crisis: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
God has called me to lay down my life and to find it in Christ. And my children, well, they are one of the means God uses to remind me that my life is not my own. So, in a sense, it’s true – they are the “end of me.”
I’ve often been told to look to Christ to see an example of how I am to lay down my life for my children. And Christ is the perfect example of sacrificial love. But in perfectly obeying his Father’s will and laying down his life for me, he was not simply setting an example for me to follow in my pursuit of godly motherhood. No, he was securing a record of perfect obedience that would be credited to my account (Rom. 5:19) and paying the penalty my sinful selfishness deserves.
God has called me to be a mother, yes, but first and foremost he has called me to live by faith in the new identity that he has graciously bestowed upon me. He has called me to believe that my life is hidden in Christ, therefore I am called “holy and beloved,” and am counted among God’s “chosen ones” (Col. 3:12). With the strength of the indwelling Spirit, I can now put to death what is earthly in me and “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:5,10).
As the exhaustion settles in and the under-eye circles become seemingly permanent, I need not think back to the “glory days” where energy and time abounded. And I need not look to my children and beg them to tell me who I am. I need not take pride in my accomplishments or wallow in shame at my failures. And I need not despair at the end of me. Instead, my hope is in Christ as I look forward to a different “glory day,” fixing my eyes on Jesus – in whom my life is hidden – and believe, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).