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Christianity, Motherhood, and Identity

Motherhood. Christianity. I always knew these two things went hand-in-hand, but I never knew how seamlessly they actually fit together.

I have been a Christian as long as I can truly remember anything about myself. Jesus was very important to me while growing up, and my relationship with him now is essential. I certainly don't feel that I have all the answers, and I struggle daily to honor God in all the things He calls me to do. However, He always answers my daily prayer to know more about who He is. One of those answers is almost two years in the making.

My beautiful daughter was born in December 2019. Let me be honest when I say that I was not ready for her arrival. This isn't a sentiment I heard from many new moms before I became pregnant. Every story of a new birth was accompanied by the parents claiming that they loved their new baby at first sight. I thought this was inevitable for everyone! But when I became pregnant, I realized that I didn't know who I was. In fact, I had never known. Please, let me explain what I mean.

In the spring of 2019, I was a middle school math teacher, and I was struggling to believe that God had really called me to do this hard work that I truly believed I was not capable of doing. For 6 years, I had tried and failed to be everything my administrators, the state, my students, and their parents needed me to be. I began to believe that, in fact, God hadn't intended for me to be a teacher. I knew we would be moving away at the end of the school year, and I thought I had the perfect reason to try something new. I could do anything I had ever spent half a moment thinking about! I was ecstatic. And then I found out I was pregnant.

Don't misunderstand me. I was thrilled that I was pregnant! But I felt like this event plopped me right back where I had been. How could I be a mother when I couldn't be a teacher? How could I raise a child to be true to God and to herself when I couldn't do those very things? As I was wondering all these things, the school year ended. I was no longer a teacher. And then, we moved to a new town. Nobody knew who I was, and I felt more lost than ever before. I became a pre-stay-at-home-mom. (I just made that up. It's a thing now.) I focused on housekeeping. I ventured out to join a couple of women's groups at church. I even found a knitting group. But I still didn't know who God wanted me to be. And when my daughter was finally born, I wasn't ready for her. I didn't experience that same feeling of overwhelming love that I had heard others describe. Now, I certainly loved her, but my actions toward her were all obligatory. I fed her because she was hungry. I rocked her because she needed to sleep. I was too weary and overwhelmed to love her abundantly. I will never forget our first night together in the hospital when my only thought to her was "why are you here now? I'm not ready." My heart is breaking as I write this out. I feel so ashamed that this is how my daughter's life began, but I know now that I am not the only one who has ever felt this way about a newborn child. God definitely has a knack for bringing us to situations when we are not ready. But it is also by God's grace that those shame-filled feelings did not last long. Slowly, I began to learn why God had called me to motherhood at exactly that time. He wanted me to know exactly how much He loves me.

Now, my daughter is 14 months old. In caring for her every need, I learned that God attends to every one of my own needs. Every time we celebrated a new developmental milestone, I learned that God celebrates my growth. Whenever she runs to me for comfort, I am reminded that God is waiting with open arms to comfort me. And every time I worry about her safety, I know how God felt when He sent Christ into the world to die for me. This is the part of motherhood that has been most transformative in my relationship with God. I slowly began to see that I didn't need to know who I was. I needed to know who God is because it is the nature of God that makes us as Christians, and especially as mothers, into who we need to be. I am reminded of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians every time I think of this.

"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen."
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT)

Mothers, this is a prayer for us, too. We are called to do hard work. But please know that this hard work is not only for the sake of our children. This hard work is an earthly manifestation of God's great love for us. As we do this work, we are growing in God's love, and His love is making us stronger everyday.

So, it's taken two years of motherhood (and pre-motherhood) for me to learn that all of the things I am to my daughter are all of the same things that God is to me. Now, it isn't quite so overwhelming to feel lost or wonder who I am because God has given me so many examples of who He is and who He says that I am.

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