As I look back on this season of motherhood, there are more and deeper joys and moments of magic than I can describe. But that won’t be my focus here. A word which sometimes comes to mind as I reflect is ‘diminished’. I feel less than I was.
Perhaps you’re a mother and you can relate to some of what I say here. Perhaps you’re not, but you’ve been through seasons where you feel limited, diminished. Perhaps you felt something of this during the pandemic.
I feel diminished in terms of my capacity. I used to fill my days to the brim, darting from place to place, person after person. Juggling work, friends, sport, serving, household jobs. When asked to do something I could say ‘yes’ far more often than ‘no.’ But now the default has changed. I’d better say ‘no’ to that unless I’m having a particularly good week. I have less time because my daughter, Lily, fills up many hours. My independence is lost. But I also have less energy - so much less. The energy of the hours with Lily diminish my energy for the hours without her. There is so much less that I can do.
I feel diminished in terms of my body. I used to be able to run, to jump. I used to be able to think about what I was eating. I used to be slim, strong, athletic. But now my body looks different, it doesn’t function like it used to. I feel weak, my back aches and my knees twinge. I see others who are in similar situations but can do so much more. They run, they jump, they look as if they had never been pregnant.
I feel diminished in terms of my faith. I used to spend all day with my nose in the Bible. Studying in depth, understanding what it says, what it means, what it means to us today. I used to open the Bible with others, one to one, in a group, or speaking in front of a group. But now I barely manage to open the Bible even on my own. If I make it out of the house to a Bible study or hear a sermon my mind feels trapped in a permanent fog so I can barely follow what’s going on, let alone say something profound, let alone contribute at all. I never knew motherhood could be such a spiritually barren time.
At times this season of motherhood left me feeling diminished. It feels so much has been lost. Yet what has been gained?
Has God been absent during this time, because my life has changed? Has he written this time off as a period of spiritual growth?
Or who is the figure at the centre of Christianity? Is it an intimidating man who was relentlessly productive and achieved success in the world’s eyes? Is it a man who was always strong, immune to weakness and pain?
Or is it a bruised and bloodied figure nailed to a cross, in brokenness and shame?
One who knows what it is to be diminished?
Look at Christ,
The Son of God was brought so low as to die on a cross. And that is where He meets me, in my weakness, my brokenness. And that is where He changes me. Jesus was brought low so that we can be raised up. Jesus became less so that we could be more than we ever could have been. Jesus was diminished so that we could be increased. Not in the way we might always like, not in a worldly sense.
But the cross changes everything.
The cross and my capacity.
Ultimately Jesus does not call us to have a high capacity, to get as much done as possible. Often Jesus’ ministry did not follow what would humanly speaking be called ‘strategic’. And Jesus’ earthly ministry began at the age of 30. He spent time in the wilderness, he spent time retreating, he spent time praying, and after only 3 years he went to his death. My daughter’s middle name (‘Grace’) reminds me of the truth won for us all the cross. I am not justified by my capacity, by my productivity. I am saved by grace.
The cross and my body.
There is a sense in which I feel I have sacrificed my body for my daughter. My body has in some way been broken. Yet what a pale shadow of the cross where Christ’s body was broken for me! He became disfigured (Isaiah 52:14) so that I can use my body to worship Him in view of His mercy (Romans 12:1).I can still use my body for that purpose, no matter how fragile I sometimes feel. I am always able to do God’s purposes for me, which are different in this season to what they were. I am thankful that my body has grown another human being, has given life to a child. My body looks after her, holds her, comforts her, feeds her, throws her up and down and makes her laugh.
The cross and my faith.
In this season I’ve struggled to find time to read the Bible and spend time with God, but perhaps that’s an insight into the normal challenges most Christians face for whom full time ministry isn’t their vocation. Thank God that the cross of Christ is not contingent on how often I read my Bible, on how well I am doing. The cross cries out ‘it is finished’ - there is no more work to do. He has begun a good work in me and He will continue it (Philippians 1:6).
And God has been working in me in this season of motherhood. The love I have for my daughter gives me just a glimpse of God’s love and His heart for me, for His children. As I see how utterly dependent my daughter is on me, I have been reminded of how utterly dependent we are on God for every breath. As I have felt weak and exhausted and sometimes afraid, God has come alongside me and whispered ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
His power is made perfect in my weakness. May I learn, like Paul, to boast about my weakness, my diminishedness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10-11).