Hope for the Not-So-Selfless Mom
I have this mother-friend who eats, sleeps, breathes, dreams, perspires selflessness. She is one of those beautiful, alien-esqe humans who seem effortlessly sacrificial. This woman regularly makes preferring others look easy, especially as she nurtures her young children by consistently and eagerly preferring their needs and best interests above her own comforts or delights.
It amazes me that she will happily rock her babies back and forth for hours on end without complaint (as far as I can tell) to comfort them. And she has literally worn holes into the knees of her jeans from playing on the floor with her toddlers!
I’m more naturally inclined to plop my kids into their beds fussy to prevent a prolonged bedtime routine from imposing on my cherished “me time”. And, ashamedly I admit, I’m tempted to grasp at any semi-legitimate excuse to justify my declination of reading yet another one-word-per-page story (or building a house with Lincoln Logs— the destruction of which at my sons’ hands is always too imminent for my pleasure).
If I’m honest, I often view—and therefore treat—my children as inconveniences to my own desires or hindrances to my own preferences.
This vulnerable glimpse into the weakness of my heart makes me grimace. Sin is never pretty, but because my sons are so dear to me, it’s especially wounding to confront my selfishness as it relates to them. I want to always view and treat my sons as precious souls that God has entrusted me to shepherd faithfully, which is marked more by self-sacrifice than self-preservation.
Clearly, the former comes more easily to some women than others. Moms like me, however, may be tempted toward the latter, all the while yearning to embody more of Jesus’ selflessness. So what hope do we have?
In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul puts words to this tension:
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:18-19)
Paul’s lament is an expression of conviction through confession. Conviction is the blessed assurance of the Holy Spirit’s residence and activity in a Believer’s heart, and confession is a way we humble ourselves to receive God’s gracious aide as we wage war against our sin. (James 5:16; Romans 7:23).
While Paul expresses disdain for his sin, he knows the Truth of God enough to not despair over it. Rather, he rejoices!
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25a)
This is hope!
As if Jesus’ deliverance alone from sin wasn’t enough to rejoice about, Paul reminds Christians that we’re also delivered from His wrath; we are no longer condemned by God (Romans 8:1)! What’s more is that we’re no longer enslaved to the sins that our flesh is tempted to embrace. Believer’s access this liberation practically as they continually set their minds on the things of the Spirit by reading and meditating on God’s Word (Romans 8:5; Romans 12:1-2).
I know I scarcely feel more defeated than when I believe the lie that my sin makes me a “bad” mom. However, an irony of Truth which I’m eternally grateful for is this: A mother who laments her sin and pursues it in battle is a godly mother… and a godly mother is not just a “good” mother, but a faithful one.