The first time I noticed it, we were pregnant with our first born. People innocently asked, “What do you hope it is, a boy or a girl?” We had suffered from a miscarriage a few months before and I would answer simply, “We’re happy with either!” People would say, “Come on, what are you actually wanting?” I remember feeling slightly frustrated with this comment. I just wanted a baby! It didn’t matter whether it was a boy or a girl. I wanted a baby, a baby that would be born and live and whom we could cherish in our arms. I wanted the child God had given us - the very one who was growing inside me!
Then the question would come, “Are you going to find out or are you going to wait?” Well, eventually you find out whether at 20 weeks or 40 weeks. And suddenly, people’s opinions started flying out from the woodwork, aiming straight for my heart. I was grieved that others couldn’t just rejoice with us in our decisions for our family. Some did - usually the ones whose decisions were the same as ours. But if they were different, it was like I couldn’t run for cover fast enough.
That’s when I realized there was a war going on, and it wasn’t just the “Mommy Wars” between people’s preferences, but it was a deeper, spiritual war under the guise of Motherhood. There were giants to conquer and idols to overthrow but I couldn’t overthrow them for my friends and their hearts. I could only ask God to overthrow my own and trust that in His timing, He would work on their hearts too. I prayed and processed a lot during those years as God worked on me, as I learned to find my rest and security in Him as a mom with young children. This was a new learning curve in so many ways. I had to learn what it truly meant to bear with others, check the motivations, fears and insecurities that rose up in my own heart and to learn what it meant to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, but in a whole new way.
There were times friends would share about their mothering ways, and I would feel insecurity creep into my heart because it was very different than my own. With God’s help, I learned to choose to rejoice with her in her mothering ways while learning to be confident in my own mothering ways, whether or not my friends rejoiced with me in my own personal preferences.
We read in Philippians 2:3-8…
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
God was teaching me humility and what it looked like to honor someone above myself. The Lord was teaching me to be others-centered and to humble myself to ask, “How can I serve this person in what I say? How can I rejoice with them right now?”
The gospel reminds us of the humility of Christ and His obedience to the point of death. It takes a daily dying to our “selves” to put others above us and rejoice with them. It doesn’t take anything away from our confidence in our own ways of doing life to honor someone else, listen, empathize, rejoice, mourn. I think we are sometimes afraid of that though. I think we are afraid that by rejoicing with someone else, that somehow it diminishes the value in what we are doing or our personal preferences. The gospel, however, produces fruit in our lives and others’ lives as we live it out.
When we can listen to one another and honor one another over and above ourselves and really pay attention, we are in essence emptying ourselves out to make space for another. Rejoicing with another believer in their rejoicing, or mourning with another in their mourning, is exactly what Christ would do if he was here in the flesh, and which he does do in Heaven as he intercedes for us before the Father. When I grieve, I know that Christ is grieving with me. When I rejoice, He is rejoicing with me. As His body of believers, we can be that physical manifestation of rejoicing and mourning with each other, sharing the gift of empathy and encouragement as we journey through this life together on Earth.
As my husband and I figured out what was best for our family in so many practical ways, God challenged the idols of my own heart with the gospel. Fighting against those feelings of insecurity, if my mothering ways were different than someone else's, was hard work! Keeping Christ at the center of our home took intentionality. Rejoicing in others' mothering ways while remaining confident about my own ways, was something that required grace, the Lord's help and power, and submitting my heart to the obedience of God's Word. The Gospel needed to be at the center of my mothering ways.
A wonderful book has been written this year by the ladies of the popular podcast "Risen Motherhood". The book, by the same name, is a beautiful keepsake for mothers starting in their motherhood journey. It is a call to keep the Gospel at the center of our mothering ways. I recently bought this for one of my dear friends in Canada. As I looked through it and read bits and pieces, I realized I still need these truths preached to me as my kids are now in the "middle years" of childhood and pre-teen stage! I'm planning on getting a copy for myself, as well for all the new moms at our church plant!
If we can keep the Gospel at the center of so many practical motherhood issues, we will not only be blessed ourselves, but we will be a blessing to our friends and acquaintances who may do things a little different than us, and the gospel will continue to be adorned in our lives.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:14-18 ESV