The last time this happened I wrote Not Just Baby which resonated with more of you than I expected. Here I am doing it again, half expecting it to fall flat on its face. Blogging works that way. You blog with expectations and you are summarily disappointed. That’s alright… I’m going to say it anyway.
Saddle up, folks.
A preface: I get that motherhood is hard and messy and gritty and awesome and exhausting and overwhelmingly exhausting and awesome in turns. I get it in an intellectual way; the same way I understand that it would be extremely painful to fall from a high height or how sliding over forty razor blades and landing in a pool of lemon juice would be excruciating. I have done neither and yet know both facts to be true.
And I will also say that I believe moms need cheerleaders and encouragement and less comparative competition (seriously, women, what is wrong with us?) and need to be told they’re doing important work because raising wee souls is important work.
The use of superlatives troubles me, however. As a woman who would have loved to do this terrifying, overwhelming thing called motherhood, it stabs to the very heart of me when I read a post that starts with these words:
There are those who say that this is ordinary. But don’t let that fool you. “Mother” will always be the bravest, least ordinary, most difficult and utterly challenging career that anyone ever hopes to lay claim to…
See what I mean about superlatives? ‘Always’, ‘bravest’, ‘most’, ‘ever’… It’s all that, a bag of chips and a Wunderbar.
I realize it’s not intentional. I do. This writer didn’t sit down with the intent to cause pain. And for all the peace and joy I have in my childless life, I know that these words build up some, not all. These words cut swift and deep. Most days, reading words such as these, I quietly shake my head and thank God that he doesn’t view my life through the world’s superlatives.
The post got me thinking, though. For all the mom-blogs out there, how many cheerleaders are there for the infertile heart? How many pompoms are rustled and shaken for those in the gooey mess of waiting? How much encouragement and hope and promise is being poured out on shattered hearts that slog through a living grief. How many blog posts do the empty-armed read and walk away from feeling bolstered, feeling mighty… feeling anything but broken?
I may be able to speak intellectually about motherhood as a bystander and an arm-chair parent, but I know this grief: it is carved into my very bones; it has shaped my heart, my faith, my body. Infertility has bruised and scarred me; I’ve hidden the heroine-addict-blood-draw arms. I’ve sobbed over onesies and strollers and bumper pads and belligerent single lines on home pregnancy tests. I know what it is to be broken, weary and so anything-but-mighty that I am fully qualified to say the following:
God does not view us through superlatives. Not His. Not ours.
How does he see you?
You are chosen, holy, royal. You belong. Not just to a group, or a church… you belong to God. (1 Peter 2:9)
You are known. Inside out. (Psalm 139:1-4)
A masterpiece. God’s. (Ephesians 2:10)
Adopted. A child of God. Heir. (Ephesians 1:4-5, Galatians 4:7)
You are dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
Hid in Christ. (Colossians 3:3)
You are His. (Isaiah 43:1)
There is no partiality, no favouritism. Our comparison-loving hearts love superlatives. We strive to qualify and quantify our lives, our roles, our experiences. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care. If two women stood before him, one a mother and the other not, our superlatives wouldn’t stand a chance.
And for you, the woman standing before Him… deeply longing for children: don’t you dare buy into those superlatives.
You are not in a holding pattern of ‘less’ until your children arrive.
This time of childlessness may be short, long or permanent, but don’t believe for a moment that it doesn’t require its own bravery, that it isn’t brutally difficult and painfully challenging.
You are walking a road that can break bodies, hearts and marriages.
You are knee-deep in the trenches, struggling against grief and weariness month by month, day by day.
Society may rattle us as we wake each morning to a mommy-culture where we simply don’t belong, but do.not.believe you are not equally designed and sustained, both in love and with purpose. You are held and carried. You are bound up in the arms of a Saviour willing to die for you. You are his and you are dearly loved.
The best part? Having kids won’t change that. Not having kids can’t change it either.
You want superlatives? Go hang out with Paul in Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38&39)
Don’t be swallowing lies whole, friends. Grace in Jesus is the world’s great equalizer. Motherhood is hard and challenging and overwhelming. Struggling with infertility, living single in a world full of marrieds, being unemployed in a world of workers, drowning in doubt in a sea of faith-walkers and so many other struggles are the same.
Hard. Challenging. Overwhelming.
We are none of us ‘bravest’ or ‘most’ anything.
We are simply living, walking, serving. All of us.