A thoughtful post from Rebekah Danaher Anderson about the weakness needed to survive as a mother.
At least I didn’t say barefoot in the kitchen. That’s modern day blasphemy. American women marched last weekend to prove that they are stronger than old stereotypes and more than a man’s estimation. I understand the woman’s exhibition of strength. If we speak it (or scream it), it will be so.
As a mom of four, every day I rely on the strength of my limbs to get out of bed to care for the needs of some very helpless little humans. If I start every day telling myself I am a weakling, I’m defeated before my feet hit the floor. I have to believe that I have the stamina to get through the day. But lately I have been exhausted. No power of positive thinking can tell my tired body that I am strong. I’m just flat out gassed from home schooling and house cleaning and cooking and chauffeuring and diaper changing and tantrum wrangling and dish washing and bathing and soothing and wife-ing, and not sleeping. But moms have been doing this for millennia with far fewer modern conveniences, so what is making me so worn out? As I’ve been trying to get at the cause my fatigue, I find myself confronting my biggest enemy. My own strength.
A friend actually helped shed some light on my struggle. She asked me if I felt I was constantly in “flight or fight” mode, the natural stress response. As I opened my mouth to answer I realized I was holding my breath. And as I gasped for a mouthful of air, I wondered when the last time it was I had actually allowed my lungs a sip of oxygen. So, I tried something brilliant and I started breathing in and out at a regular pace. This made me suddenly aware of how tense my shoulders felt. Over the next few days I started paying more attention to my physical behavior and it was pretty revealing. I was carrying around a lot of tension in my body and pretty much suffocating myself. I guess having four kids has finally done it – brought me to the end of myself. It’s not the physical exertion. It’s the emotional toll of carrying concern and worry and anxiousness and control in my own being. You see, deep down, even though I am not afraid of death, I really kind of am. Well, I am afraid of the pain of death. I know heaven is real. I trust God with my eternity, but I am afraid of the devastation of losing. I see the pain of precious people who have lost children and I am terrified of it. So here I have these four little beauties, and wrapped up in all I do for them every day is the underlying worry that I could lose them. Or that I could go first, leaving my husband to do it all without me. (Who would Instagram their little faces if I’m not here to do it???) God has given them to me but there is nothing I can do to really save them. Or myself. Women, we can roar all we want but our lives and the lives of our loves are not ours to administer. The Bible reminds us of how short life is. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) We can rage against the reality; we can pull up our big girl pants, but in the end we control nothing. Equal pay or free birth control might be obtainable, but I don’t think that’s what’s women really want. I believe we are clutching for a control that we will never win. And we’re exhausting ourselves.
So, I find myself, like my favorite sisters of the Bible – Mary and Martha – face down at Jesus’ feet. Their brother was dead – wrapped up in a shroud and buried. Jesus had known Lazarus was sick. Why the heck did it take him so long to get to their house? “If you had just gotten here in time, you could have saved him,” Mary accused, weeping in front of him. She knew he had used his healing hands to fix strangers. Weren’t they, his close friends, deserving of his miraculous mercy? And here, in the middle of pages and pages of God’s Holy Word, I find the most astounding verses.
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her were also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’
Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)
Do you know how these verses move me? Jesus had come into the world to defeat death. He was well aware of its torment of humanity. He knew his mission and he knew the end of the story, yet seeing the people he loved in grief caused him to cry. Here he was confronting a tomb stinking of death, and in it lay a friend whom he loved. Mary and Martha were bent in front of him asking him why. The biggest “why” of life. Why had he let their brother die?
He had let him die, so he could raise him up. And he did.
“Lazarus, come forth,” was the command.
And Lazarus came out. Out of the ground to new life.
Do you think Mary and Martha’s arms might have gone weak at that scene? Do you think their bodies might have trembled as they stood in the midst of a miracle? Even the rumors of Jesus’ power couldn’t have prepared them to be in the presence of it. When it came to what really mattered in their life, their own human power was meaningless, meager, inconsequential. They needed Jesus. And we do too.
“Jesus said… ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25)
Ladies, whatever meanness or misogyny you have felt at the hands of a man, you will never find at the feet of Jesus. At his feet you’ll find only forgiveness, healing, help, strength, compassion and eternal life. Jesus already settled the matter of women’s worth and dignity 2,000 years before anyone marched on Washington. He reached through angry mobs to rescue a prostitute. He angered the religious leaders by speaking with unclean women. He healed a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. He raised a little girl from the dead. Nothing we demand from society can match what Jesus has done for the female species already. The safest place on earth is in the shadow of his goodness. But sometimes we forget that until we’re empty…breathless (literally) from trying to do life in our own might.
Maybe you’re not there yet. You haven’t reached the end of yourself yet. You’re still relying on girl power, protein shakes and maybe some essential oils. But eventually everyone comes to the end. When our frailty is laid bare, there is only One who saves. I pray you flee to him and find your rest, let HIS strength be your strength and HIS life be your life. Forever and ever.