Sunday, June 15, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Many months ago, when my daughter was very tiny, everyone kept telling me, "It goes fast!" I made up my mind to treasure each moment as it happened so that I wouldn't regret missing those moments later. Now, 21 months have gone by, and I really don't feel nostalgic, because I did treasure those moments, I gave her my best then, and now there are new moments to treasure and in which to give my best.
Even still, sometimes I shake my head in amazement at how deceptively fast the seemingly endless similar days go by. Just a few days ago - or was it a month ago? - I remember a moment when I was rocking my daughter. It was a special moment in the same way that most of the moments are special - nothing out of the ordinary happened, but I was very deeply treasuring wrapping her in maternal warmth and security. And I had the thought - tomorrow it will be gone. And now it is past many days over... but not entirely. There is something that is left.
There is a legacy of each moment that remains with us forever. In that moment I gave my daughter the gift of resting securely in the arms of her loving mommy, and that became a part of who she became in the next moment, and the next, and the next, and it remains a part of her in this moment. Of course, that is not the only moment that has become a part of her - every hug, every lullaby, every nutritious meal, every rubbing on of sunscreen, every endless hour spent playing tea party, every laugh and every cry, every decision for patience and every loss of temper - these moments may be gone, but she, the living person, is their lasting legacy.
In your life, what will the legacy of this moment be? I've started asking myself this at random moments throughout the day, and it has been tremendously helpful in keeping me focused.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
As a young mom, there are so many things I want my child grow in learning - potty training, ABC's, social skills, etc. But today I came across a verse that brought me back into focus:
"But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith." - 1 Timothy 1:5.
And I remembered - That is what I want for my daughter- a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith, overflowing in love. I plastered the verse all over her playroom to remind myself.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I was 3 months pregnant and on my way to the doctor's office for a check up. A song came on the radio, with the lyrics, "I AM the one who knew you before your birth, before you were..." Such statements have always amazed me. God knew me before I was? I've always found great joy in that thought. But on this day, as I was thinking instead about my yet-to-be-born daughter in my womb, the thought floated across my brain, "Umm, no, she exists because of me and my husband." It was unbelievably mind-blowing in that moment for me to grasp that God had forever known and planned my yet-to-be daughter's existence while I also considered the precariousness of conception, pregnancy, and delivery. Maybe it shouldn't have so startled me, but it did.
Then she was born, and God let me know her. Day by day we laugh, sing, dance, and grow together, and in the process it is tempting to think that I am the one making her into who she will become, because, well, I am certainly a big part of it. But it is crazy to also consider that who she is and who she is becoming has always been known and planned by God, that God foresaw all of this, that God has woven who she is into his beautiful plan for all of creation.
The Bible seems to be very mysterious when it comes to matters of free will and predestination, and the apparent precariousness of life highlights the tension between the two within my mind. But I find it to be a good check to myself in my parenting to remember that this precious little girl first was God's idea. That God chose me as one of her co-creators. That God sees and knows and understands fully her destiny and has done so since before she was a glint in my imagination. That my daughter's creation is being accomplished in its own time, as a part of God's beautifully orchestrated creation that continues its journey on to completion.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
"If I no sleep, my mother no sleep. If I no chop, my mother no de chop. She no de taya aa, sweet mother, I no forget the suffer way you suffer for me" (Nico Mbarga, "Sweet Mother").
Being a good mom isn't that different from being a good pastor.
In her article "Abiyamo: Theorizing African Motherhood," Oyeronke Oyewumi notes that Western cultures such as ours often view the mother as "trapped in her primary role as caregiver." I see this everywhere. Our culture is forever offering me sympathy for my plight (this starts early - "Are you sleeping?"), hope for the bright day when my daughter starts school ("You'll get your life back when your child starts school..."), and encouragement for me to take what is surely a deeply-needed break from my child as often as possible now ("Did you know there is daycare provided?" "Why don't you ask a church member to watch your daughter once or twice a week so that you can get more done?"). All of this is very well-intended.
But other cultures' understandings of motherhood confront me with the limitations of our own. It is true that being a mother is demanding and difficult. But this is not all that motherhood is. Mothers are great life-givers. Mothers exercise tremendous influence over their offspring and thus over society as a whole. Mothers are every human being's first home. They are the first relationship every human ever experiences, for better or worse. In Yoruba culture, motherhood is viewed not as a temporary situation for the woman of a baby, trapped until she can return to doing what she really wants, but as a lifelong gift.
I think our culture's perspective on motherhood feeds off of the way in which our culture nurtures the value of self-centeredness in all of us, mothers or not. We call it "independence," but what we really mean is that we believe it is enslavement to be in a situation in which we have to give up our own needs and sense of entitlement moment by moment to care for another in the way of Jesus. Thank God that he doesn't value his "independence" as much as we do.
I am happiest as a mom when I am surrounded by people who believe that what I am doing in being a mother is valuable, when the benefit to the child and thus to the world is emphasized, when the cost is taken as a given not to be avoided but as something that must, for the sake of the child and the world, be embraced. I believe this is true not only for mothers but for all persons called to live of life of sacrificial service for others.
Next time you encounter a mother with a small child, please offer a word of joy and delight for the great benefit of her sacrificial service.