Mommyhood is not all kisses and flowers, is it? There are days when we dance through fields of daisies, and there are weeks when we trudge a rocky road.
I started out wanting to tip-toe through the tulips. Within three years I had a beautiful little girl with wispy hair, a bright little boy with puppy dog eyes, and a chubby infant. It was my deepest desire to become the mother of their dreams.
But I wasn’t counting on facing my greatest obstacle; myself. I had the best of intentions, but I felt like a failure. Small victories were being eclipsed by monumental mess ups.
I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be because I had major heart trouble (not physical heart problems, spiritual and emotional ones).
For instance, my little girl was adorable, but she was also very, very busy. It was as if she was out to sabotage every effort I made to be the perfect mom. She destroyed all of her “cool” toys. She got into everything (and took her little brother along as her partner). She didn’t like the cute crafts and activities all the other mothers were doing with their children. She didn’t even sit still in children’s church (the leader took me aside and gave me tips on how to train her).
All the disappointments and frustrations I was feeling were building up and turning into resentment.
I was becoming the very thing I hated; a mom who took everything out on her children.
Jesus knew my heart. He knew that I wanted to be His kind of mom, the mom who loved her children the way He did. But I was at a loss. I just did not have a clue as to how to go about it.
Blessedly, I was smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of women who loved the Lord and loved their families. They included me. They lived what they believed in front of me. They answered my questions.
But the greatest relief came when they invited me to an life-changing seminar for women at our church. It was called “Eve Reborn.”
Through that seminar I discovered practical application of the Word of God. I learned what God’s original intents were in Genesis, how we had broken from them, and how we could find our way back through Jesus.
The most powerful part was understanding about what loving someone really meant. It was very different from my natural understanding. My idea was that love was about “feelings” that could change with moods or seasons.
Thankfully, I learned that God’s ways are radically different. Through Eve Reborn I learned that the Greek word for God’s love was Agape. We studied it compared to “storge,” a Greek word that is often used for the natural human love found in families.
Basically, agape is:
In all other religions, people give to their god(s). Our God did not ask for offerings and sacrifices to appease His fierce wrath, He required blood to be shed to cover our sin. It was for our sakes, not His.
God so loved the world that He GAVE.
When He set Adam and Eve in the garden He already had a plan to give Himself for us. The Bible says Jesus was the lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” He set Adam and Eve in the garden, already having Jesus as a sacrifice for their disobedience (1 Peter 1:20).
Jesus, even though He was in the form of God, left everything and became a servant in order to save the ones He loves.
The storge type of love says, “Don’t ruffle my feathers and I will accept you.”
Even though Adam and Eve exposed their own nakedness, God made clothes for them. It was a picture of how Jesus would cover all of us with His own righteousness (Hebrews 11).
He doesn’t shame, He gathers us under His wings:
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Then He clothes us with His own righteousness:
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Storge love is not like this. Instead of covering and forgetting, it makes lists to pull out later to balance things out. It keeps score. It exposes and torments with shame.
God’s love is life-giving because it generates itself. As it waits for our response it grows and grows until it can handle everything; all of our flaws and our mistakes and rebellion.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
On the other hand, storge must have predictability and familiarity. It extends itself only to approved and known behaviors. Once someone steps out of bounds it turns its face and runs the other way.
God’s love is not indifferent. He passionately cares for us and is preoccupied with our well-being. He places His Spirit inside of us so that we can be with Him every second of every day (if we want). He waits patiently for us to respond and doesn’t love us less because of the waiting.
…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Storge puts people on a schedule. It may only pay attention to a person if it has nothing else to do. It is fickle and moves on if it loses interest.
Besides learning what God’s kind of love looks like, I also discovered what keeps us trapped in a pattern of natural, human love:
1.We are unable to love the unlovely, unloveable, displeasing, betrayers, and especially those who did not love us with Christ’s sacrificial love because we are filled with pride.
Pride is a tyrant. It is filled with concern over itself and how it looks to others. It feeds on others to fill its immense appetite. It can never set people free.
Pride cannot love the unlovely because it is too proud to identify with them; it cannot love God because it is too busy being god, or being godly.
The only way we can change is to realize He has given us a new heart. He helps us do away with the pride of the first Adam and love with the humility of the second Adam,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
2.We have to keep score, we can’t allow ourselves to forgive and forget. We have to hold on to our own bitterness and resentment towards others because we are hiding behind the bushes.
Adam and Eve hid because they were afraid of exposing their sinful selves. When the bushes failed to cover them, they started keeping score of the offenses of others.
“It was the woman,” Adam said.
“It was the snake,” Eve said.
In order to keep from “owning up” to our own sin, we have to blame others. Instead of taking ownership of our own lack of trust (impatience), we have to point the finger at our children’s flaws. In reality, their childishness is not the cause of our reactions. They are only shedding light on the thoughts and attitudes that were already there.
In order to see a change we have to come out from behind the shrubbery and face the truth about who we are. It is no small thing, what He saved us from. We are sinners. I don’t know if we all realize just how grave this is. We say the prayer and skip past the ugly in the mirror. He sees what we don’t want to look at.
And yet, He forgives us, praise His name! When we realize just how far He had to go to extend His grace to us, we can’t help but offer grace to others. Instead of pointing fingers we can extend compassion and understanding.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
3. We have trouble risking in order to demonstrate our love because we are perched on a high tower of comparison and self-righteousness.
We fortify ourselves and build up our self-esteem by using comparison and surrounding ourselves with the predictable and familiar.
I wanted people to see me as successful; a good mother. I was willing to blame my little girl for my failure to be the woman I thought everyone approved of. The comparison game was a way I could establish my own self-righteousness.
We have to stop seeking worth and security from others. We have to base our worth in Him.
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
When we find our confidence in Him we can set others (our children) free since they no longer need to feed our insatiable pride.
4.We can’t deny ourselves and become Christ-like because we keep staring into our own belly-buttons.
There is no power we possess that will make us more like Jesus. We can not become marvelous mothers by “behavior modification.” This is actually veiled self-righteousness. We need to come to terms with our inability and surrender our weakness into the capable hands of our loving Father.
True change can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here is a sequence of scriptures that put it all together:
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
This knowledge made such a difference!
Thanks to God’s great mercy, that same little girl I had so much trouble with is now one of my best friends on the earth. In some ways, we are more like sisters. We have even been pregnant at the same time and nursed our babies sitting side-by-side on the same couch.
I wish I could say I have lived these principles perfectly, but I can’t. Whenever I am lazy and start falling back on my own natural tendencies, disaster threatens!
I have had to remind myself of these truths over and over again. Each child has given me more reasons to stare intently into the eyes of Love in a new way, and I am still discovering new depths with the children we have yet to raise.
Thankfully, I will never reach the bottom of His unfathomable love.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.