Mother’s day is coming.
Though I try to keep my expectations low, I cannot help but hope that this year will be the year I'm treated like the princess I’d like to be. The queen of the nest. The cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.
In reality, mothers are more of a well-oiled factory than we are the shining star of the show.
The world says the state of our product determines our efficiency- never mind, all our employees are treated like gold, given bonuses on holidays and enjoy their family Christmas party each year. No, the product (our children!), which we have no control over, determines our value.
I have three children under my roof. Four, every other weekend. My oldest is going to be the perfect husband and father. He is responsible, helpful, loves Jesus and is extremely dependable. He rarely mouths back, and if he does, he is upset. He is messy, as most nine-year-old boys are. He leaves a trail of dirty socks, and occasionally his pants as per our agreement that he may change into shorts as soon as the weather turns fifteen degrees Celsius (that’s about 59 degrees Fahrenheit, Americans!). In spite of all strewn objects, he is very, very good.
My middle child, once the youngest and now in the middle, is much more trying. Granted, he’s only three-years-old-turning-fourteen-year-old-couch-potato, but I have hopes his cunning intelligence can be utilized as a strength. This one is, "'neaky," as he calls it. He pushes the limits and seeks attention but despises getting in trouble. I can always bribe him with the promise that I will not yell at him. Accepting all praise and adoration, he is charming and musically talented; his favourite thing is to fall asleep laying cheek-to-cheek.
Then there is the baby. We don’t know her as well yet, but from what I do know already, she is what my mother would call, “A little Alice,” after my great-grandmother, Alice Flora. Fitting, as it is her namesake. An “Alice,” in case you were wondering, is gentle, dainty and unexpectedly strong-willed. She doesn’t like to get dirty and may cover her couch in plastic (It’s one of the few vivid memories I have of my great-grandmother’s house). An Alice is nosey, she wants to know what’s going on but doesn’t want to get involved. And she grows into an elegant, kind, beautiful and devoted wife who raises equally delicate, gentle and flower-like daughters. Hence, my Flora Grace.
These three, they are my “product” from the factory of “mom” for which the world will judge my parenting. Regardless of how they turn out in the next twenty years, I will know that I have poured my soul into them. Behind the scenes, there will be years of prayer and sacrifice made for these children. My everything to which I gave my all.
Parenting doesn't always work out "as planned".
Have you ever driven by an abandoned factory? It is the evidence of a product that wasn’t well-received or a dream that never entirely came to fruition. A sad but beautiful infrastructure with mismatched windows and lead-plated glass. High ceilings create empty caverns, and with its concrete floors, it doesn’t look much like a home.
Still, thousands have come along and turned these abandoned buildings into humble abodes. Or, maybe not so humble. Luxurious abodes is more like it. The cold, rough floors are polished while dirty, broken windows are repaired, and the high ceilings become features- celebrated for a spacious and airy feeling- all that was ugly has been made brand new.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
In the same way, God takes our factory of failed dreams and turns them into a dwelling fit for a King. He doesn’t change our infrastructure, although He may replace some broken window panes, we are overall, still the same we always were. But our insides? Wow! All things have been made new.
“God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.”
-Psalm 51:10-19 (CSB)
But here’s another thought for you- we are both made new and also restored to our former glory, at the same time. In His goodness, when we grow into a deep relationship with our Father, God takes us back to the essence of ourselves as His children.
“He called a child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
-Matthew 18:2-4 (CSB)
It’s true, God always saw the whole picture, but I think in some way, we also have something to do with the way our “factory” turns out. God can put a dream in our heart but the dream belongs to us.
If God wrote the script for our entire lives we would be nothing more than lemmings following a path, either falling off the cliff or making it home to safety- what fun is that? God gave us free will. We always reference our free will in the concept of choosing to follow God or not, but our free will is much more than that- it is also found in our ability to dream.
So Mothers, struggling with the way your “product” looks today, remember your children are only exercising their free will. Their dreams may have been crushed along the way, leaving them feeling vast and empty but God is waiting and ready to turn them into a prized possession.
And in spite of what you see, their glory is still there. It’s always been there. Hiding behind tattooed arms or thick, black eyeliner, your baby is there. And all the love you poured into them has not been in vain. They are merely in a transition from a dream; a product not well-received.
This Mother’s day, my expectations of being thanked for all the work I’ve done behind-the-scenes the past decade may not happen. But even in my short time with my children, my heart is full of memories of baby smiles, falling asleep cheek-to-cheek and of a sweet boy saying, “I love you, Mama”.
And one day, if looking at my children feels like driving by an abandoned factory, I hope that I will see beyond the surface when I look at them and believe for them that God will make them brand new. That one day, the right person is going to come along and pick up residence. And this mother’s heart will feel glad because the “product” I had worked so hard for- succeeded.
And if it doesn’t, through tears and mourning, I will weep for my children and cherish the memories we had. Knowing all the while, it wasn’t anything I did wrong but sinning in their free will that drove them away. And God the Father, who knows my heart of weeping all too well, will give me a heart of compassion because of His many children who have not yet returned to Him.
If you’re in a sad place this Mother’s day, this wild-heart wants you to know all you ever needed to do for your children was love them. If you’ve done that, you have done well. We cannot plan what they will become, but God has them in His hands.
“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is.”
-1 John 3:2 (CSB)
And just in case no one else tells you, Happy Mother’s day, I love you Mama.