As a new mom, I planned on breastfeeding my daughter for the first year of her life, but at six months old she was underweight and hungry. She needed formula to nourish her and help her gain the remaining weight to be healthy. I felt like a failure, this was not my plan for her life.
Thankfully, I was in a mom’s Bible study group that helped me feel God’s assurance that it would all turn out ok despite it not matching up with what I wanted.
During one Bible study, the leader had us think through the birth of Jesus but from Mary’s point of view, to put ourselves in her shoes. It made us translate our real life experience of giving birth to Mary giving birth to the Savior of the world in a stable, which probably wasn’t her plan for the “perfect” birth either!
Ever since those moments, I have been wondering what other advice from Mary we could glean since she was a real person with real emotions that God chose to parent his son, Jesus Christ.
3 Pieces of Advice from Mary about Motherhood
1. The world’s standards for Motherhood aren’t our own.
When I became pregnant, I was faced with an overload of information on what it means to be “a good mother” from people in the world and people in the church.
Some suggestions I got were:
- have a natural birth
- eat organic
- homeschool your kids
- buy this stroller
- never use blankets in the crib
- don’t expose them to germs, ever,
And the list went on. It was overwhelming!
It was hard to figure out which direction to go in, but when I look at Mary and how she gave birth to Jesus, I see a path to follow.
Luke 2:1-7 details Jesus’ birth story, it says after Jesus was born, Mary laid him in a manger, which is a cute story to share at Christmas but when I think of the real life implications of that I am shocked. A manger is a feeding trough for animals, that means she gave birth with animals near her. Which to me sounds the opposite of a clean environment free of germs which is what I wanted when I gave birth to my children. Christ was born near animals, possibly near their feces, and then he was laid where they eat which was probably messy with animal spit. It’s just plain gross.
Yet, this was the plan God had for the Savior, to be born this way amidst mess and animals and spit. He was a king yet this is how he came into the world. That is humbling to me. While the world exalts perfection and a picture of motherhood that is clean and orderly, we who follow Christ can breathe a sigh of relief when our motherhood is messy and stinky because our Savior came from that type of beginning, too.
If its good enough for Jesus, then its good enough for me.
(This is a metaphor. Don’t actually put your baby near animal poo, people).
2. Motherhood is an unpredictable journey
Most women I know didn’t become mothers the way they planned. Even if their plan did work out on their timeline, there were unexpected things that happened, like when I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter for as long as I had wanted.
We can become obsessed with our kids hitting their milestones. When they don’t or something else goes wrong, it can feel hard, disappointing, and even devastating.
Mary probably didn’t expect an angel to come to her as an engaged teenager and tell her she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. But that happened and she had to figure out a way to live through it.
I can’t imagine how she would have felt initially and I wonder if she was afraid to tell her fiancé. Thankfully, God sent an angel to reassure Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20-25).
Mary’s story fills us with the hope that whatever God has planned for our motherhood journey that he will never leave us to deal with those unexpected moments alone. He will give us reassurance, guidance, and confirmation in following the right path. Just in the same way he sent an angel to reassure Joseph that Mary was telling the truth.
3. Our children have their own path to walk that we can’t control.
This is the hardest concept for me to grasp: I can’t control everything my daughters do or everything that will happen to them.
- I want them to hit their milestones on time.
- I want them to be kind to their friends.
- I want them to make me look like a good parent.
- I want them to never know heart ache or suffering.
- I want to die before they do.
The truth is that all my wants for their lives might not happen and that’s sickening at times if I dwell on that.
When I think about this, I am reminded that Mary watched her first born son be crucified(John 19:26-27). She saw him suffer and struggle to breath. I cannot imagine seeing my child in this much distress, even if they were adults.
I wonder if Mary really knew what she was getting into when she said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”(Luke 1:38)
If she would have known she would watch her precious child suffer immensely, would she still have said yes? I bet that she would have done anything to keep him from the cross, but she could do nothing about. And if she could have kept him from the cross, the salvation of the world would not be.
When I realize that, it changes my perspective on suffering. Maybe the path our children have in front of them, even if we don’t like it or it’s incredibly hard to endure, will bring hope and salvation to others. Maybe those ugly parts will be what points someone else to Christ in their lives and it will all be worth it in the end.
When things aren’t happening how we planned for our kids, when we don’t know what to do as mothers and when the abundance of advice and options is endless and overwhelming, we can look no further than an example from The Word. Mary, Jesus’ own mother, can show us a picture of motherhood that is close to God’s heart.
Sharing my thoughts on life as a follower of Jesus, mom, and wife.