I wake up and spend some time reading the Bible and praying. I need it. Then I am jolted into the day. Family devotions, exercise, breakfast. I try to snatch several minutes of reading with my toddler before trundling her into the car. We go clean together. Rather, I clean while she plays and sleeps. When we get home, we are both tired and hungry. But lunch invigorates us for our daily outing to the park. Home again, we do learning activities and chores together. By her afternoon nap, I am ready for one too. I get up in time to do a little writing or a few more chores before she’s up and it’s time to make dinner. After dinner we go for a walk with daddy. Then its bath time, reading, bed. I spend the rest of the night on the couch, immobile.
As moms of toddling children know, it is often difficult to find time to do all we think we ought or wish we could. Our day is bombarded with tasks, but never enough tasks. Despite our diligent effort, there is always one more mirror we could wash or one more project we should complete. The work is never done. How often do you wonder, “what happened to the life I thought I would have?” Or, “what about the dreams I chased before I was chasing children?”
Do you remember them: your dreams? Do you, like me, still take them out on nights when you feel most unfulfilled? You remember your plans to establish a teaching career or counseling practice? Maybe you pull out your unfinished manuscript or artwork. Or you remember your dreams of perfectly behaved children. When you compare these lustrous dreams with reality, you feel gypped. Instead of investing in these dreams, we now change diapers. Instead of brainstorming brilliant ideas in a corporate office, we work whatever job will keep your kids clothed. We grow resentful. And our resentment grows as we think about our husband.
While we are stuck at home, or hauling the kids around, or working a thankless job, he still gets to chase his dreams. He goes to the work and does things that change the world. He comes home energized and full of stories. And when he doesn’t, he crashes on the couch while you wrestle the kids into bed. This is not a fair trade. We deserve to do what we love, don’t we? Don’t we deserve to follow our dreams and feel fulfilled in our work?
In fact, God has not promised us our best life now. He never promised we would love every minute of the work He has given us. Instead, because of the curse, we are guaranteed that our work as mothers will be painful and often arduous (Genesis 3:16). God does not us promise perfect children, but perfect sinners. And He certainly never promised that if we follow Him, all of our dreams will come true. Instead, He tells us that anyone who wishes to follow Him must deny themself and take up their cross everyday (Matthew 16:24). In other words, if we want to follow the Lord, we have to surrender our own will and autonomy and, yes, our dreams. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.” We have forgotten this.
But we have also forgotten that not only has God called us to die, we signed up for it. When we became Christians, we willingly surrendered our old man (along with its sinful passions and desires) to the grave. And though he still battles for our heart, God calls us to kill him (Colossians 3:3-5). That means killing our covetous heart that wants what our husband has. That means slaying our ingratitude for what we’ve been given. That means seeing that no root of bitterness springs up in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15). It means dying daily. When we accepted Christ, we accepted this daily death. As wives and mothers, Jesus calls us to die for our husbands and our children.
When we married, we agreed to lay down our life for our husband. By covenanting before God that we would remain faithful to our husband alone, we destroyed all other prospects. We surrendered our freedom and autonomy to become one with another. And after the ceremony, we began a life of little deaths. Every day, God calls us to surrender our wants and desires for our husband’s (Ephesians 5:33, Proverbs 31:10-27). Every day, He reminds us to look away from ourselves to another. And, when we do look, we find a man who is also dying every day. Do you only remember the days when your husband was exhilarated by his work, or too tired to help? Or do you also remember the times when he gets up and goes to the office despite a long night up with the kids? Or the times when he gives you a foot massage and listens to your emotional ramblings? Do you remember that you are not the only one dying? And not just for you, but also for the kids?
Someone once said that the blood at birth is a reminder that the life that comes from it will cost the mother hers. Babies are helpless. They need constant care and attention. In order to sustain this little life, someone must give of theirs. This means changing diapers in the middle of the night. It means sometimes being late for work so we can listen to our child. It means loving children who are not always lovable. It means, in the very ho-hum tasks of life, looking out for the good of your kids over your own (Proverbs 31:13-28, Philippians 2:3-4). It means doing what God does.
God calls us to come and die because that is what He did. Jesus laid aside His glory and became a bond slave (Philippians 2:5-7). Jesus spent every moment of His earthly life for the sake of others and it culminated in His death. But the story continues. Jesus did not stay in the grave, He rose again and is now reigning in glory (Philippians 2:8-11). He was the seed that fell to the earth to die, that it could bring forth much fruit (John 12:24). And, like Him, we too must die so that we can bear much fruit.
We do not simply die for the sake of dying. Through Christ, our death brings new life. Our little sacrifices—feeding, clothing, nurturing—keep our children alive. And by caring for our husband’s needs over our own, we are enabling him to flourish. Far from making us into door mats, living life by dying only makes us more alive. For, the more we set aside our sinful desires for the sake of others and to the glory of God, the more joyful we will be. Because Christ fills up what we have poured out with Himself, the wellspring of all life and joy and peace. So, when you want to nurse bitterness or complain about your lot, remember Christ. And rejoice that you, like Him, get to lay down your life to give and receive life.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Elisabeth Bloechl is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, house cleaner, and aspiring writer. She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.