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A Time to Love

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful. carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers. or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

Martin Luther

A Lite-Brite Cube sits on the counter with a half-way-finished car outline on one of the four sides. Home-made glow-in-the-dark Valentine’s window clings are in view. I’ve become very good at gluing Yoshi shoes and twisting Blendy pens. I cleaned up a big pile of Chic-Fil-A puke yesterday without anyone even noticing since I brought my trusty anti-bacterial wipes with me in my carpetbag of a purse

My purse now looks like my mother’s. Right now, it has:

  • My wallet (of course!).
  • Spearmint gum (my fav).
  • A checkbook.
  • 3 sets of keys. Three? How’d I get three? What are they for?
  • About-to-expire Wendy’s Frosty coupons from Halloween. I have about 12 of them left.
  • A dried-up wipe.
  • 11 restaurant crayons.
  • Burt’s Bees lip gloss and hand salve
  • A Mario, Fire Mario, Fire Luigi, Fire Flower, Kirby, and some turtle.
  • A Santa Pez dispenser and 4 packages of Pez.
  • 3 Hot wheels.
  • A small bottle of Equate-brand Ibuprofen.
  • A Real Simple brand magnetic to-do-and-to-buy list.
  • 2 Magnetic Storybooks — Disney World and Spiderman.
  • A pair of chopsticks.
  • A half-eaten orange Pixy Stix.
  • Bubble yum wrapper. An Extra gum wrapper.
  • 3 Christmas Almond M&Ms.
  • 3 pennies.
  • A toothpick.
  • An expired Mutts coupon.
  • A handmade tissue holder from my dear friend with pads in it (perfect size!).
  • 2 Bath and Body Works bottles of Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel.
  • Zicam.
  • Grant’s antihistamine.
  • 7 lipsticks.
  • A Burger King happy meal toy Wii remote.
  • A Bionicle elbow joint.
  • A Chic-Fil-A “20 Questions” game.
  • A twist tie.
  • 4 pens.
  • A knitted iPhone.
  • A Christian Mommy inspirational/encouragement book that I started yesterday after cleaning up the puke.

Motherhood is like an Extreme Makeover. Oh sure, sure — sometimes it seems like the opposite of an Extreme Makeover — the Extreme Letting-Go that allows you to step to the front of the line for Extreme Makeovers. You know, the antidote for cool. You’ve got more Goldfish crackers on the floor of your van than you ever imagined existed. You can sing all the words to Veggie Tales songs. You’ve cultivated a deep affection for Chowder. You dream in Legos.

But your insides are made-over. You just aren’t your old self anymore. And that’s jarring. Because you thought you liked your old self. She was always on-time everywhere and always read a book all the way through in one sitting and could host smart dinner parties and she dusted every week and she had a place for everything and everything was in that place. Or so you think you remember. You haven’t slept in awhile.

It makes you come face-to-face with that tidier and slimmer (in purse and in person) previous self and ask her, “Who are you? What is wrong with you? Why are you so . . . egocentric? How do you think that you can’t get by without that much sleep? And you only have a wallet and a lipstick in your purse? Who are you?”

And then you wonder if maybe the you you are now is the lame one. Sigh. . . .

I understand that the culture told my mother’s generation a big set of lies. “You have to X-ray your child’s feet to make sure they have the right shoes.” “They must be potty-trained by 12 months!” “Feed ’em formula. Breastmilk is unsanitary.” “If you work or get too much schooling, your womb will wither.”

Our culture tells us lies too. Big ones. I’m somewhat impervious to the mainstream culture’s lies for whatever reason. Being a separatist for 39 years has its advantages. But instead of giving the truth about mothering, I’m finding that conservative Evangelicalism at large has its own Lie it sells to mothers.

And I’m sick of it. I wanna talk it out. This is ridiculous. It seems that while the Keswidispiecostal soteriology is being dismissed by the cool and heavily marketed charismatic Calvinist sorts, that identical rhetorical form is alive and well in their literature for women. Women are told to empty themselves of themselves in order to truly be saved, in order to show others that they are saved, and in order to get their kids saved. They’ve saved the lousiest theology for the ghetto of the women’s advice books just like the drug companies saved the mercury-laden vaccines for the Third World. This junk’s gotta sell somewhere. . . .

We’ve forgotten what Luther said. We don’t parent to demonstrate the Gospel — to show those around us how beautifully we can do it all. No, we parent because it is the Gospel — because God takes us in as foundlings, lifts us up as His own, loves us even when we stink, puke, and screach, and He dresses us, carries us, and loves us.

It’s not about showing. It’s about loving. It’s not about beauty. It’s about serving the smallest and the littlest in the darkest part of the night when there’s no one is up except us and that wee one and God.

But I need to go bring in the groceries. They are out in the car. The old-me used to love to grocery-shop. The new-me hates it now. It’s so boring and overstimulating and tiring. Besides . . .  the giant generic grape jelly tried to escape and splathered its guts on the driveway. And the pickled beets gave into the peer pressure and followed. Shame. . . . they were both so, so purple.

8 thoughts on “A Time to Love

  1. I am going to have to re-read what you wrote and process it. I do agree- especially having just taken care of my 2 year old through a stomach bug. And, yes, we were up in the night with him, giving him a bath, changing his bed, and rocking him. I got very little sleep, but you know I didn’t mind terribly. I was his mommy and I was meeting his needs. I know you understand this, mabye better than I , but going through infertility and then becoming a mom through adoption has given me a different viewpoint on parenting. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that I have the privilege of being this little guy’s mom. It is not that everything is perfect. I am not perfect by any stretch. I just count it an absolute privilege to be a mom and that includes cleaning up puke:)

  2. Thank you so much for this. I love reading posts from women struggling with motherhood (like me) and yet also struggling to do so with the gospel. Thank you, thank you.

  3. Thanks, Camille! This is what I needed to hear today. It lifted me up after a rough morning with my 2 yr old! : ) Such a good reminder. We love because He loves us when we were unlovable!

  4. I don’t know you. this is my first time here, and I’m here via Tulip Girl, whom I don’t get to visit nearly as often as I’d like to. I happened over to her blog today and saw this, and I am quite actually in tears. This is all precisely what God has been speaking to my heart in the past few days.

    This passage: “We’ve forgotten what Luther said. We don’t parent to demonstrate the Gospel — to show those around us how beautifully we can do it all. No, we parent because it is the Gospel — because God takes us in as foundlings, lifts us up as His own, loves us even when we stink, puke, and screach, and He dresses us, carries us, and loves us” . . . this is the heart of a book a friend and I are writing to encourage Christian parents to take an approach to parenting that falls outside of the realms of what has become mainstream in the Church.

    You spoke it so much more perfectly than I have been able to put words to for months.

    I’d like to speak more to you about using this passage in some of our work.

    Thank you for sharing so brilliantly.

  5. Thanks for articulating what’s been bugging me for some time (and people wonder why I largely refuse to read anything Christian books directed specifically at women!). As a relative newcomer to Reformed theology, I’m still baffled though as to why it (the idea that women should empty themselves to demonstrate the gospel, along with the ever-increasing impression I’m getting that complementarianism = the gospel) is so popular in Reformed circles. Maybe you’re right and it is a carryover of Keswidispiecostal soteriology. I’ve heard it said that every generation has its blindspot. Maybe this is our’s? Definitely something to chew over…

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