I spent some time last week with a young mom who has three children under the age of four. When I arrived at her house, she opened the door with one baby on her hip, one child with her arms wrapped tightly around her mama’s knee, and another running lightning speed through the house. I walked in the door and a tiny army of miniature humans followed us to the sofa.
“Can we have a snack?”
“I don’t wanna watch a movie in the other room!”
[Baby screaming from “the other room”] “I locked him in there, Mom.”
I think that during the entire two hours I was with her, my friend sat on the sofa for a total of six minutes.
A mom’s life. This is how it goes.
I didn’t understand this before I had children of my own. In fact, when my first baby was a month old, I sat on the side of my bed sobbing at 2 a.m. and yelled out, “Why? Why won’t you just let me sleep for just one minute?” I was the Mayor of Meltdown City. I had never experienced anything like it. My life, every day of it, was no longer my own. I have five children now. My life is still no longer my own.
If God created a day of rest for us, for our good and his glory, then how does a mom have a Sabbath? What do you do when your responsibilities don’t and can’t stop for one day of the week? What happens when your work is at home and there is no physical difference between the area where you work and the area where you rest?
I might retreat to my bedroom for a rare, mid-afternoon Sunday nap, but I trip over a basket of dirty laundry.
My family sits down for a movie night, but my glass settles onto a dusty end table.
We go for a family walk, but when we return, the Sunday dinner dishes fill up the sink and spill onto the counter.
So how can moms honor the Sabbath? More importantly, how can moms celebrate the gift of the Sabbath when our daily work cannot stop for us? Surely God knew when he gave us children that he had also, previously, given us the Sabbath. So what do we do?
Most importantly, Christ is our ultimate rest. In Christ, we find the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Resting in him as our righteousness, our identity, and our security will give us the life-giving, deep soul rest that we long for. When we cling to this truth, we declare that we are resting in the ultimate work of the cross. But that isn’t easy for this mom. I’m guessing it isn’t easy for most of us.
Specifically for moms, here are three helpful things to remember as we pursue honoring the Sabbath and seeking out true rest:
1. Get off the hamster wheel of comparison.
Here’s what moms do: We love to compare ourselves to the other moms around us—in person and virtually. We take the collective gifts and talents and skills of the moms around us and hold ourselves up to that impossible standard. When we do this, we can never truly rest because there is no amount of toiling or trying or running or striving that will ever satisfy our craving for approval like resting in Christ does. The work that bought our righteousness and approval was finished on the cross. We don’t have to look to the left or the right to find the standard. Christ is the standard and he is perfect and we stand in his righteousness, accepted and approved and adored by him. All the running around and trying to be anything other than mothers uniquely fashioned by God will never gain us one more ounce of his love.
We want our children to be exactly who God created them to be. We need to want that for ourselves and for the other moms around us. When we rest in Christ as our identity, not only do we find rest and contentment, but the walls of doubt fall down and we become more loving, genuine, and faithful friends to the other moms in our lives.
2. Our children are not trophies.
This is the #1 reason most moms cannot find deep soul rest. We place so much of our identity on the successes and failures of our children. We run all over town to sporting events, dance classes, and recitals. We say we do it in the name of giving them experiences, but if we are honest, we often do it because our kids’ successes equal “our” successes. We hold our children up like trophies in all of their shiny glory, but then they walk back in the door when the game is over, still in freshly stained uniform, and spew disrespect at us. They behave during the playdate with friends, pink bows secured to the top of their angelic heads, and then come home and throw a temper tantrum for the ages. So we fall onto the bed and cry hot tears.
Why? Because we come crashing down from the mountaintop of their successes and land in the valley where their sin runs deep. No wonder we’re so exhausted. Our kids can never measure up to a trophy status, whether it’s a literal trophy or the one we hand them in our minds when they’ve made us look good. Fashioning our kids into trophies makes their lives all about our egos. God help us. Our children were not made to feed our pride.
Trophies are made by man to be set on a shelf.
Children are made by God to be set free.
If we use our children to find our identity and approval as mothers, they will leave us exhausted, empty, and restless—because there’s only one person whose identity can fulfill our longing to be accepted and loved: Jesus Christ.
3. We need community.
When I was newly pregnant with my third son and had two toddlers running rampant through the house trying to destroy everything in sight, a 36-count box of Play-Doh arrived at my doorstep. When I opened it, I planted my face in my hands and wept. Not exhausted tears—thankful tears. You see, this wasn’t just Play-Doh. This was, “I see you” disguised in little yellow plastic containers. A single friend of mine, who lived halfway across the country, had sent these to me. She knew she couldn’t babysit. Or give me a chance to nap. But she could send Play-Doh. So she did. And for the next several weeks, my two toddlers played with it every morning while I rested on the sofa.
We need each other. We just do. We need help. There is not one mother I know who can do all that’s required of her alone. Single mothers and married mothers alike, we all need community. It looks different for all of us, but if a mother is going to find times of rest, she needs people in her life who will come alongside her and say, “I see you.” She needs people to remind her that her identity is not found in doing but in resting in the love and approval of Christ. She needs people willing to be present help, but when that isn’t possible, she needs a box of Play-Doh. All of us, even those of us who are buried under our own piles of children, we can be the ones who whisper, “I see you. I know who holds you in the palm of his hand. Rest in that today.”
So to the community surrounding moms: Buy that Play-Doh! Take your friend’s kids to the park so she can nap. Offer to bring her coffee. Remind her with a card who she is in Christ and help her fall asleep at night with the knowledge that she is loved and adored by God. You don’t have to live near her to help give her the gift of deep, soul rest. When you write or speak words of truth to her, especially Scripture, you are being the hands and feet of Christ to her. And let me tell you: She needs to hear it.
And to the moms reading this: God sees every not-so-small sacrifice you are making. He sees the pouring out and the pouring in. And it is holy and blessed work you are doing. You are laying the ground for your children to grow in Christ by taking them to church, by feeding them lunch (and cleaning up afterwards), and the thousand other small tasks they may never recognize. Yes, you—with your hair unwashed and your clothes stained from spit-up—you are doing holy work. God sees. He sees all of it. He sees you. Find the deep rest you’re longing for in knowing that your righteousness, security, and identity are all found in Christ.
And, Christ alone.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
– Matthew 11:28-30 NIV