Mothering at the End of Me
From Gospel Translations
I entered motherhood with certain expectations. I thought I would be happier than I was, and I thought mothering would come more naturally and easily. I still loved being a mom, but I could tell God was using motherhood to change me — and sometimes that change was painful. Sometimes I came to the end of myself.
When I first had children, I heaped unnecessary burdens on myself, buying the lie that I had to do it all and be it all (and all the time). In my pride and guilt, I didn’t want to ask for help. God used the challenges of motherhood to expose my self-sufficiency in motherhood. The more children I had, and the more difficult behaviors that surfaced in them, I had a harder time keeping my mask of strength from falling off. This was part of God’s loving design for me (and for all mothers).
Part of our calling as moms is to embrace our dependence on God — to accept and admit our weaknesses and to lean into our human limitations with his help. Our weaknesses are where Christ meets us with even greater grace, power, and strength. We find true strength, as the apostle Paul says, when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:10). A mother’s only hope is in a Savior who will be enough for us when we don’t feel like enough.
Weak and Needy Mothers
When the Son of God came to earth, he not only showed us who God is, but also what it means to be human.
[He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7–8)
He embraced limitations of humanity, including our need for rest (Mark 4:38; 6:31–32), while also pouring himself out for the sake of others to the point of exhaustion. He was exhausted because he was fully human. He needed the Father, and so we should not be surprised that we do too. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
To be human is to be dependent. To be human is to be weak. To be a mother is to be a weak and needy human who requires strength from outside herself.
All Who Are Weary
Some of our burdens and weariness can be rooted in pride. We think we can be like God in ways that are reserved only for God. Also, many of the burdens we put on ourselves as mothers are ones we don’t have to bear — burdens that are not put on us by the law of God, but by man-made laws in society or burdensome expectations in the church. Jesus invites us to cast them off and learn the humility of dependence from him:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29)
Paul tells us to learn the same humble mindset that Christ had (Philippians 2:5). We return to God’s original design for us as moms when we admit and accept our weakness — that we need someone outside of ourselves. When we remember that he is our Creator, and that we are his creatures, we will find rest in him even while our days are full.
How to Exercise Dependence
Prayer is one practical way to express humble dependence on God. I have often neglected the help of the Holy Spirit when I’m feeling down and weak or exhausted in parenting. But not coming to God in prayer actually weakens us more, because God means to refresh and strengthen us through prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)
The peace and rest we long for as mothers can be found when we bring our requests and needs before him.
We also can express dependence on God through physical rest: stepping away to recharge, taking a nap, leaving tasks undone to get a good night’s sleep, exercising, engaging in a hobby, joining a book club or Bible study. When we make time for all aspects of rest in our lives (physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional), we’re saying, “I’ve done what I can; now I leave what I cannot do to you, God.”
Our need for rest reminds us that it is not ultimately up to us to keep our households. We must entrust our homes to God, instead of trying to maintain control to the point of burnout. Consistently and intentionally engaging in restful activities is an act of trust.
Finding Him at the End of You
God has a purpose for us in coming to the end of ourselves. If we always felt strong and put together, then we wouldn’t feel our need for Jesus. Like the old hymn says, “Every hour I need you.” Motherhood can make us feel needy every hour. God regularly brings us to this place so that we can lay our burdens down before him and learn to embrace the humble dependence that our Savior modeled for us.
So, even though it’s natural for us to rage against our weaknesses, let’s boast in them. Let’s lean into our limitations. God knows all the tough parts of motherhood are beyond us. We don’t need to be tough, strong supermoms, but humble moms who know our need for him. We will begin to find peace and rest when we humbly rely on the strength of the Spirit to help us, instead of thinking everything is dependent on what we can do as mothers.