When I was expecting my firstborn, I knew that I was on the verge of falling off a cliff. I had my dream job. I was the Clinic Supervisor for the Dental Hygiene Program at LSU School of Dentistry and my husband was graduating from the Dental Program in a few months. Our life was so ordered around work and school, and dentistry; it was all the same for us. And we loved it.
We had waited eight years after marrying to have children. Someone very close to me had three children and three difficult pregnancies. Bed rest. Close calls. The more I saw, the more I felt sure that I couldn’t possibly become a mom until my husband finished school. And then there was the idea of day care…we were such germaphobes, being dental people. Umm, did I say “we were”? Let me tell you the truth, if you ever see me in person, you can count on one thing: I will have hand sanitizer within arm’s reach.
At graduation time, Scott was sworn into the Navy as a dentist (yes, he is in the Air Force now…that is another story). Meanwhile, I munched on crackers, fighting morning sickness. Graduation ceremonies in New Orleans, in May? I wore a cap and polyester gown to his graduation too, being faculty. It was hot. And all our friends wondered aloud to me, just how long it would be till I started back to work again, in the new place, after we moved to our first duty station, after we had our first baby. How long?
No one really believed me when I said, “I’ll be staying home. At least for the first few years.” Years…even a few of them sounded like forever to me and that was almost twelve years ago. But somehow I just knew, without a doubt, that this was what was next for me. And I was a little freaked out, on the inside. I knew there was a reckoning waiting for me on the other side of motherhood. Or a wrecking. Or both.
I read all the books like a good mom-to-be. And none of them prepared me for my new job. None of the books prepared me for the humbling of me. One chapter of one Book was what I needed to study: First Corinthians Chapter 13, the Love Chapter. This tells what is important. These were the things I needed to be, and what I wanted so desperately to be able to teach to my little ones. But if this had been a pass/fail test, I failed daily:
- Be patient
- Be kind
- Don’t envy
- Don’t boast
- Do not be arrogant
- Do not be rude
- Do not insist on your own way
- Do not be irritable
- Do not be resentful
- Do not rejoice with wrongdoing
- Rejoice with the truth
- Believe, hope, persevere
Slowly, I began to realize that God’s greatest lessons for me were found in the midst of the messy connections with people in my life. All of them served as a mirror for me. When someone stomped on my heart, contentment did not ooze out. When someone ran over me in a relationship, I did not turn the other cheek. And if someone said unkind things to me, I never remembered this: The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Ex 14:14).
Loving difficult people is where God schools you in loving. It is where you meet Him. It is the hard place where the Rock refines your own rough edges. And children are teeny tiny difficult people. So I think the thing that surprised me most about motherhood is that, the only way to prepare for it, is to prepare your heart by knowing God. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov 4:23).
Everything else is OJT (on the job training). Parenting isn’t a skill or a love language or a philosophy; it is a practice. Paul gives us this promise: What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:9). At the end of all the stress and the strife and the spiritual growth <read “painful process” here> lies deeper relationship with the God of peace.
This post was inspired by a brand new book: Surprised by Motherhood (amazon link). As a special gift to my readers, Lisa-Jo Baker is sharing a free preview of three chapters from this amazing book. Click here to get that. And please tell me in the comments, what has surprised you most about motherhood?