I often feel alone. I live in a country where many do not speak my language and though I’m learning, I can’t quite say that I speak their language. My children become frustrated on the playground “because nobody understands me, mama” and I weep for the loss of friendships that could have been if we were in America. Shortly after moving overseas, I entered into a fog of anxiety and depression. From adjusting to cultural differences to making choices about what language my children should be schooled in, I was overcome by fear, worry, and doubt. I had a brand new baby and a not quite two year old, and found myself completely debilitated by fear about a far off future as though my children’s entire lives hinged on which pre-school they attended. Feeling —and being— foreign often breeds anxiety about, well, everything.
Do I believe that Jesus has called us to bring the gospel to a foreign land because he loves every tribe, tongue, and nation? Yes. But instead of preaching the truth to myself, that this is good for my children, I worry “what have I done to my children?”
We all question our decisions as mothers, don’t we? Either out of fear of other’s opinions or fear of failure. Not to mention our fear and anxiety over their safety. From the moment of that first cry in the delivery room, we're forced to face the reality that we’re not actually in control. Often, our reaction to loss of control is to cling more desperately to it. Maybe for you, it looks like following a rigid sleep schedule for your kids or dowsing every guest in hand sanitizer before they cross the threshold. For me, it was calling the after hours emergency line when my one week old had green poop. It did me in. I just knew there was something terribly wrong. (As it turns out, green poop is textbook for a 1 weeker… or a 5 year old for that matter).
Let’s step into Mary’s world for a moment. She’s pregnant and unwed in a time where that is not just socially unacceptable; it’s down right scandalous. She has to endure scorn from everyone around her and bring shame on herself and her future husband. And none of this is her fault. She’s pregnant because God has called her to bring His son into the world. She must raise the child who came to redeem her own shortcomings as a mother.
The calling of motherhood is sometimes difficult:
Illness or death of a child or spouse
Just writing out this short list makes my pulse quicken. We have to make choices that will affect our children every day. Whether it’s deciding what to feed them for lunch or what to say when a loved one has died, our opportunities to fail seem endless. And we are responsible for their safety, but we cannot be everywhere or see everything to protect them perfectly. How easy it is to spiral down into the dark depths of fear and anxiety.
When we spiral, we believe the lie that we are the only hope our children have. When faced with which preschool to choose for our kids, I placed my hope in my own wisdom. My fear was never about school, it was about feeling like I had to make the right choice for my kids lest their futures be ruined. It all came down to me and me alone.
In the work of motherhood, our hope rests in Jesus alone. What are the first two things the angel says to Mary in Luke 1?
1.“The Lord is with you!”
2.“Do not be afraid, Mary.”
Over and over in the Christmas story we see those words: “Do not fear.” Here is the good news of the Gospel: everything that we could ever be afraid of, all of the bad things that could happen, all of our choices and limitations are redeemed by the coming of the Son of God. He came to be what we could not. Jesus came as the Redeemer who makes all things new, not to undo all the things we've done, but to perfect them. Where we are lacking, his grace is sufficient. In the midst of a messy house, potty training, sickness, loneliness, cold coffee, and sleepless nights, we can rest in the fact that he is at work in, through, and around us.
Whether you decide to homeschool or go to public, eat Macdonald’s or all organic, put your kid in water wings or infant self rescue lessons, Jesus is still on the throne, acting for our good and His glory. That’s what He’s after. He doesn’t guarantee happiness or ease of life for us or for our children, but He promises that He is working for our good and He never, ever leaves us. He maintains the control we behave as which we have, and he is a far more capable and trustworthy sovereign.
“I am with you! Do not be afraid.”
Gabriel doesn’t tell Mary not to fear because she has an easy calling. That’s not the promise. The promise is this: that Jesus, the Son of the Most High will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His Kingdom, there will be no end. Christ delivers us from our anxiety and fear because he came to eradicate everything we have to be afraid of, finally and forever.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/APPLICATION:
- In what areas of motherhood do you find yourself most controlled by fear and anxiety? What recurrent imagined worst case scenarios or paralyzing thoughts most often fill your mind?
- How can you model peace and trust in Jesus for your children instead of fear and worry, not only in this Advent season, but daily?
- Spend some time asking Jesus to help you in the midst of fear and worry. He promises to meet us in our mess. He gently draws us to repentance. Ask him to do that for you today.
Katy Janicek lives in Prague, Czech Republic with her husband, Cody and their kids Milo (5) and Ollie (3). Cody is the RUF campus minister for Prague and Katy spends most of her time with their two kiddos and hoping and praying for their third, who is coming via adoption. She enjoys learning Czech, trying new cafes in the city, having people at her table for a home cooked meal, and hanging out with students. You can find her writing about travel, motherhood, and expat life over at toastandty.com