A friend of mine recently made the statement that Autumn is the most contemplative of seasons. The days are much shorter but they also seem slower with the low light and bright leaves. It is the perfect climate for thinking and reflecting. One of my favorite things about our home is the large picture windows in our bedroom that overlook a beautiful tree the width of our entire house. My favorite time of day is in the early hours of the morning when the sun slowly comes up and I can see how the colors of the leaves have deepened even since the day before. This is a gift from the Lord in many ways, but I find it makes me even more aware of the changing of seasons and how fleeting time really is. It has never come easy to me to slow down, rest, and contemplate but I am slowly learning how important it is and what an impact it makes on the way I think and go about my days.
My husband and I moved to Richmond in late May, two days after both of us graduated from seminary, and just before I entered the third trimester of pregnancy with our first child. We had a few short crazy months to settle into our home as first time home owners, raise support, attend RUF trainings, and start the college semester before our son, Wallace, was born in September. This has been a very humbling season in which everything feels like it has changed, and I am becoming more aware of how quickly in times of uncertainty and chaos that I place my worth in things other than the character of God and good news of the Gospel. Sadly, in my lifetime struggle with fear and shame, I have always questioned my worth based on expectations I have for myself or believe others have for me, but motherhood has brought with it a totally different beast of fear and anxiety from a whole new set of impossible standards. Throughout pregnancy I worried if I was eating right, exercising enough, preparing enough to be a mother, or spending enough time making our house a home. All of these are good things, but they become ultimate things when my worth as a person is based off of my performance.
Shortly after Wallace was born I began to struggle deeply with questions like “Am I good enough to be his mom?”; “Am I doing enough with him?”; “Am I resting too little?”; “Should I have done this or that?”… and the list goes on. I had dreams that people threatened to take him away from me, that he was suffocating inside of our pillows and bed sheets, and even that our church had a meeting with me to discuss my bad parenting. Wallace was probably only about three weeks old at this point! All of these feelings of falling short have eaten away at the joy of becoming a new mother and have not let me have the grace to let myself struggle with the hard parts as well.
Of course this struggle has somewhat to do with lots of circumstantial changes, hormones, and lack of sleep, but deep down it is a struggle of a desire to be perfect to earn peace with God, peace with ourselves, and the approval of people around us. I want to be seen as a good mom who has a semblance of control on her life. At the same time, I also want the freedom to be flexible; someone who has her house clean and cookies ready, but also someone who isn’t afraid to let her house be messy and invite people into that. I am weaving a web of impossible expectations for myself. The kicker is that all of this is about me, how others see me, and how I am as a mom. All of this thinking will run me ragged and rob me and my family of joy.
As we read God’s word from Romans 8, the burden of expectation is lifted because Christ has taken it for us. Instead of condemnation, we are given freedom- freedom to be the moms we are without feeling the weight of internal pressure; freedom to fail, freedom to question, and freedom to take joy in simple victories we have each day.
Question 33 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “justification is an act of God’s free grace.” We are rescued from the weight of sin and death, not because of how we perform but because of how Christ performed on our behalf in this one time act. It is by God’s grace that we are rescued from the debilitating pressure to be “the good mom.”
The freedom this brings can give us the ability to have a deep, satisfying joy, not just the happiness that comes from feeling like we measure up for a short moment. Christ was sent in the likeness of our sinful flesh as a human not only to redeem our seasons of motherhood, but to redeem us completely, in all aspects of our lives. Jesus in his humiliation was made like us in every respect to save us from the depths of our fears, anxieties, and the punishment of death by living the perfect life that we could not possibly live, no matter how hard we try. The news that brings us greatest joy is not news of our accomplishments as mothers, but the news of Christ who came to redeem us. Not what we should be doing or have done, but what he has done for us.
It is always hard to wait, but in this season of Advent, we rejoice in our waiting because we know what has been and what is to come. Our righteousness comes not from our own babies or the way that we nurture them, but it comes from the great Nurturer himself who came humbly just like the tiny humans we are raising in order to give us deliverance which would bring us permanent joy and peace.
As I watch the sun come up in the morning and the hue of the leaves deepen from chartreuse green to a deep rusty orange, I can take comfort that the passing of time does not bring the heaviness of pressure to perform or the need to control what feels like mass chaos. My joy and ultimate worth come from the finished work of Christ on the cross. Waiting patiently looks like clinging to the cross and praying faithfully that my son will do the same.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
What are the set of standards you hold yourself to? What was the last thing you experienced “mommy guilt” over?
The included definition of "justification" means that when God looks at you, instead of seeing all of your shortcomings, he sees the perfect life of Jesus. How does it change the way we respond to the standards imposed on us (by ourselves or others) as mothers if we truly grasp that Christ (and not our performance) is our righteousness?
Brittany lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Harrison and their new baby boy, Wallace, who was born in September. Harrison is a campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Virginia Commonwealth University and Brittany spends most of her days loving on Wallace and getting to know college girls at VCU. Brittany has her Masters in Counseling from RTS Charlotte and although not currently practicing, the degree helps her everyday. She enjoys exploring Richmond and is navigating the waters of being a new mom in a new city, making community and trying not to get lost!