There have been moments of motherhood I have undeniably wished away. More recently there have been plenty that I have longed to last forever. As we anticipate the arrival of our second child and the chaos that is undoubtedly ahead, my husband and I have often looked at each other over the course of the past few weeks and asked “How could it be any better than this?” I find that my eyes are filling with tears at every goodnight kiss or invitation to “Hold you, Mommy?” as I ask myself how I could possibly have enough room in my arms or my heart for two.
Amidst all of the do’s and don’ts that people have hurled at this young mother, it seems that the counsel I receive most often from older women is “don’t blink.” While I’m sure it is sage advice, this warning leads to an abiding sense of guilt and pressure.
Am I savoring enough? Am I making lasting memories? Am I taking enough pictures? Are we spending our time the right way? Am I writing down enough of these cute sayings?
I watch those same women in my church beam with pride when their children are home from college or they have the privilege of holding their visiting grandchildren in our worship gathering and know that all too soon, my husband and I will be getting ready and heading to church without putting anyone in their car seats, the boys will get too old for us to hold while singing, and eventually we'll be heading home to an empty house.
I know that the days that our precious two-year-old boy fits on the shoulders of his father to “run, run, racecar” (as he begs to every night) will come to an end in the next few years. He is growing so quickly, and however grateful we may be, we are fully aware that having another child is going to change everything, especially our ability to be fully present with one child, our capacity to enjoy, and most likely our ability to remember.
THE KEYS TO SAVORING
Whether or not you are preparing for the arrival of another child, you’ve likely received the same counsel, read articles with titles like “Instead I Held You,” or felt the pressure to savor the moments. The ironic effect of the fear of wasting the little years is that we end up squeezing the life out of them, putting too much pressure on them, and sadly sometimes, unable to enjoy them at all. So how do we walk that fine line between savoring and suffocating?
1. RECOGNIZE GOD AS THE GIVER
The book of James reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” As much as motherhood books and blogs would lead us to believe that all of these sweet moments are a product of our own intentionality, they are in fact, a gift. And if that is the case, they are to be enjoyed. Our Father delights to give good things to us (Matthew 7:11), and because our memories and family culture are not the hinge upon which our salvation swings, we are able to enjoy them and experience the delight they offer without the guilt to preserve them or pressure to glean life from them.
God is the giver of abundant life. He, not the moment we want to make last, is the source of our being (Acts 17:28). We should not look to our children or experiences to provide what only he can. When we do, we fall into the trap described by the apostle Paul in which we worship and serve created things rather than the creator, who is forever worthy of honor and praise. When we receive the gift of these moments or our children at these stages without acknowledging their source, we become slaves to them, looking to them for life that can only be derived from him. When we ask them to do something that they simply cannot do we inevitably experience sorrow, disappointment, loneliness, and a lack of purpose as they slip through our fingers. When we acknowledge that they come from a good God whose sole purpose for them is that we would be delighted and remember his kindness, we are filled with joy.
2. RESPOND WITH THANKS AND PRAISE
Acknowledging God as the giver of good things, and believing that it is in fact part of his character and nature to give good gifts to his children, changes the way we respond to good gifts. Rather than receiving them with panicky pressure, we can enjoy the gifts of our life-stage, current experience, and young children with gratitude and praise to their giver.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul offers a posture of thankfulness as a remedy for anxiety. Why? How does this work? These good things we receive from our Father are meant to point us to their source, and when we remember him, we can’t help but recall all that he has given us in Christ, which is far more than we could have ever deserved, dreamed, or imagined.
We see in the lavish love displayed on the cross that his character is not to withhold. Instead of looking around and saying “This isn’t enough.” Or “I want more!” the utterance of our hearts during the experience of beauty and bounty becomes “Thank you, Father!” We can join with the psalmist, shouting for joy: “the Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”
3. LIVE WITH HOPEFUL EXPECTATION
I remember when I was packing for college, an uncle of mine told me that I was about to experience the best years of my life. I’m happy to report that he was most certainly wrong. I’ve heard the same words spoken regarding these years at home with little ones (which is actually particularly discouraging on the days characterized by sleeplessness and tantrums).
Friends, for those of us who are members of the kingdom of God, it is always a lie to say that any years are the best years, or that any days are the glory days. Circumstances will change, sorrow and difficulty may indeed come, but the knowledge that God’s grace will be sufficient then, as his kindness is so visible to us now in this season, enables us to dance freely without fear of the other shoe dropping. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And that, more than any wonderful experience he delights to give us, is "our lovely source of true delight." He has ordained each day of your life with his consistent character and with the same intention: our good and his glory.
We long for these moments to last because we were created for ones just like them filled with joy and peace and delight. And Christ has gone to prepare a place for us where that’s all that we will ever know. But neither our children, nor our experience, will not be the glory of those eternal days. “The lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel’s Land.” We have all of eternity to run and play with our loved ones in the light of his presence, and that will be the sweetest part. Those days will be endlessly filled with delight and thanksgiving without any fear of their passing or destruction. So, rather than trying to make these fleeting earthly glimpses of glory last forever, receive them for what they are: gifts given to reflect the kindness of our Father, and foretastes of the world to come.
Delight in your children, hold them close, but don’t squeeze the life out of them filled with fear that if you blink you may “miss it.” Your days are meant to be lived with freedom and joy bearing the light and easy burden of Jesus, who came to give us a better version of the best moments of our earthly lives as one eternal day. Let’s live them now the way we will spend forever- in thanks and praise with grateful and joyful hearts!