How do you sum up your vocation as a mom?
What’s the purpose of it all?
Sometimes I go through patches where life seems very reactionary. Maybe a few weeks of passing around the flu to each family member. Or holidays come around, and I’m chasing my tail and the bottom of the laundry basket.
And when I try to take back a bit of control of the direction of this ship, I have to remind myself, where are we meant to be sailing too, again?
I’ve been reading 2 Corinthians recently and writing some reflections about motherhood as ministry.
Then I came to this verse:
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15
I think this might be the most striking verse about motherhood in the Bible.
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
Paul is talking about his devotion to the Corinthians. But he uses the analogy of parenthood to explain his commitment.
Here’s the point he’s making: “I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not bound to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”
He loves them, he won’t burden them. He’s like a father to them, so he won’t drain them. No, it’s his responsibility to provide for them.
And that’s when he says this: “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
Isn’t that a breathtaking manifesto of parenthood? Fatherhood and motherhood too.
The motherhood manifesto
I will – the resolute commitment
most gladly – with joy and generosity
spend and be spent – pour out all my resources and my very self
for your souls – for your good, in the truest deepest, eternal sense of that word
If you’re ever trying to sum up the meaning and purpose of motherhood, this verse is a great place to start.
Or to put it a different way, if you’re ever wondering: how do I decide how to use my time and resources as a mom? This is it – the guiding principle.
Spend and be spent
It’s a pretty normal mom-like feeling to crawl into bed at the end of the day feeling spent.
It’s so acute when our children are newborns, and utterly dependent and vulnerable. We pour ourselves out for their every need.
And those needs develop and grow, as our babies develop and grow.
A few observations:
- It’s ok to give yourself to motherhood (The world will tell you that it’s a waste of your time, energy, education and resources. It’s not true, of course.)
2. It isn’t about what you get back
3. Joy changes everything
4. Your resources come from Christ
5. You’re still human – that is to say, you give as a creature, not the Creator
For your souls
Why spend and be spent? This verse sharpens my reason for all the mom decisions I make.
It’s not about always making my children happy. Or giving them every opportunity in life.
It’s for their souls. For their most profound good.
I take it that means organizing my time and resources
- to care for their spiritual well being – to teach them the gospel, to walk with them as they grow in the gospel
2. to care for their emotional and physical well being – they need taking care of on every level
3. to help them understand the world we live in – giving them a framework for sin and sadness in a fallen world
4. with flexibility – I often need to change my plans and lifestyle according to the needs of my children
5. with compassion – these people are little and sometimes we just need to go at their pace. Always hurrying and harrying children causes them to stumble.
(If you homeschool, I really recommend Durenda Wilson’s ‘Unhurried Homeschooling’ on this subject – you can read my review of it here.)
What if I’m not feeling the joy?
I’m sure all of us know those days, where you know you have to meet the needs of your children, and you do it. But it’s more of a duty than a joy.
Of course, Christian joy doesn’t mean always being happy or always finding everything just a pure delight. It’s fruit of the Holy Spirit. I’m working on praying more specifically for it.
I find it helps to take one day at a time – God’s grace is sufficient for this very day and He promises to give us everything we need in Christ Jesus.
When I think about the times when my joy is definitely on the dry side, it’s often because I’m too busy. I’m only one person and I’m working on accepting that fact.
Which brings me on to being human.
What about self care?
Spending and being spent for the good of another, without the expectation that this little person is now in your debt – it doesn’t chime well with the self-care zeitgeist.
How can you be a mom who gladly pours herself out for her children, and not end up a frazzled heap or puddle in the corner?
I have found these to be two important foundations to get hold of:
We give as creatures, not the Creator.
We’re human! And that’s how God made us. You can read more about that here:
Recognizing that we’re human will help us slow down. It helps to keep us in one piece.
We give for the sake of someone else. That doesn’t make us losers. In fact, we gain.
Christian giving isn’t something the world understands. How can you pour yourself out and not get lost?
But that’s one of the beautiful treasures of the gospel. It’s the footsteps of Jesus.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
If I use all the energy of my adult life, gladly spending and being spent for the sake of my children’s souls, I know it’ll be time well spent.