Thursday, May 8, 2014

Letter to a First-Time Mother

You sway when you walk, your precious body heavy with the weight of the unknown and yet unseen--a maternity shirt and stretched skin cloaking the face of our next generation. 

I smile and wonder what I want to tell you. I remember what I wanted to hear then, when I was pregnant with my first. I wanted to hear that I looked beautiful--and you do. I wanted to hear that motherhood was wonderful--and it is.  I wanted someone to tell me what to do in labor and what to do with a baby--and you will find out.

But the fire-words I really want to tell you linger, burning in my chest, because how do you transition from small talk to a wail for the future of a people?

How do I tell you that ahead of you lie two roads?

There will be a child in your arms soon and you will pull him close and carry him into your every day life. He is born knowing how to cry, but he will watch your face and from you he will learn how to smile and how to laugh. As you carry him, he will learn his normal from you and then he will carry that normal into the world and make it the norm for decades to come. 

How do I tell you that there are two ways to be a mother? 

You can carry your baby and carry on with your life as your own and do what is easy and what gets you through, or you can lay down your life in love for that child and find out for yourself if resurrections are true. 

Motherhood is an invitation to living the Gospel that God lived for you. It is an invitation to lay aside all of your potential for the reality of loving another person.

Motherhood is an invitation to change the status quo--an invitation to shoot arrows into tomorrow that can pierce through the prejudice, poverty, and injustice that is today.

It sounds beautiful, but what it can feel like is dying. It sounds powerful, but what it will often look like is hard-work and monotony. In the difficult days, you cannot forget what you are doing and why it matters.

Who you are to this child for the next 5 years can determine who they are to the world for the next 60+ years. 

"Experts agree that as much as 85% of a child's character is developed by age five, and the way a child is raised in the early years accounts for at least 20 points of his IQ" ("A Call to Mothers," Jean Fleming).

Five years.

How will you spend those years?

You will change diapers, change your sleep habits, spoon baby food, and cheer for first steps. 

In between all of that you will get to make choices about who you are as a person and a mother-- about your attitude, your time, your money, and your passion. What you choose will be passed to your child, to a community, to a people.

What do you want to pass on? What legacy will you leave?

You can pass the time away or you can pass on a passion for making the name of God great in the earth. 

Our society is plagued with passivity where we stare at screens while the minutes tick by instead of becoming agents of change in our homes and in the world. What will your baby watch you do? Oh that we would abandon mediocre entertainment to enter into the presence of the eternal One. Would you choose to turn off the social media to become a mediator for a broken world? 

If you fall asleep every night to the sound of the TV blaring, fall asleep to the sound of violence, of drama, of lust and greed, what do you think will grow in your child's mind and bloom in their teens but violence and a flare for the dramatic? 

What if instead they were tucked in soundly to the song of a mother worshipping, to the spoken stories of God rescuing His people, to the sound of prayers shaking shackles off of prisoners? If you sow seeds of faith in your family, you will reap miracles in your children. 

What if you started early encouraging lifelong healthy habits for your child? If you don't teach them to value and take care of their body, who will? If you don't teach them how to value and take care of their soul, who will? 

If you don't teach them how to handle their anger, who will? If you don't teach them the value of speaking the truth, who will? If you don't give them boundaries and consistent discipline when they are young, who will?

If you want your child to offer something to the world, you must teach them that they have something to offer and that they will have to work hard to give it.

You may have to learn new habits, learn about disciplining and parenting, learn how to cope with your own failings. You cannot do it alone, but you can seek out a community of people that will help you. You can sleep in Sunday morning or you can show up at the church's door and find mothers who will mentor you and friends who encourage you. It will take time to make friends and sometimes you have to search many places before you find the place where you fit, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.

You, beautiful mother, are carrying a seed of hope in your body. You are carrying a gift you could offer to the Lord--what will you do with it?