The Gospel Coalition Podcast: Hope for Exhausted Mothers

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Aimee Joseph: Okay. My name is Aimee Joseph and my husband and I live in San Diego, California, with our three raucus boys. They are 11, 10, and 5. So, that is a little bit of who I am. I want to give you, by way of introduction, two things that make me laugh and two caveats, and then I want to pray a specific Scripture that I’ve been praying for us for the past few months, and then we’ll jump in.

So, two things that make me laugh. One is that in a household full of boys, I often lament either audibly or inaudibly, that there’s not enough estrogen in my life and it seems that God in His humor saw fit to give me in one fell swoop, all the estrogen I could ever need in my life right now, and thereby, giving me no way to complain. So, that’s fairly of the Lord.

And the second is more serious that I remember 11 years ago now sitting in Atlanta Bread Company in Greenville, South Carolina, across from a trusted mentor, ugly crying, ugly crying in public because it didn’t even matter about how exhausted I was and how hard motherhood was. Up until that point, I really thought I was a pretty competent, decent human, and in motherhood, I met my match. In motherhood, I met my match. I was coming up against my limits. We had two children back to back. They’re 15 months apart and felt like we were barely coming up for breath. And sitting before this mentor and just crying and saying, “I didn’t get the mother chip. Everyone else seems to be thriving. They’re doing really well. I see their Facebook pages.” We didn’t have Instagram. “I see their Facebook pages and they’re thriving and I’m struggling. What’s wrong with me? This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

And my mentor gently, as she would, brought me to the Word, brought me to Jesus and said, “You are exactly where you need to be. You’re exactly where you need to be.” And so, I say that to say I find it very ironic that I would be speaking to you about motherhood and I’m not coming because I’m this awesome, amazing mother. I am coming because I know what it is to be exhausted by motherhood and these are not truths and theory, this is the experience that I have lived sinfully like where I fall off when I fall off the wagon in motherhood and the truths that God has used to sustain me. So, I am coming in weakness before you today.

Two caveats, what you will not get from this time. What you will not get from this time is the magic bullet that you’re looking for. I say that because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cracked to open a new book or waited for Amazon to deliver the next book or sat down with a mentor or gone to a conference and thought they’re going to give me the thing. I wouldn’t audibly say that, but inaudibly in my heart, they’re going to tell me the thing. If I could just figure out the right sleep schedule, the right school, the right…then this wouldn’t be so hard. It won’t be so exacting and so exhausting. I’m not going to give you that because you know it does not exist. That does not exist. If you’re expecting that you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I’m going to point you to the person of Christ because he is what you need and he is what your children need. It is not a formula. It is the person of Christ and the truth of his word that you need.

Also, you will not be getting a bunch of practicals. There are so many practical things we can talk about in motherhood. As you know, passys, no passys, diapers, no diapers, cloth diapers, regular diapers, all the things that we can talk about. Schooling is another one, right? We’re not going to go into those things and that’s because motherhood sits differently on each one of us, just like jeans. Need I say more? Just like jeans have certain qualities that make them jeans. Well, now they have the stretchy kinds, I don’t know if that changes the game, but just like jeans have certain qualities that make them jeans, motherhood has certain qualities as Christians that we should share. There should be some principles that look the same in all of our lives, but there’s a whole lot of room in motherhood for personalization, right?

Jeans fit differently on you and so you got to go and figure out in your community, with your local church, with your husband, through processing and prayer how this practically plays out in your life because just like Paul told the Corinthians when they were trying to figure out should they get married or not get married before Jesus came back, Paul said, “Each one needs to live as they’ve been called.” I don’t know your husband, I don’t know your children, I don’t know your context, your church, I don’t know your struggles, but the Lord does and your community does and your local church should. And so, they can help you work out the practicals. So, we’re not going to get super practical, but I do hope that you leave here with some perspectives and some paradigms and a few principles, right, that you can go back home and you can kind of slowly work out into your life because motherhood sits differently on each one of us.

Okay. I have had a group of amazing prayer warrior women praying for you guys, very specifically, this Scripture from Hebrews 12. The context of Hebrews 12 is Paul is writing about the discipline of the Lord. The Greek word for discipline is training, okay? Training. So, it can be positive or negative. Fitting that we’d be talking about training because most of motherhood involves discipline, which we tend to think of negative. But again, biblical connotation is just training, right? We’re often training our children and in the midst of training our children, God is training us, right? And Paul is exhorting the Hebrews to not grow weary, to not grow weary in their being trained because it’s hard, right? No discipline at the time seems pleasant but painful. But in the end, it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who have been trained by it. That’s the context.

So, this is what Paul says, Hebrews 12 verse 12, this is what I’ve been praying. “Therefore, lift your drooping hands, strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed.” So, the Greek word is there for weak and drooping imply neglected, slackening, loosening, relaxed, wearied because exhausted, right? It’s easy as mothers to get out of whack, to become disjointed in our motherhood. And what we need and what I’m praying God would do through this time is ortho. That’s the Greek word there. Make straight, to ortho, orthodontist. Make straight your teeth. Make straight the places in our motherhood that are weary and that are disjointed and that are out of whack, right? That he would make them straight with his word. That’s what I want to pray. So, I’m going to pray to that end and then we’re going to jump in.

God, we are thankful that You have entrusted to us, eternal souls. That’s insane. People that will never not live are in our care. And that can be a very heavy burden, Father, that can be exhausting and it’s easy in the exhaustion to grow weary and to get disjointed and out of whack. And so, I pray, Father, You know every woman in this room and You know the places that they’re weak and their hands are drooping and their knees are knocking because they’re tired or they’re struggling with their sins or their children’s sin or a particular situation. And so, I pray that Your word would come and it would make us straight, that we would walk the highway, the rut of righteousness, the highway of holiness, of motherhood until we see Your face. So, do that, Jesus, through these weak words in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Okay. So, that is what I have been praying for you my friends from the beginning. Keeping, so much keeping in motherhood, right? From the earliest days of motherhood, you are keeping. You are keeping track of how much they nursed, how many poopy diapers they had, how many wet diapers they had, their immunizations, the pantry, the soccer schedule, the cleats, not to mention the emotional needs of our children, the relational needs of our children, right? We are keeping so much, and now, my premise for today’s talk is this. It’s simple, but in the midst of our keeping, we are kept. In the midst of our keeping, we are kept and they are kept. So, this whole talk is going to revolve around that thought of the keeping ministry of Jesus. It’s a really simple thought. Most of us would intellectually assent to that. Yes, Jesus keeps us. But I believe that if we actually lived like women who believe that, our hearts would be changed and then our homes would be changed and then our neighborhoods would be changed and our churches would be changed and the world would be changed, if we truly started to live like people who believe that Jesus kept us, right?

Because you’re in this room, I believe you to believe that Jesus is the center of all things, okay? Colossians 1:17 says that, “Christ is the center of all things and in him, all things hold together.” Right? We know from Romans 11, “For from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be the glory.” We know that he is the center of redemptive history. He is the perfect man. He is the one to which everyone has been pointing. He’s the center, right? If only it were that simple to live that way. If only it were that simple to live that way. That is what is true, Jesus is meant to be the hub, the hub of our hearts in our lives and the hub of their hearts in their lives and the hub of our parenting. But it is all too easy to let that center slip, to let that center slip. So, there are two main ways that I think we let our centers slip. And what I want to do is I want to look at it from an external lens. So, what’s happening above the surface. And then I want to give you kind of two remedies and then I want to look at it from an internal lens. So, what’s going on in our hearts underneath that behavior, right? And then I want to take us to the eternal, the eternal truths of how we are kept by Jesus, okay? And then we’re going to end. That’s it. That’s where we’re going.

The first way that we can kind of fall off into the ditch of believing lies in motherhood is to let ourselves creep to the center, is to let ourselves creep to the center. Self-actualization, it’s a sociological term, but it basically means to realize your best self. It’s kind of at the root of a lot of the prosperity stuff. It’s at the root of a lot of the target journals and the coffee mugs and the glitter stuff, “Carpe Diem,” “Seize the Day,” “You Be You,” glitter and glam, shine brightly, right, all of that. Underneath all of that is this message of self-actualization, that you need to realize yourself. If you’ve got passions, you got to follow them, right? If you got desires, you got to do them. If you’ve got gifts, you’ve got to invest them. That’s what our culture is telling us. So, I work for a church in Encinitas, California and when you drive to this coffee shop that a lot of our staff people meet at, there’s this incredible garden right on the ocean. Beautiful. And you’re driving by and you’re like, “That’s amazing.” And then you look at the name of the garden, and it’s called The Garden of Self-realization.

And then even sadder to me is that next to it is a church building that has been taken over and called the Fellowship of the Self-realization. And that might seem pretty far-fetched for maybe the South East or more like Bible belt. But that’s where our culture is moving and it’s moving there quickly, right? You do you, you invest you, you actualize yourself now. No one else is gonna take care of you, so you’ve got to do it, right? And we know as Christians, we wouldn’t ever obviously say, “I’m going to put the self of my center of my life right now. I’m going to minimize my children and I’m going to maximize myself.” We would never do that, right? We would never do that. But our size and our schedules betray us. They betray our hearts sometimes because we slip, friends. We slip into sighing at motherhood.

When self starts to take the stage and self starts to take center, we start to sigh and our children become something that we endure, right? They become an interruption. That’s what the world tells us. Your children aren’t interruption and motherhood is an impediment to your self-actualization. It’s going to hold you back from being you, which we know is not true in the gospel. We are ourselves, our best self is the one hidden in Christ, hidden with Christ in God, right? But we fall off to that side and our children hurt and suffer and so do we. So, that’s one side, right? Our sides and our schedules betray us even though we would never outrightly say we do that, we do it. Okay.

The other way and I think this is more appropriate for my own heart and most likely this audience is for us to slip and let our children become the center, right? We overcorrect from the world and if the world tends to minimize motherhood and to make it as small as possible so self could be as big as possible, you know, just feed them, clothe them, make sure they get to school alive, that’s winning. I think sometimes in the church we can overly magnify motherhood. Now, do not hear what I am not saying. Motherhood is one of the most significant calls of every woman, whether you are married or not. You are made to be a spiritual mother. You’re made to nurture and bring beauty and bring life. That is a high and holy calling. I’m not saying that that’s not true. I am saying that we start to put way too much identity and weight on ourselves and our mothering and our formulas and our books, right, and our Pinterest part, all of those things start to creep in and our children become the center.

Okay. When our children have become the center, I think one of the ways we can see this is we start to be judgmental towards other mothers, right? They’re not doing it right because I’m doing it right. We start to give our children…we settle for the short-term peace rather than looking for their long-term sanctification, right? We put their comfort, their safety, their desires at the center. Actually heard a commercial the other day in San Diego on the radio and it was this very intense like dialogue and they were like, it was the most important decision we’d ever made in our lives and we did so much research and kept going on and on and on and they were like, “We chose the right preschool for our child.” And that’s the kind of weight that we can put on motherhood, friends. If I don’t choose the right school and do the right track and do the right thing and feed them the right foods, right, then this is all gonna go to pieces. That we don’t say we believe that, but we live like we believe that. We live like we believe that very often and that’s a sign that we have put our children at the center. When we do that, we, in a sense, enthrone our children. We start to serve them rather than serve the living God, right? What our children need most is our obedience to Christ. They need that more than they need whatever we think that they need in that moment and it’s very easy and slippery to fall into this category. What helps me when I get to this place is to remember that when I stand before the throne of God, I am not going to stand with my husband and my children with me.

Now, they are significant. They are significant parts of my life. They are significant. They’re huge in making me like Christ, and me making like Christ. I’m not saying that that’s not important. I’m just saying that you will stand before the Lord and you will be a child of God, and that is your identity, right? That will hold up past empty-nesting years, and that will hold up when our children go through suffering, that will hold. Our children in the center will not hold, it will not hold. Okay, so what do we do? And by the way, you don’t have to pick one of these sides. If you’re like me, you can do both of the sides in one day, multiple times, right? You can do all of them. You can sin in all of the ways. So, what do you do when you find yourself there? What do you do when you find…myself is slipping toward the center. And what do you do when you find that your children are gravitating towards the center? And the practical step is the same for both of them. You repent, you believe, and you obey.

Again, no magic bullet, friends. We repent, we believe, and we obey. Acts 3:18 through 19, Peter’s just preached a sermon and they’re…structured the core and he says, “Repent and return, that times of refreshing might come from the hand of the Lord.” Repent and return. So, I took cotillion in middle school. We did that in the South East. And you learn a few dances in cotillion. You learn the foxtrot, it’s very boxy, four steps, and you learn the waltz in like sixth-grade, and it’s super awkward at first and really unpleasant to watch. But then if you stay with cotillion long enough, it’s the same three steps, same three steps, same three-step dance, but it turns into these elegant ballroom dances, right, by the time you’re junior or senior in high school. Same thing is true. I call this the gospel waltz. Repent, believe, obey. Get back on the horse, go back to Jesus, put him, say, “Lord, you are the center but I need you to be the functional center of my life because it’s slipping again.” We repent, we believe, and we obey. But I think there’s a nuance to each side. So if you’re on this side and you tend to magnify self and keep self at the center and minimize motherhood, you need a fresh reminder, you need to pray. “God, give me a fresh reminder of the gravity of motherhood.” You need to be anchored again in the gravity of motherhood because we get so used to the mundane, right? We’re doing all the things and sometimes it’s easy to forget that God has entrusted living souls to us, that we’re going to be responsible before God for the way we raised them.

That is weighty. That is not light. That is far more than making the cute cupcakes. That goes to their heart, right? So, we need to be reminded of the gravity of what God Has given us in motherhood. This is an incredibly high and holy call, no matter what the world or your flesh tells you, okay? On the other side, you need to be reminded of levity, lightness, okay? So, because Christ is at the center, he holds, he can handle the weight of the world. He can handle the weight of suffering and emotional disabilities and bullying in school. He can handle those things that we can’t handle. And so, when he’s at the center, we will not crush things. We will not crush things. Levity. And I don’t mean levity that means we overcorrect and just drop off responsibility. That we don’t care at all where they go to school, right? But it’s more about our hearts. What’s compelling us? Is faith in God compelling us in our parenting or is fear compelling us in our parenting? Is faith compelling us or is fear compelling us? Levity means coming under the yoke of Christ.

So, Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Then what does he say? “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” He says, come under my yoke. I thought you were going to make me free. He says, no, no, no. Freedom does not come from getting rid of the burden. The burden of motherhood will be with us for the rest of our lives. He says freedom comes from being attached to me. I am your yoke fellow. And when they would yoke oxen, they would yoke an immature oxen with mature oxen. And so, this picture of coming under and feeling the weight lifted because we are with our yoke fellow Christ. And, yes, these things are hard. And, yes, there are heavy decisions to be made about schooling and parenting and all of those things, but when we have Christ as our yoke fellow, the burden becomes light and instead of enthroning our children, we are actually free to enjoy them. We’re free to enjoy them and enjoy motherhood because it’s meant to be joy-filled as much as it’s meant to be exhausting. Okay.

Okay. So, that’s what happens on an external lens, okay? So, now I want to go under, what’s going on in our hearts that when we start to kind of move towards these off-center thinking. And on one side, I think it’s this idea that Christ can’t keep us, right? We said if Christ…we believe that Christ kept us, it would change the way we parent. I think when we start to magnify self, right, it’s because we’re starting to believe that Christ can’t keep us. I don’t know about you and I’m going to be candid. In the early years of motherhood, it was really hard for me to put my degrees on the shelf and to put some passions on the shelf and to not be able to run. I used to be a runner, couldn’t tell that now, but a long time ago I ran. And to stop doing those things, to lay those things down and it felt like by the end of this, is there gonna be anything left of me? Like, I’m feeding babies all over the place, there’s going to be nothing left of me. There’s this fear and the world feeds it and our flesh and the enemy feed it.

What did…two people have talked about what the serpent said to Eve in the gardens so far in this conference. Did God really say? Doubting the character and the goodness of God? We are starting to slip into that. Did God really say He would keep you? Did he really say He was for you, right? That He’s not going to withhold good things from you, that He’s going to keep and hold you and preserve you? When we stop believing that, we start to assert ourselves and we lose the ability to lay ourselves down to Philippians 2, to take on the nature of a servant for our children. When we start to believe that He cannot keep us, that He cannot keep us. On the other side, if our children are at the center, I think it comes from the lie that He can’t keep them, He can’t keep them.

So, sure, He can keep the stars. He can keep orbits. He can keep care of the earth and photosynthesis. But He needs help with my kid. He needs my opinion and He really needs…and we would never say that, friends, but we live like that, don’t we? We live like He needs our help. We begin to forget that God can keep them, that God can keep them. We are about to take our children out of a private school and God is calling us to go to a charter school. So, all these things that I’m talking about right now are like, “Yes, God can keep my kids because I am petrified. I am so scared because I am not believing that God walks with my children to that school, that He goes with them.” Right? “I believe in that my decisions are at the center, not Him.”

Okay. So, what do we do? What do we do practically on this level when we start to see these fears, fear that God can’t keep us and fear that God can’t keep them. And I want to give you two, they’re more images, a little bit more poetic. So, sorry for the more linear thinkers. But Luke 7, the woman…is it Luke 7? Yeah. The woman with the alabaster jar. So, she comes to Jesus, he’s about to go to be crucified and she comes and she brings an alabaster jar full of pure nard, which was incredibly expensive, right? It was a very worthy gift. And she pours it on Jesus and anoints him. And the disciples are irate. They’re irate. And what do they say? They say what a waste. They said that’s a waste. And when we think about motherhood in the world, I think the lie we believe is that when we put our degree on the shelf or when we forego the passions and put those things away for a little while, that it’s a waste. What a waste of your intellect or what a waste of the things you could be doing. “You could be doing so much more,” our flesh says. And the world says, than being hidden and changing these diapers or catechizing your kid or working through relational sibling conflict. You could be doing so much more. What a waste of your gifts and your passions and your desires and your time and your prime body. What a waste of those things, right?

And when I think about those things, I think about those things and I put them in a proverbial jar. I think, okay, so I have a desire for X , Y, or Z, or I have a longing for X, Y, or Z, or I have not seen the gym in two years, whatever it is, those things feel expensive to me, right? And I put them in the jar and I think, Jesus, are you worthy? Are you worthy? What would it be like if at the end of the day, your unmet longings, the passions you’re not using, the things you’re putting on the shelf to invest in these children because you obey God and He’s at the center and this is what He’s calling you to do. What if all you did with them one day was pour them on the feet of Jesus and say, “You’re worthy. You are worthy.” What did Jesus say to the woman when she did that? He said, “Leave her alone. She has done what she could. She has done a beautiful thing and for ages, it will be remembered.” Jesus said that is not a waste. That is the most beautiful investment of your time and your life. So, when you start to believe the lie from the pit of hell that God cannot keep you, you think about an alabaster jar and you think about how is worthy of whatever it feels like you are laying down for you to parent and to walk in obedience with God. So, alabaster jar on this side.

On this side, Exodus 2, and Moses’s mama putting her beautiful baby, saved by the incredibly bold courage of the Hebrew midwives, putting him in a little basket made of pitch and sending him down the Nile River. There are crocodiles in the Nile River. I’m sure of it. It’s gotta be like the Everglades. I don’t know if that’s scientifically true, but I’m sure there were crocodiles. In my anxiety-ridden mind, there were definitely crocodiles in that river. What a radical act of trust and obedience to say, “God, You have given me this baby. You have spared this baby. You have plans for this baby and You know what I need to do with him? I need to give him to You. I need to entrust him to You because his best in your hands. You will keep him. You will do whatever needs to be done in this child’s life, suffering, hardship, whatever is coming, you can keep my child. He is your possession, not mine. I have him for a season to care for him, to shape him, to nurture him, but you write his story, not me.” Right?

What would it look like if we could put our babies in the basket and send them down the river to God? And this is where I need to be very clear. Do not put your babies in a basket and send them down a river. That’s a really bad practical application from this. But I literally once a week when I have my Sabbath time with the Lord on Sundays, I have to walk through and put my children back in the river and send them back down to Jesus and whatever cares and whatever concerns are happening that week, I say, all right, public school, okay, we’re taking them out of a comfortable place. All right, they were bullied by a friend. All right, they have an issue with stuttering and I put them in the basket and I send them down the river and I say, “Jesus, they’re safer with you than they are with me. You are the center. You will hold them together and I’m going to cling in faith to that promise.”

So, those are the two images I would give you for that. So, now I want to talk about the eternal. This is the good part. This is the good part. Her radical act of obedience in pouring out what was a very worthwhile thing at the feet of Jesus. Her not waste wasting it on Jesus. And then Moses’s mother putting her baby in a basket and send him down a river are radical acts of obedience and trust. So, on what grounds, if I’m you, I’m wondering on what grounds are you calling me to do such radical things, right? To lay my life down and to entrust the thing I love more than anything else on this earth to God. How am I going to do that? And the answer to that is, oh my gosh, I just totally blanked, is the eternal truth that I’m going to tell you right now.

Okay. So, when I was little and we would open Christmas presents my sisters would throw all their presents all over the room, they would get tons of presents. I would open them very orderly and very structured and lay them out so you could see every single one of them and categorize them so everyone could see what I got. I used to be type A but the boy thing really knocking away. That’s why God gave me three boys to just knock away the type A right on out of me and the control. But the thing is, is there are so many gifts, there are so many gifts that God gives to mothers in the Scriptures. That we could sit here and do a whole talk on the fact that God is a creator God. In Psalm 139, and that He could have done it like in a factory and stamped them out, but he knits together, right? It’s an intimate act that God is the creator of them. He created the personalities and He created us.

We could talk about the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the promises of God. But today, we are keeping ourselves limited and hemmed into the keeping ministry of Jesus, the keeping ministry of Jesus. And even within that gift, there are so many facets that we can’t talk about all of them, but I want to keep us to three. So, three biblical reasons why you can trust God to keep you, okay, and their images. There’re images so, there’s not like there’s just one proof text verse for these. These are themes that are thread throughout the entire redemptive story. The first is Christ is your shepherd. Christ is your shepherd. So, shepherds play a pretty prominent role in the Old Testament. David was a shepherd. Moses got most of his training years for what God was going to do for him being a shepherd in Midian when he fled from Egypt.

Shepherds are huge in the Old Testament. Psalm 23, everyone loves the 23rd Psalm, right? “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” I don’t know a lot about shepherds and I don’t know a lot about sheep, but I do know a lot about chaperoning field trips with middle school boys and it’s a lot like herding cats, which I think is probably a lot like shepherding sheep. So, now, I don’t know anything about sheep, but I have read Philip Keller’s excellent book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.” It’s a great book. And in it, he kind of goes through what a shepherd would have done with his flock. He spent many years as a shepherd. And so, I mean, literally, this could be his own talk on its own. So, we’re just going to fly through. But a shepherd feeds his flock, he feeds them. So, they’re these little plants that look yummy to sheep, but that are actually poisonous. And so, the shepherd’s job is to help them find the right pastures where those things are not. And the sheep want to eat it, but it’s really bad for them, right? “He leads me to green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” He leads us, He will feed us, He will provide all that we need in mothering and He will feed them. So, He feeds us. He protects, right? You know, you know about the crook of this like, He pulls you back in with the staff. That’s how you kind of grabbed the sheep by the neck and pull you in. They had a rod. They had a staff and a rod and the rod they would throw, it’s like a big kind of wooden stick thing and they would throw it at animals if they came.

The rod was also used to inspect them. God inspects us. So, there are these little parasites that you don’t know until they…this is what it means to go under the rod. They would use the rod and go through their fleece and see if they had these parasites and you couldn’t see them from the surface. You had to get close up to inspect to see if they had these parasites and then if they had them he would carefully take them away, right? He inspects us. He looks for the things that will suck the life out of us and out of our children. He does that for us. We have a shepherd who keeps us. I already said He protects us. He enjoys the sheep. So, one of our college students that we hang out with, her dad is a cattle rancher and so they actually keep sheep. And so, I was picking her brain a few weeks ago about sheep and she said they really have personalities. Like, she’s like you have the shy one and the loud one and the goofy one and the clumsy one, and you just kind of get to know them. And there’s one that’s always lagging behind. And so, He knows the nuances of His sheep y’all. I love John 10, what a beautiful picture. Jesus comes…just in case we didn’t get the picture, he’s like, “I’m the good shepherd. It’s me.” Right? I lay my life down to the sheep. My sheep hear my voice and they know me and they follow me. I know my own, right? We have Christ as our shepherd. They have Christ as their shepherd. We do not have to give into fear that he cannot keep us or keep them. He is our shepherd. And not only this, and this is where the Old Testament people might’ve expected, they might’ve expected God to come as a shepherd. They never would’ve expected him to come as the sacrificial lamb.

Our shepherd is the lamb that was slain and if He gave his son, He’s not gonna withhold from us or from our children and walking His ways is the way of life, right? If He’s done that, He’s provided the greater, He’s going to provide the lesser, and the fact that we can’t trust God with the lesser is proof that we really don’t believe Him for the greater, right? Does that make sense? We say we…oh, yes, Romans 11:32, “He who did not spare His only son but freely gave him up for us all…” No, that’s Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His only son, but freely gave him up for us all. How will He not with Him freely give us all things?” Right? He said He gave you this, He will provide this, right? He is not withholding from us. He is not withholding from our children, right? He is the good shepherd and he is the sacrificial lamb that was slain. You are kept by Jesus Christ.

Okay. Jesus as the vine tender. Okay. I’m going to read to you from kind of an obscure verse, so I’m going to read it because it’s long, but, Isaiah 5:1 through 3, “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard. My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines. He built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. Oh, now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” Do you hear God’s laments, right? There’s one of these Old Testament images that kind of runs through is that Israel is the vine of God, that He planted it, and He says there, if you garden, “I did all the preparation work. I got the best ground. I cleared all the rocks out of it. I built a watchtower in it. I hedged it about. I gave it all that it needed and it betrayed me,” right? It didn’t do what it was supposed to do. That’s us by the way. We are that vine.

And then in the New Testament, what do we have? We have Jesus, the one who was the good stock, the one who was the true living vine and what happened on the cross? He was cut off from the source. He was withered. He died. All of the life was cut out of him who created life, right, so that we could be ingrafted into this fine. He resurrected. He is the living vine and then we have John 15, all right, “Abide in me, as I in you.” Right? I am the vine. You are the branches. Jesus tends to our vine. He takes care of them. Careful attention. I have a garden and I love my garden. It’s not very fruitful, but I love it. We have a tree that we planted when we first moved to San Diego and it was supposed to grow to be eight feet, but it’s a little dud and it hasn’t grown that much. But it grew an orange this year, one orange, one orange, and we all did like the happiest dance. I mean, our kids were like, “This is the best orange ever.” Because it was our orange and we grew it, right?

If I give that much care to my little dud dwarf orange tree, how much more does that incredible infinite gardener give to us, His vine? We have no right to be His vine as we’re learning from the plenary sessions. It’s because He loved us that He loved us. He grasses him because He loves us, not because we’ve done anything. We don’t have good stock, but we are now grafted into the vine and we can abide and His life can flow through us. And the world doesn’t understand that because they don’t know it and they don’t have it. So, when we believe the world’s lies, we’re not counting into the fact that we are grafted into the living vine. Jesus tends us, he removes the things from our lives that need to be removed. He prunes us, he prunes our children. He is trustworthy, he is trustworthy.

The last one is Christ is our advocate. Christ is our advocate. So, Genesis 18, Abraham is interceding on behalf of Sodom. God, they are just living wild and God is fed up with it and Abraham shows us what this role of an advocate is and he starts, he kind of does that brave, bold, faith-filled bartering with God a little bit, the right kinds, not the wrong kind. And he says, if there’d be 50 righteous, right, would you spare the city? If there’d be blank righteous, would you spare the city? And then he gets down to one. If there’s but one righteous, would you spare the city? There wasn’t one righteous, right? There wasn’t one righteous. We have one righteous. We have one righteous and it’s Jesus Christ and he was cut off. He was cut off from the Father. He did not hear the voice of love and affirmation that he heard his whole life from the Trinity. It was stopped at the cross so that we could hear the voice of love so that we could hear his voice and you know what he does now? He’s Hebrews 7:25, he always lives to make intercession for us. He sits at the right hand of the throne of God, He who spoke light and life, and he speaks our name into the Father’s ear.

That’s astounding. He speaks our children’s names and their causes. He pleads their causes to the Father. We don’t speak of Jesus in the past tense. All he ever was, he is, and he is eternally. He is doing now what he did then. He is advocating for you. He’s advocating for your children. As mothers, we are great at advocating for our children, right? We’re mama bears, right? Don’t mess up my kid, right? I’ll come in and state my kid’s case. The fact that you have the God of the universe advocating for you should free you to radically trust Him and invest your life in these children, but not put them at the center, right, to entrust them to Him, okay? We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. It says in 1 John. I wish it was as simple as great. Got it. Check.

Now, I’m going to go live and Jesus is always going to be the hub. He’s always going to be the hub. I’m never going to slip into the hub mode and my kids are never going to slip into hub mode. That’s not how it works. Is it friends? Discipleship sanctification is a long obedience in the same direction, but God will keep us and it will take practice. It’s going to be gospel waltzing, right? And it’s going to be clunky at first. It’s going to be a clunky dance. We’re not going to look very elegant doing it, but it’s gonna be this beautiful dance that gets us all the way home to glory. And one day it’s going to be beautiful.

And so, I want to talk principally now. So, we talked about the kind of big pictures externally, what happens, internally, what’s going on in our hearts, and then eternally, why can we trust this guy? And like I said, those are just a few of the many ways that Jesus keeps us and he keeps them, okay? So, God will maintain mothers, He will maintain mothers, but He uses means, okay? He uses means just like He created the laws of gravity. And by that means keeps us on the earth, not flinging off into outer space. And He maintains us with the atmosphere. He uses means to maintain mothers. Okay. And His means, this is simple, it’s not rocket science, y’all know these things, the means of grace. But particularly what I want to talk about are His bread and His bride, His bread and His bride. Leaning into His bread and His bride will help us to continually come back to the center when, not if, when we start to fall off on either side, right? Okay. So, His bread, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on the very word that comes from the mouth of God.”

When you’re a mother, it’s easy to think, well, one, you need to be realistic. There’s a difference between the real and the ideal. So, in the ideal, we get up and we have our coffee and we’re sitting at the coffee shop, we get a couple of hours with Jesus, you know how that’s supposed to be? That’s not realistic in this phase of motherhood. It will be. People tell me will be, and my children are about to be all in elementary school and I believe it will be, but in those early years in different seasons, it’s not like that. So, what we need to do is we need to think in the real, in the realm of the real, you need to be in the word of God and the word of God needs to be in you and you need to be creative in the way you do that, right? At soccer practice, I have Scripture memory cards and I just walk around the field and I pray for the kids on the field, I pray for my kids. I pray Scripture over their lives. I keep my Scripture memory cards all the time. You can do that. You can pick different things to pray for in different spots of the house. There’s so many ways that you can be creative and getting the word of God into you. I have a friend who’s incredibly kinesthetic in her learning and so she gets up before kids go to school and she walks, but she listens to the Bible on audible, right? There are creative ways to get God’s word in you. You find time to do other things like scroll on Facebook and Instagram. We find time for other things. We can find time for the Word of God because it is the breath of God.

How many of y’all have seen “The Princess Bride”? Okay. So, when they bring Westley in and he’s mostly dead. Okay. So, I come into…this is a plug for Sabbath times, regular Sabbath times. I think that every mother needs to have regular Sabbath times and I don’t know what that looks like for you. I know what that fits like on me is that my husband gets up before church and he goes and he spends time with the Lord. We go to church together as a family. We eat lunch and then I go off for two hours in the afternoon and it is a fenced out time. The few times I have said yes to things during that time I have regretted it deeply and my whole family has because God uses that time to sustain me, right? And this is the deal. If you have a regular set time where you can feast on the word of God, you can nibble throughout the week, you can nibble when the kid gets sick and your quiet time gets interrupted or when the baby wakes up from the nap or when the college student and their friend comes over or the friend calls and needs your help and is having a hard time, right? You can be flexible in the week. If you are, have you feasted on the word of God, right? So, in my Sabbath times, God has always met me and He’s always given me an anchor for the week. And then when I start to get discombobulated by the waves of life, because they come quickly, as soon as I walk in the door, I have an anchor line. I’m like, “What am I thinking about this week?” Oh, I’m thinking about Hosea 5 or I’m thinking about…right?

So, you’ve got to have a regular time where you can extend a time where you can feast on the word of God and do whatever it takes to get that. My husband is completely on-board because he knows and my kids are too because they know that I come back a different person when I have met with the Lord, okay? And that’s where the mostly dead thing comes in. I walk into the coffee shop on Sundays and most of the time I’m like, this is a mostly dead person. And God takes the bellows of His word and His spirit. And just like Westley, He just starts to slowly bring me back to life. And somehow some kind of way, I leave the Starbucks to whatever amount of time I have hours later and I’m ready to go into a new week with my children. I’m ready to go serve, right? It’s hard when they walk in the door and there’s immediate needs. I’m like, “Just a little transition time.” But I’m ready. I’m ready to do that because I feast it. You can nibble when you feast it. That’s His bread. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else I wanted to say there.

His bride, the one thing I do like and I was busting on the target dollars on a little bit earlier with the carpe diem and shine and glimmer and all that. But I do like the tribe shirts because I think there’s something right about them because it does take a tribe to do this motherhood thing, right? You have got to have the right kind of friends around you and they don’t have to be, I think it’s good to have one or two or physically in your city and physically available. But I have kindred spirit friends that all I have to do is text them and say I’m having one of those days and they know what that means and they say, “I’m going to pray for you right now.” They’ll tell me the truth, right? You need to have women…

And the Scriptures that come to mind, the images that come to mind for this, for His bride, are Mark 2, the friends who bring their paralytic friend to Jesus. He’s healing people and he is paralyzed, and they bring him, and it’s crowded, and they climb the roof. This is a crazy story. They climb the roof, de-thatch it, and lower their friend down to Jesus, okay? Do you have friends that would do that for you? That would say you are off the deep end on these sides. You are struggling. What you need is not a meditative coloring book. What you need is to sit before the face of God. I need to get you before Jesus and I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll take the kids, I’ll do the carpool. What is it gonna take to get you before God? Sometimes you’re the person on the mat and sometimes you are the friend on the roof unthatching it and getting your friend before Jesus. But we need those kinds of friends in our lives, okay?

And the other image is from Genesis 17, Moses goes up to the mountain. This is a crazy battle strategy, but God tells him, “Go up to the mountain.” And when God, Moses holds up his hands, the Israelites do well, and when his hands drop, they go down. We don’t know how long this battle lasted, but I don’t think battles are quick things. It could have been days that he had to stand there with his arms up and you know who helped him, Aaron and Hur, they held up his arms when they were too tired. Do you have an Aaron and a Hur? Do you have friends that will hold you up when this gets to be too much? Because there are seasons when it does. And will you be an Aaron and will you be a Hur to your friends? Will you set them before Jesus? Will you do the hard work of setting them before Jesus?

Motherhood is one of the high and holiest callings we can ever do. It really is. It is a Herculean task. My friend says, “I don’t think that the people who climb Mount Everest the whole time are like, ‘This is awesome. I love what I’m doing. This is the most fun thing on the planet.’ But it’s a worthwhile endeavor.” And so, just the same way motherhood is not always gonna feel like the most awesome thing on earth. I don’t think when they climb Mount Everest that they’re taking selfies and feeling like, “I’m so fulfilled. This is awesome. I haven’t eaten and I have oxygen deprivation.” Right? They’re not thinking that. They are set on the goal, and they get there. And when they get there, they look and they say, “Worthwhile indeed, worth the training, worth the hours, worth the sleep, worth the hunger,” all of those things, right? Motherhood is a Herculean task. God promises to keep us and He promises to keep them, okay?

We’re going to keep doing this. We’re going to keep struggling. We’re going to keep sitting. We’re going to keep putting ourselves and our children at the center. And I wish I could say, “Well, now, I’m 11 years into mothering and I don’t do that anymore.” But I feel more and more indebted to grace, not less and less indebted to grace. I’m not paying down the loan of grace. I am becoming deeper and deeper indebted to God’s grace as I do this. It is long and it is hard, but it gets quicker. You’ll learn to repent a little quicker and you learn to return a little quicker, right? And you learn to be the chief repenter. So, God does not promise us ease or comfort, right? He promises that He will be with us and that He will keep us.

And I want you to think about the last day when we stand before the Lord and we get that well done, well done thou good and faithful servant. Thank you for putting that in a jar and pouring it out for me and calling me worthy. Well done for entrusting your children to me because I had a far better story for them, the one you are trying to micromanage in your control, right? I have a far better story. I used to think that that was like, that’s the thing that keeps me going is the well done. But as I think about motherhood in an honest assessment of my own heart, I think it’s probably more what Jesus said to the woman with the alabaster jar, “She has done what she could.” I love that. I want Jesus to look at you one day and say, “I know you were limited. I know you failed. I know you were exhausted. I know you didn’t know what to do. I know that was hard. I know those children had hard seasons. I know they suffered. You did what you could, well done. You have done well. You have done a beautiful thing.”

So, I pray that that encourages your hearts. I’m going to pray for us and then we are done. I didn’t even remember to turn my timer on.

So, Jesus, thank you. Thank you that you are worthy. Just like we sang this morning, you are worthy of every song we could ever sing. God, You are worthy of our entrusting our children to You and entrusting ourselves to You, God, because You’re our advocate and You’re our vine tender, and You are a shepherd in our sheep, that You have given us Your son as You will give us all things, that You do not withhold from Your children. That is not Your character. And so, I pray that You would make straight the disjointed places in our hearts and the places where we’re falling off on either side. God, make them straight by Your word, to Your glory and to our great joy. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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