Mothering Hard — St. Peter's Fireside | Vancouver, B.C. 

by Julia Sterne
June 20, 2017
6 min read

Having kids requires my thinking cap. Not simply to outsmart their latest cookie procurement maneuver, but also because I have malleable little humans which I have the great pleasure and responsibility to mold every day .

I joke that both of our strong willed and feisty girls are and always will be their own little creatures, beyond my control. But there is something ancient and true about a mother’s nurture which forms a child’s future adult self.

So I end up thinking. A lot.

Who do we hope these girls to be? What do we want them to do with their time, talents, resources? What about their lives will bring us joy and pride? What does our world need and how will they fit?

Some of these answers come quickly. Love God. Follow Jesus. Be kind. Offer compassion to the outsider. Fight for the oppressed. Do the right thing. But many are open ended and leave us to ponder and daydream.

It is easy to hope and pray for the things we want for our children. It’s much much harder to teach and train them. The negative sides of their natures are much like I remember mine to be, untamed, selfish, small minded, childish. There is a good reason for this, their brains have not yet developed abstract thought, there is no capacity to comprehend any of my hopes or ideals for them. Empathy starts around age 6 if a parent is lucky. And so they are super flighty following whims, fancies, and their own hopes for a new toy and another hot chocolate.

They are so easily distracted. And so am I.

The kids and I end up debating or negotiating our way through the day. We go from one need to the next, one baby crying to the other. Fights and squabbles to squeals of laughter, hunger throes into rushed meal prep, their begging for TV hopefully switches gears to artistic creations, everyone running ragged by dinner time. We get to the end of the day and think, what did we even do today?

And I reflect, bust out my thinking cap, and pray.

Oh Lord, grow them into women of faith. Lead them. Love them. Open doors for them. Help me mother them as you would mother them. Give them character and integrity. May they come to know you and follow you all the days of their lives.

Then I look out at the world and observe many human behaviours and interactions and think, “Man, we are such children!” The way I describe my day has much the same tension. Dealing with people, dealing with my own life, seeing a world where there is selfishness and greed, small mindedness, childish squabbles, constant distractions from what really matters, it all feels consistent.

And there is a nurturing part of me longing for people, not just my daughters, to grow up, mature, find their place in the world, give back, love God, love others, find peace and joy no matter what.

Sometimes this comes out in anger or judgement or snark. Sometimes it is more sincerely expressed in hope-filled or sorrowful prayers. Part of me wants to wag my finger and say “shame on you” or throw certain people in time out for life. The other part wants them to find their potential, their power in the choices they make, their ability to heal the world. The old adage, a classic mom phrase, pops to mind, “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

The mothering God fills us with his living presence and moves in us and through us to make this world all it could be and more.

Jesus says we all part of the problems of this world, we are all more oriented towards ourselves than is helpful, too immature or childish. But he doesn’t just leave us in our Lord of the Flies situation. He has the solution, and amazingly it involves us. He, like a good mother, longs to grow us up to have purpose in this world. He wants to give us good work to do. And he wants us to live in love and harmony, joy and peace. By his nurturing and love. The mothering God fills us with his living presence and moves in us and through us to make this world all it could be and more.

When I look back at my kids and the thinking cap is balanced on my noggin, I see endless potential. I see possibilities and goodness. I see seedlings that have yet to bloom and produce fruit, but have the confidence that they will.

I also see their dark side. And I know it well.

God is the same with us. He knows our good and our bad, the potential that can swing one way or the other. He is our mothering God, if we draw near to him he wants to nurture us, love us, and discipline us in a way that draws out the good. I believe if we draw near to him we will have opportunities to grow and do good and show love. When faced with hardship or tough decisions, I want my girls to draw near to me, to talk to me, to let me listen and remind them who they are so they can make choices they are proud to make. I want to see them empowered. I think this is a little picture of how God might relate to us.

My girls need me. I need my parents still. And they wish they still had theirs. Parenting, mothering, fathering is needed in this world. And not just for the kids.

There is so much I want for my kids. And for you. And for this world. Goodness, peace, joy. But it requires us to grow up. It requires us to be mature. It requires us to find our place in the world for work, service and giving back. It requires saying no to a lot of things. And this is hard work. I see my daughters’ struggles with this already and they are only babies by comparison.

So lean into your mama. Lean into our God who wants to develop you, guide you, mother you. Don’t get distracted. Stop wasting time and money. Life is precious and short but powerful. Figure out where you can make an impact. Where does your money go? Are the companies and activities you support helping or hurting people and the planet? How do you spend your time? Engaging or disengaging? How do you treat those around you? What about God, family, friends, coworkers, strangers, yourself? Do you see yourself being used by God to become part of the solution to our world’s problems?

Sincerely – A Mom (and maybe even the mothering God)

about the author
Julia is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at New Story Counselling, and is a member of St. Peter's Fireside. She is the wife of Alastair, the mother of Ansley and Maggie, and one of the kindest people you'll ever meet. If you're feeling up for it, you can follow her on Facebook or Pinterest.

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