Note ** I originally wrote this post a couple weeks ago but am just getting to posting it now. See end of post for surgery update!
I’m looking at a season of medical appointments in the near future. Nothing that should be life-threatening, but when you’re listening to words like “biopsy” and “surgery” and “reconstruction” being thrown around, it’s a little bit daunting to say the least. I had someone ask me how I was doing with it all as a mom. “That must be hard,” she said, “Given that so much of your days – of your life, really – is given to taking care of your little ones, and now you’ll need to spend some time taking care of you. How are you doing with that?”
Though she did hit the proverbial nail on the head, so to speak.
It’s not the medical side of things that’s so daunting. It’s not even dealing with insurance, and finding the right doctors (though, that has been a nightmare trying to get sorted out). It’s doing all of it with the kids. It’s hours and hours on the phone while my kids stare at a TV screen or scream in the background, or I bust out snack after snack in hopes that they can just stay quiet enough for me to hear what is being said on the other side of the phone. It’s the questioning from them – trying to figure out how much to say, the babysitters needed for appointments, and, what’s more, all the what-if’s that seem compounded by the three pairs of eyes that look to me as their mom.
I’m mom, body. Get in line!
I don’t take days off.
Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally.
They need me. To cook, to make sure our house is clean and orderly so that we can function in it. To kiss and bandage boo-boo’s, to answer a myriad of questions day in and day out. I think about the reasons why I’m a stay-at-home mom, why we home school, why I spend so many of my waking hours, sometimes even driven to the point of frustration, doing exactly what I do. Because we’ve decided that my role, as their mom, is crucially important. It’s irreplaceable. And not to negate the role of their dad in any way, but for most of the hours in the day, they have me. Just me. Me as coach, me as teacher, me as confidant, me as nurse, snuggle-er, house cleaner, fight-breaker-upper . . . the one who helps them process and understand their world.
But. In all of this, I’ve realized that it’s also something I can tend to put on a pedestal. This all-important mom-dom of mine. I’ve read the studies, I’ve read the books. I’ve talked to other moms, doctors, educators, and professionals. We’ve made the decisions that we’ve made along the line with much prayer, and much research. I don’t take these things lightly.
But I’ve made it too weighty. Too heavy. I’ve taken on a burden that is not mine to bear.
And I feel the soul-crushing weight of it when I’m laying awake at night having nightmares where I do not come out of surgery and my sweet babies are left without me and I picture all that would entail and wake up weeping uncontrollably.
I tried to explain how I felt to my husband a while ago but couldn’t quite put it into words. I told him I was afraid. But I think that was only a partial answer. I’m not afraid of the medical part of things, not really. I’ve had three c-sections and an appendectomy. I’m no stranger to surgeries. I’m not even afraid to meet my maker, (though it seriously is NOT that dire of an issue that I even need to be going down that road). It is something I’ve thought of these past weeks with Billy Graham’s passing though; and just how incredible his homecoming must have been. To finally be in the presence of Jesus, whom he has served faithfully all these years. And the peace that he had in knowing his own mortality, that his time here on earth was temporal, that eventually his home would be heaven.
I’m not afraid of death.
I’m afraid He’s ASKING me to die.
Not a physical death. A dying to my own self-importance. A realization that I’ve been putting my role as mom up as this indispensable, all-encompassing thing; taking the “burden” of my children’s lives as my own, when it is HIS. They are his. They have been all along.
Sure, I care for them and watch them and meet their basic needs. And beyond that I’m called to train them, to guide them, to shepherd their hearts, to show them Christ, to help them walk with Him, and to be faithful in what God has given me to do.
But I know that, way down deep, what God is getting at in my heart and exposing in all of this, is my tendency to hold them too tight. To elevate my role too much.
I find myself wanting to plead with him to just make the medical stuff go away. “God, they need me.”
And I feel his spirit saying: “They’re mine.”
“They’re so little.”
“Lawrence isn’t even fully weaned”
“I need to. . .”
And I want to trust him. I want to relinquish my hold on them. I want to be able to release them, send them into all that God has for them. In time. But for now, for today, I look down to what I think will be hands open in surrender and instead I find them clenched tightly.
“They’re mine too!” I want to scream. But the words catch on the lump in my throat as the tears pour down my face.
All at once, images flash in front of my eyes, plain as day. Tests and blood draws and doctor consultations during pregnancies. Meeting a specialist. Their births. I can see their tiny little toes, their questioning eyes as newborn babies. Nights up singing and rocking them as little babies or teething toddlers. Days of holding their weak heads up to sip water or holding the bucket while they vomit. Their tentative steps, chubby little arms up in the air for balance, or their little hands tucked into mine as they skip along beside me.
“I’m their mom.” I sob.
I hadn’t realized before now how weighty that had become for me. How much all of my research and all of my decision-making and book reading and all of my well-intentioned wanting to do it “right,” had caused me to clasp my hands tighter and tighter around my little ones. Oh, it sounds good. I’m making the best decisions I can for our family. I’m giving all that I can, all that I am. Making sacrifices and “dying to self” every day and all that.
It looks good.
From the outside.
But in doing so, I’ve elevated my position as their mom as higher than His position as their Savior. My love for them, my care for them, as THE essentially important ingredient in their lives. When the truth of the matter is that His love for them will always exceed my own.
I’ve elevated my position as their mom as higher than His position as their Savior.
He created them. Not me.
His love for them is perfect. Mine is flawed, at best.
He knows them through and through. I’m still learning about them; still trying to understand them. Daily.
They. Are. Not. Mine.
I know He holds them in His hands. I know He loves them, that He has already been leading and guiding them, speaking to their hearts. I know that His eternal purposes for them run deeper than even I can see. I want them to know Him. To love Him. To serve Him.
But I’m realizing that I have seen myself as altogether too important in this equation. Slowly, over the last few years, as we’ve added more children to our little family, my hands, once-open in surrender, have begun to close tightly around them. Around my role as their mom. What started as a well-intentioned desire to protect them, to shelter them, to meet their needs, to fulfill my calling as their mom, has become a burden that is just so, so weighty.
I feel crushed by it and yet I don’t want to let it go.
I don’t know how to let it go.
I don’t know how to let them go.
And in this season of uncertainty in my own life, I know that he’s asking me to surrender. I know he’s asking for ALL of me. Including the part of me that’s “mom.” The part of me clinging closely to my kids. The part of me that’s terrified that I’d lose them. That they’d lose me. To surrender my kids, and my hold on them, to him. To open my clenched fists and let him do his work in my heart, in my life. To take down my lofty ideals of what it means to be their mom, and let HIM take his rightful place, in my life, and in theirs.
This. This is what he is asking of me. This is why my dreams have been plagued with nightmares. Why I cannot sleep at night. What is really causing my fear.
I think I’ve known for a couple of weeks now, really. Though I couldn’t have put it into words. I knew deep down – in fact, I feared, deep down —what He was asking of me. But I didn’t want to face it. Didn’t want to face Him.
Trembling, I can’t hold my head up. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my mind I expect to see disappointment in His eyes. Disappointment in my clenched fists. In my lofty opinion of myself. In my lack of trust. In my fear. In my reluctance to even talk to Him about any of this, because I knew what he was asking of me.
And yet, instead of disappointment, I only see love. I only see grace. My reluctance to un-clench my fists is not met with anger, it is met with the patient understanding of one who has ALSO given His Son. One who’s love for me – and for my kids – is extravagant and relentless and perfect.
One that sees me, that knows me, and that is calling me ever deeper.
“ok,” I whisper.
It comes out as a sigh. A barely-audible sign of surrender.
But it’s enough.
I take my hands and slowly place them in my lap, palms open. I open my mouth to say more, but no words come. Tears stream freely down my face as I stare at my hands. Stare at how worn out they look. Stare at the deep cracks that lotion has not helped, dry from washing them so many times throughout the day for diaper changes and food prep and cleaning. And I let the image of them, rough as they are, open in surrender – complete with dirty dishes and kids toys and a mop propped against the wall slightly out of my line of sight just beyond them – burn itself deep in my soul.
And as peace once again settles in my heart, I know that we are not done here at this altar. I know that He and I will meet here again. Probably many, many more times.
But for now, for today, it’s enough.
**For those who are wondering, I may type out the whole story at some point, but the short version is that I had surgery last Thursday to remove what they believe to be a (benign) cyst in my jaw bone under my teeth (still waiting on official biopsy results). Through a seriously crazy series of events, we ended up assigned to a top oral surgeon in the area (after being scared out of our minds by the initial consult with a different surgeon), she was able to get me in much faster than we anticipated, surgery went flawlessly, and recovery is going very well so far (as long as I can keep Lawrence from socking me in the face, that is!)