As a young girl, all I dreamt about was being a wife and mother. I would dress up in my mother’s clothes, put on her high heels, and pretend to be a bride. I would walk down my makeshift aisle lined with all of my adoring stuffed animals to meet my groom, Lamb Chops, my stuffed lamb.
All too soon, my mother’s dresses fit me, and her shoes no longer had a gaping space from my heel to the back of her shoe. As I grew older, it didn’t take me long to discover life is much more challenging and painful than when I danced around in my mother’s beautiful dresses and smeared her lipstick over my tiny lips. I thought beauty was on the outside and my prince charming would be waiting for me around the corner.
Growing up, I experienced a great amount of deep soul pain, which caused me to long for rescue even more. I thought marriage and having children would fix my heart, heal my hurt, and make me whole. I wanted nothing to do with careers or life outside of Little House on the Prairie. I thought if I could find a husband like Pa or Almanzo, everything would be just right. Being a wife and mother inadvertently became an idol for me. I placed my greatest hope in marriage and motherhood. I loved Jesus, but I didn’t know how to trust Him or submit my life fully to Him. I was filled with pride, and I presumed I could write my story better than the Author of Life.
Shortly after college, I married, welcomed my first child, and my second was on the way. My husband and I were attending a wonderful church and preparing to purchase our first home. Everything in my adult life was happening precisely as I had planned. I was living a modern day Little House on the Prairie, and I couldn’t have been happier. After the arrival of my eldest son, the fairytale life I was living started to look more like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Despite my love for Jesus, my life felt completely empty. I became isolated, depressed, and had no desire to move forward. Marriage and motherhood resembled nothing of what I dreamt it to be.
My biggest hindrance as a child and a young woman was not understanding that only Christ could rescue me. I loved Him, but I did not fully trust Him. I put my daily hope in man instead of in Christ. I lived with the incorrect notion that I should seek happiness in people, circumstances, and things that could be tangibly produced. It’s no wonder I felt empty and useless. Instead, I needed to find joy in Christ alone. Happiness is not promised to us, and it is fleeting.
Despite my love for Jesus, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to be fulfilled by Christ alone. I became discontent and lost. I started searching for significance outside of the one place I would find it. I grew up believing all I had been taught about a woman’s calling, but had never studied it in scripture for myself. I believed my life needed to center only around being a wife and mother; there could not be room for anything beyond.
I know I am not alone when I say I walked into marriage and motherhood with expectations that were unrealistic. Realizing being a wife and mother is so different than I desired, felt like a slap in the face. Motherhood has often felt like I’ve had to let go of who God made me to be. I’m not referring to the sacrifices mothers need to make for their children; I’m speaking of sacrificing God given gifts, which are not meant to be thrown out with the weekly trash all so our kids can be the center focus of our homes.
I have felt as though I was not allowed to pursue my gifts—that I couldn’t pursue my “and” that I so desperately longed for and knew was hidden deep inside of me. By “and” I mean secondary identities beyond those of wife and mother. I have often felt as though I lost myself amidst the scattered toys, laundry, and dishes; my gifts couldn’t be used simply because I am a mom. Yes, our children are important, but it is easy to make them too important and ignore the other aspects of who God has made us to be.
About two and a half years after the birth of my eldest son, while six weeks pregnant with my third child, God rocked my world for the worst and for the best all in one swoop. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was saving me from two evils, my husband and myself. My life lay on the floor at my feet, scattered into billions of pieces. This forced me to see where I placed my true love, and it wasn’t solely in God. My husband was gone, I no longer had a church home, and I was left alone to somehow pick up each piece. I fell to my knees. Where, oh where, was Jesus in this mess?
None of this is what I planned for my life. God took my snow globe of a world and allowed it to shatter across the floor so that I could see a husband, children, a home, and a church are not to be the center of my life. They are not to be my ultimate focus and goal. God opened my eyes to see Him even more clearly. Christ showed me that my eyes are not to be focused on things of this earth, but rather they are to look to Him.
Although I felt very alone, I wasn’t. Jesus was there. He was holding me. When my life crumbled right before my eyes, he didn’t let me fall apart—He let me fall to Him. He held me close. He reminded me I am His daughter. He reminded me I am created in His image. He reminded me He is where my hope and joy need to be; not in my marriage or my children and not in my “and,” but my hope is to be only in Him. He showed me He is my “and,” and my secondary identities are good, but they should not be of highest importance. They do not make me who I am. You can strip me of my secondary identities, take away the titles of wife, mother, biblical counselor, photographer, designer, seamstress, Italian, German, pastor’s wife, and I am still who I am: a daughter of Christ. Our secondary identities are gifts from God and blessings, but they must not be our everything.
Motherhood is an amazing calling and gift, but it is not to be my world. It is not to be your world. Jesus is to be the center. When God made each and every one of us, He created us in His image and blessed each of us with gifts that He intends for us to use. In the event you are where I was, know this–A woman’s highest calling is as a daughter of Christ—not as a mother, wife, or career-focused woman.
Our gifts from God are not to be our idols, but they are not to be discarded either. Our only hope and significance is in Christ. Anything outside of that is filled with utter emptiness, and satisfaction from it is not only fleeting, but can be detrimental to ourselves and also to those around us. I can be a stay-at-home mom and also use the many gifts that God has blessed me with to serve Him and others. Motherhood is an incredible gift, which I am very grateful for, but I now understand, with or without children or a husband, I first belong to Christ.