The thing I love (and dislike) most about motherhood is the way it consistently makes me confront my own selfishness. It never fails that whenever I sit down on the couch and just get settled into the cushions, one of my children will shout that he needs to be wiped, that he needs another snack or to fix something broken, and I have to get up again.
Ugh. Selfishness. It’s always there. Early in the morning when my 3-year-old walks in the room and says “I need breakfast” it’s there, and at 11pm when he’s coming back downstairs for the eighth time, three hours after bedtime, asking for a different blanket, it’s there. My desire to do what I want when I want is a battle more often than I’d like. I’m thankful that God is willing to refine me through my role as a mom, but boy is it ugly!
But that’s what becoming like Jesus is supposed to be--- horribly difficult but ultimately good. Necessary pain. …. Right? Well, that’s what I thought until a recent conversation with my oldest broadened my perspective.
“Ethan, it’s time to get dressed and go have fun with friends. We’re going to play in a fountain, have some lunch, and we can even get some cookies afterward!”
“Noooooooooooooooooo! I must stay NAKED!!!” (Imagine writhing in the floor with kicking and screaming.)
“Ethan, did you hear me? I said FRIENDS and COOKIES! I have lots of fun planned for us today, and I would really like for you to cooperate, so you can have fun, too.”
I paused. What in the world did I just say? I want you to cooperate so that you can have fun. Isn’t that what God tries to tell me on a daily basis? I fight obedience for crazy reasons, even when God has been nothing but good to me. Twenty years as a Christian and I’m still the equivalent of a spiritual toddler.
But God had more to show me later that day when I watched my boys laughing hysterically during a wrestling match. Watching them play and squeal was so delightful and so refreshing! And that’s when it hit me:
God desires my joy. Just as much as He wants obedience, He wants my complete contentment. And He wants my obedience so that I can actually have contentment. I’ve had head-knowledge of that for years, but my heart didn’t until I was a parent.
Growing up in a church that emphasized the sacrifice and trials of Christian life, it was easier to understand “peace that passes all understanding” than it was to embrace actual joy. When I think of Biblical heroes, my mind immediately recalls the anguish they faced while following God’s will. I think of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son, Job’s undesired mission to Ninevah, Paul’s imprisonment, John’s exile, Jesus’ crucifixion. The list isn’t short, and I expect following Jesus to be difficult and painful, albeit full of unexplainable peace. The old saying “If God didn’t spare his son, why would he spare me?” comes to mind.
But when I find so much joy watching my boys giggle together until they can barely breathe, I more fully understand the heart of God. My heart feels like it might explode when I see them enjoying life together. I am truly the happiest when they are happy. So, how much more must God want our joy? How much more does He utterly delight in our happiness and contentment?
While an unbelievable amount of sacrifice is required while mothering tiny humans, I find so much encouragement realizing that God desires my heart to be full, bursting with laughter and enjoyment of the life he’s given me… not merely trudging through with sighs and martyrdom. I can’t claim to know the secret of always feeling happy to serve when my body is exhausted, but the knowing that He isn’t seeking to make me miserable to make me holy is revolutionizing.
God just wants my joy. And that makes Him much, much easier to obey.
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love;
just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be made full."