I packed her last lunch this morning. And even though women older and wiser had warned of the ache this day would bring, I didn’t expect the tearing to hurt so. I didn’t expect the rushing mix of painful and glorious emotions this thousandth-time-repeated, mundane-of-all-mundane tasks would evoke. I never liked packing lunches, but today, with each apple slice, a stream of nostalgic tears flowed.
With the dog noticing and worrying at my feet, I kept praying Jesus would help me in the fierce missing.
For with the handing off of today’s lunch-bag, an era of motherhood ended for me. She rushed out the door, turned the key in the ignition, buckled her seat belt and backed out of our driveway, leaving for her last official day of high school. It was the last morning they’d all three drive away together.
I stood and waved. And gulping back prickling tears, I kept whispering to myself: Be brave, Jill. Don’t cry. Smile. Wave. Wave “our” wave. The one we’ve waved since they were all, oh, so little. Wave. Wave.
I don’t want it to end.
For the true beginning-of-the-end of mothering with three at home under my wings began in that moment our oldest drove her siblings away. Years spent yearning to know how to mother in godly ways are now creeping, for me, toward a close.
And how can I say this without a hundred descriptors? I’ll miss her so.
The fierce mama-bear in me has prayed and labored for her good for eighteen too-short years, and she’s now poised to be shot out of my quiver as an arrow (Psalm 127:3-4). She’s lived through each day of her life as the first-born, raised by a mom who blundered through most parenting decisions, unsure of what to do or how to help or how to nurture.
But God has kept her, and she’s precious.
So what now?
I don’t presume to have wisdom that answers all the questions about how to glorify God as a parent. But I do offer commiseration (and hope, hopefully) to those who feel as if their very heart might break in the nurture of the little people given into their care.
Here are the thoughts rattling around in my mind as I forge through this day:
1) Don’t fear, young mamas. Seek God in all — in each and every single of each day’s unknown. Love covers a multitude of your sins. Love them as God loves you.
2) Give your life for your babies. Die to self. Daily. Hourly. Moment by excruciating moment. And produce life in the dying. Give (over and over and over and over) as God gives to you.
3) Turn them over to God. Literally. Tell yourself daily that they are His; always were, always are, and were from the beginning only “given” to you by a Father whose graciousness extends beyond your wildest imaginings. Pray to reflect your Father’s care to your children, even as you trust His good plan for them.
4) Treat them as you’d want to be treated. Remember that they are your neighbor (Mark 12:31). Say to them what you’d want said to you. Say about them to others what you’d want said out in public about you. Post only what you’d want posted about you. Be:
- careful with your words,
- gracious with your forgiveness,
- diligent with godly training and discipline,
- and lavish with your hugs.
5) Trust Him to work His good for your child. Act as if it all depends on your training, but each moment, in the end, gladly trust that it’s really all by His grace! Rejoice in their given strengths, and help them to discern their sin patterns, all the while tenderly guiding them to Jesus. Pray for His redemption of your precious child.
6) Enjoy the mundane and painful and glorious craziness that is motherhood. Time will, as they say, blur past in the blink of your sleepy eye. Relish the thousandth diaper change. Enter in, with purpose and selflessness and prayer, to the thousandth breakup of senseless sibling squabbles. Tell yourself that the years flee past as a dream in the night, and then purposefully (and patiently) relish each minute detail — whether ones of jubilation or sorrow — of that thousandth recounting of his/her day. Remember the ache you’ll feel when the last lunch-sandwich has been constructed.
7) Be ready for your heart to tear bit by bit. For your nursing infant one day will become sentient, able to stand among peers, walking away from your encircling care, and used of God to show you your own need of Him.
8) Think often on the purpose God has for you as your all-needy infant grows into a semi-needy school-ager, who then grows into a ready-to-leave-your-nest burgeoning adult. God’s good purposes abound, but this is the one purpose resonating through my mind today: As my heart tears at the ending of this season of life, I crave the place where joyful experiences go on forever. I desire the imperishable. And that’s really good.
The end of the story
So savor. Relish. Delight in the unique little person before you. Weighty and glorious is the eternal being God created and then entrusted into your molding care. Yes, you are not up for the challenge. But that’s another reason why we desperately need Jesus. As my next two children still daily arrive home to the imperfect love and wisdom of their earthly mother, I give them to their heavenly Father. He, and He alone, is Who they need.
And when the last day of school-sandwich making arrives for them, too, I imagine I’ll again stand at my kitchen counter, tears streaming from eyes clouded with love and gratefulness.
My heart will tear.
I’ll pray again to Jesus to comfort me in the fierce missing. And when I do, this is how the story will end: He will.
Because He’s really good like that.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you given the privilege of having your heart torn by the mundane and painful, yet weighty and glorious, days of motherhood.