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Motherhood, Risk and Learning to Breathe

"A mother’s labor and delivery never ends, and you have to remember to breathe."

Ann Voskamp

My son—you know who I mean, the son I always wanted—the one I got with his shoes on, fully-grown and wise—the son who married my daughter?

Well, he tells me I don’t breathe.

Holding my breath, literally, is a way of life for me. Habit. Its symbolism is ironic.

Breathing should flow naturally, instinctively. Instead, I instinctively hold my breath and let it out in big whooshes—and then gasp again.

Mothers have to remember to breathe—and let go—and trust God.

Recently, my lack of breathing kept me awake for about six nights. Trying to figure things out. Trying to solve all of my daughters’ problems. Trying to protect them from all the future heartaches and sorrows and monsters under their beds and brokenness that I feared for them.

My daughters are grown! Grown!! Fully-grown, wise and beautiful women of God!

“You have a Savior Complex,” a school psychologist once told me, shaking his head and whispering about burnout and reminding me, “Julie, that Savior job has already been filled.”

My children have a Savior, and it is not me.

Please understand, It is my great honor to be a mom. No earthly human will ever love my daughters more than I do (We can argue about this later, Nate and Jamie). A mother’s love, in its purest form, is like the love of God: unconditional. In fact, God explains his own love for his children by using the metaphors of a mother.

"How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me." (Mathew 23:37)

"Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15)

And this love that I have for my daughters, this love that has created a permanent fissure in my heart, is as it should be. For the greatest commandment is, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength and love your neighbor (or daughter) as yourself." Mark 12:30

We mothers must watch the order of this commandment, though. While it is true that I can never love my daughters too much, I must also never let my love for them be my reason for living. I must always remember: “For me to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21) I must never make it: “For me to live is my daughters.”

My soul purpose in life is not to solve all my children’s problems or protect them from every lurking shadow. In fact, God calls them to risk all for the kingdom—throwing themselves with abandon into the work he calls them to do. And when they fall headlong, I dare not rescue them from the consequences of their choices. They must learn to endure them like I must endure the consequences of my own choices. Here is the saving grace in this hard truth—a truth I know from my own experience—their very brokenness may be what sends them running into the arms of God. When we keep our children from risk and brokenness, we sometimes inadvertently keep them from their God.

Eve is named “the mother of all who live” and Sarah was “the mother of many nations.” Rebekah’s blessing from her family was, “May you be the mother of many millions.” Motherhood is eternal. When those precious ones are formed in our wombs, God has given us an eternal gift. God says, “You are forever a mom.” Selah.

But he is their Abba Father, Daddy God. He is their one and only perfect parent. First and foremost, they are His. He is the One who created them in the womb. He knit them together cell by cell. He breathed life into their lungs. He numbers the hairs on their heads. He called them by name from before time began.

So here I am again, Lord. I am learning to breathe deeply and freely. Letting go. Trusting You with my daughters. Again–and forever.

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