My mother-in-law was an interesting woman – strong and opinionated. Interestingly, when I asked her about her own child-raising years, she had little to say. Her response was, “ All I remember was being tired – all the time.” And I am sure all moms can relate to that. But, now that I am also a matriarch, when I look back it is a little different. I certainly do recall the fatigue, the regular fatigue of dealing with constant needs superimposed on chronic insomnia. Oh my! But mostly I remember bone-crushing guilt and discouragement. In some ways, these two can hardly be separated, but I am going to try. Even though I suspect guilt is the more volatile component of mothering, and leads to the discouragement, still, it is discouragement I want to deal with briefly today.
I speak with discouraged moms almost every day. There are several in my own family. Their unanimous voice is that the good things they are doing in their children’s lives simply aren’t working. The Bible stories are going in one ear and out the other. The discipline is not effecting behavioral change. The heart-to-heart spiritual talks, though initially well-received, ultimately seem to go into a vacuum.
Have you heard the pithy definition of insanity? It goes something to the effect that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”? I would say that, for us as Christian mothers, this has to be turned on its head. The whole trick of faithful motherhood is to continue on with what doesn’t seem to be working. In hope -biblical hope- that God will eventually bless us with the good things we seek to work into our children’s hearts. I guess this is one way in which we can be “out of our minds” with the apostle Paul!
Younger sisters and brothers, as I said, I remember the discouragement so well. One of my most vivid pictures of our family life is the supper hour. John, me, our five children – and often an extra or two – sitting around the kitchen table after our meal. John would read the Bible, then a. passage from the Westminster Catechism – and the fun would begin. The children were not overtly rebellious – they would not have dared to be. But kids can speak volumes without words, can’t they? Click, click, click, click, click – the sound of five minds switching off! Glazed eyes! Bodies stiff and resistant….It broke my heart. We have so much to teach you guys and you just won’t listen! We did not have spiritual prodigies in our home. And the formal training so often seemed so much less effective than the informal.
But we persevered. The perseverance of the saints! And God’s words took lodging in their hearts, in spite of themselves. And now they walk with the Lord and are training their own little ones. The insanity continues! And I thank God for it!