My baby shower was beautiful. Streamers, balloons, a mountain of gifts, and cookies shaped like little elephants. Friends and family scribbled motherly advice and heartfelt prayers inside the cover of a copy of “Are You My Mother?” They refilled my glass of punch, oohing and ahhing over the tiny onesies I lifted from layers of tissue paper.
It was a special time. There I sat — in the most comfortable seat in the room, cradling my bump — with no real grasp of what I’d taken on.
Waking up from the dream
Having kids felt like life’s next natural step; I’d checked the boxes of spouse, career and house. Plus, babies are cute; who wouldn’t want one? Like kittens, but better. And they have cute clothes. Those little headbands? Those tiny booties? Sign me up.
But then the baby arrived and reality set in. A messy house, interrupted sleep — with toddler tantrums to look forward to. Parenthood was not the 75-degrees-and-sunny walk in the park I’d imagined, my baby asleep in his adorable giraffe onesie. He kept waking up and crying. And then he grew up and needed, well … parenting.
My life was no longer my own, and I was exhausted to my bones. Is this really what I signed up for?
When sentiments fall short
Social media told me I was enough. You’re a rock star, mama. You got this. It offered me funny parenting memes to get me through to bedtime — as if excessive positivity and humorous distractions are all it takes to survive parenthood.
I needed more than memes; I needed motivation. I asked myself: What’s the point of all this difficulty? What are we aiming for?
Difficult — and worth it
You may be single, and parenthood seems a long way off. Maybe you’ve seen the exhaustion and struggle of friends or family members in the trenches of the young-children season, and there aren’t enough cute photos or adorable outfits in the known universe to make having kids seem appealing. Parenthood, you’ve decided, is not for you.
To you, I would say two things. First, I completely understand. There are days I desperately miss life before kids — the freedoms and flexibility, the mental, emotional, and physical space for other pursuits. I’m not sure there’s a parent on earth who hasn’t felt this way.
But to Christians specifically, I would also pose these questions: When and where were you most formed, for good or for ill? Was it not during childhood and those teenage years, with the people who raised you? Who else besides a parent or guardian has that depth of influence?
What if you saw parenthood not as a burden, but as a mission field in which you could majorly impact souls into eternity — and through those souls in your care, the wider world?
What if the hard things are the things most worth doing?
Parenting is a noble calling, but even a solid mission doesn’t always address the “why” and the “what” of the job. Mommy blogs, parenting books and many of my friends seemed to share the same goal: to produce respectful, well-educated adults with successful relationships and careers who positively impact society. If our kids end up like that, they argue, we’ve done our job right.
Who doesn’t want these things for their children? They’re all good gifts from God’s hand. But for Christians, the portrait of parenthood is far more serious — and glorious — than what secular, Western culture might paint. Here are four biblical truths which have both humbled and bolstered me in this God-given, God-sustained role.
1. Parenthood is long-term, gospel work
The truth is, godly parenting is one way we take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24), and we would be wise to count the cost beforehand (Luke 14:28). It’s not just meeting kids’ physical and emotional needs; it’s stewardship of eternal souls for the glory of God.
It’s bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) — not once and we’re done, but over and over again, for years. And no weekends off. It’s forsaking our current task to help warring siblings reconcile — again. It’s modeling a life centered on Jesus so we’re able to say sincerely, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Parenthood has countless joyful moments, but it’s less of a walk in the park and more like a battle for heart allegiance, both ours and our children’s.
2. Children arrive bearing sin’s curse
Western society might say we’re all good at heart, and that raising children involves helping them unearth that inherent goodness. But no one has had to teach my toddler how to smack his brother in anger, or my six-year-old how to lie. Scripture teaches we’re born with a sin problem already burrowed deep (Psalm 51:5), and we’re deceived if we think anyone is free of sin’s curse (1 John 1:8).
A quick caveat: Immaturity and still-developing brains play a large part. Sometimes disabilities, sensory issues or neurodivergence can be interpreted as willful sin, and we need wisdom to discern how best to parent in these situations. But ultimately, our children’s greatest need is to be rescued from themselves.
3. Parenthood reveals our own sin
I never thought of myself as a selfish person — until I had kids. But parenting is an excellent cure for self-righteousness. If we do the job long enough, we’ll discover we’re not enough and we don’t ‘have’ this, and we’re not rock stars. But God, in His mercy, uses this unique season of sacrifice to reveal sin’s pervasive presence in our hearts.
I can claim I worship God alone, but parenthood reveals how I idolize ease, comfort, convenience and excitement. I thought my identity rested solely on what Jesus’ death and resurrection have secured, but now I see how it can rest in my work, accomplishments and self-reliance.
We think we’re patient and kind, gentle and self-controlled; God gives us toddlers (and teens!) to reveal how desperately we need the Spirit’s help to display His fruit. In my hardest parenting moments, I’ve cried out to God, exasperated by my kids’ sin and convicted by my own.
4. We have a far better destination
When we consider that our children’s deepest needs can only be met in Christ, it changes our hope for them. A quality education, a respected reputation, and a successful career are good blessings, but these things won’t follow our children into eternity (1 Tim. 6:7). Ultimately, what do we hope for these people God has entrusted into our care?
We long for them to see the depth of their sin, as well as the good news which can rescue them from it. We pray they take Jesus at His word when He says He alone is the truth, the only way to God, that He alone gives life (John 14:6).
And although we can’t secure our children’s salvation (John 6:44), we can pray we’ll one day stand with them before the throne of God, worshiping Him together as brothers and sisters in His kingdom. There, we won’t be saying, “Look at how well I parented,” but instead, “Look at what God has done, in us and through us.”
Parenthood is more than a box to check, a cute photo-op, or a way to find purpose. It’s also more than a season of difficulty that ‘any sane person would do well to avoid.’ It has eternal significance. If we’re in Christ, we’ve found a Treasure hidden in a field, and we’ve sold all we have (Matt. 13:44). Godly parenting is one way we beckon our children to come and look, and, God willing, they will find that Treasure for themselves.
Copyright 2023 Shannon Evans. All rights reserved.