Parenting: A Slow Death to Self, Part 1 of 2: Laying Down My Net

I write
from my experience. The day in, day out living that I do: I write out of pain,
frustration, and joy; the ugliness and beauty, alike. It all becomes my inspiration;
my material. However romantic this may sound, there are moments, in the midst
of my daily mulling, that I think to myself, with a shudder, No way. I couldn’t write about THAT!
Lord whispered to me recently, in the midst of just such an internal dialogue: But Leslie,
that is
exactly when you MUST.
Because someone out there is feeling the same way.
And so I do, because this
word play, emerging from my very soul’s core, is life to me. This simple act of surrender–putting pen to paper—feels
like home. So here I am…
This current
season of living finds me deep in the trenches: surrounded on all sides by the sundry
trappings of child rearing. Even now, as I sit at my kitchen desk writing about
parenting, “my” space overflows with evidences of my occupation: school papers,
pediatrician documents, grocery coupons, and activity fliers, all sticking out
of the rubble, here and there, with priceless, childish crafts/creations randomly
displayed in every open space, a misplaced crayon container piled precariously high,
encroaching on my elbow room, and the indispensable espresso machine to my left,
key to any parent’s survival…
is no denying I am IN IT: the dizzying
whirlwind of activity that accompanies those unpredictable, ever demanding blessings
called children, immediately upon their deafening emergence, it seems. And the
reality is, for better or worse (depending on my attitude any given hour), there
is little left over space for ME. For, lo and behold, buried beneath the layers
of my hefty job description: MOM, there lies a woman who is very much alive,
full of ideas and opinions, desires and dreams.
But I have
a higher calling than catering to my own whims, and so, eight years ago, with
the birth of my first, I laid down my net–to follow my Savior, in favor of the
joy to be found in training up children. As Jesus was
walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and
his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were
fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’
Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left
their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV) Though in their humanity Jesus’
disciples may have looked back at the shore, the abundant joy their new calling
supplied sold them out for life.
At more than
one low point on our journey as parents, my husband and I have wondered incredulously, “WHY did we have children?!?!?”
The answer we always circle back to is simple. For the JOY of it. Nothing
that yields abundant joy is easy. It’s grueling, humbling work, training up children.
With the ushering in of new life, our former selves wither; and a new solidarity—identity, arises in its place among
parents. There’s nothing quite like it. Nothing that can level a strong person
quicker than the turbo charged emotions characteristic to parenting, and
nothing that can elate our weary hearts more than the blessed, Heavenly-light-bathed
moments that sanctify the dying we do.  
As the
reality of our human condition would have it though, we parents require
frequent joy-checks. Such is life for a parent: we awake fresh and expectant,
full of plans to conquer our to-do’s—AND THEN THE KIDS GET UP, with their
arsenal full of variables. And we watch our carefully laid plans fly out the
window with our expectations. If we aren’t careful, our joy will take flight
along with them. It’s during these times as parents, that we tend to sputter into
God’s presence, running on joy fumes.
I rise
early during the week to take advantage of a quiet house, and spend those few
precious moments (in a sacred space I rightly savor) seeking filling. Spiritual
for the monumental task looming before me: striving, in all my
imperfection, to glorify God as a mother. A few weeks ago, I woke uncharacteristically early on a Saturday and tiptoed
down the stairs, thrilled at the prospect of having at least an hour before my
kids got up. But no sooner had I cozied up on the couch under a down throw
with my Bible in my lap (like, 30 meager seconds), than my youngest peeked his
little brunette head around the corner, smiling at me. Deflated, I mustered a
weary smile back at his sweet, puffy morning face. I patted the couch next to
me and accepted. Death to self.
But it’s
a mere season. One, that if properly surrendered and stewarded, has the
potential to yield fruit in both us and our children–the likes of which dangle
ripe from the trees of Eden, in the pages of Genesis. This often
mind-numbing, draining vocation (by God’s perfect
design), keeps us just where He wants us: requiring daily soaking in His Spirit,
pleading for His intercession at every turn; so frequently bamboozled are we by
the magnitude of the parental load. Sometimes discerning what help to request in
the middle of it all is as baffling as our conundrums.
For a
true taste of dying to self, let’s flip to the Gospels and hang out with Mary,
mother of Jesus for a few moments. We are in the presence of quite possibly the
world’s most selfless parent…my words can’t possibly do her servant’s heart
justice. This simple, teenage girl was minding
her own business
. Relishing her impending marriage to a respectable young
man. Doing the things Jewish girls of that day did…when she was accosted by
angels, and entrusted with the task of bearing and raising the Godchild. He who “grew in wisdom and stature, in
favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52, NIV); who was to become the Savior of the
World. WHOA. Can you imagine standing
in Mary’s sandals the moment her entire life’s plans were blown to smithereens?
This was
no small thing, and you can bet your shiny
smart phones she gave up everything—for the world to gain everything. This God-given
burden cost dear Mary her social standing and reputation, as many ostracized
her for her alleged adultery. Her sweet self died there that day, before the
heavenly host, in order to birth something (Someone) unprecedented and unfathomably
magnificient, in accordance with God’s divine plan for mankind. It was a death
to self that has gone down in infamy, and will continue to inspire and humble
generations to come, until Christ’s return.
Friends…it’s a brutally hard commission,
this call to parent selflessly, but among the most worthy on this earth. May we
be Mary’s, if only living up to her selfless legacy in small part. She was
human, after all, but God was with her, just as He is with us believers, every
moment of this arduous journey.
Come to the River…
“I prayed
for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” 1
Samuel 1:27 (NIV)
“For to me, to
live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
are we to be parents, but exhausted are we, as well! Memorize a Scripture (better
yet, several) to call up in those moments when you’d rather shed your offspring
to sip a cocktail poolside, than do the dying.

3 thoughts on “Parenting: A Slow Death to Self, Part 1 of 2: Laying Down My Net

  1. I love this Leslie! Wow–dying to self is a minute-by-minute choice!
    Having an eternal perspective is what lifts me up when I'm weary. Filling ourselves up in the word daily is so important to sustain us and help us be the moms we truly desire to be! Other attempts to "fill ourselves up" fall short. Believe me, I know! Thanks for the encouragement. And besides… It's truly for a
    season. Somewhere down the road I think we will have wistful moments as we enjoy a quiet house. We will miss the life and joy that children bring to our homes. Thanks for sharing your heart. PAULA R.

  2. The comparison of motherhood to laying down my net to follow my Savior just as Peter and Andrew…never thought of it that way! And joy of their new calling "sold them out for life." I'm sold out…I know my kiddos will be one of my highest priorities long after they're out of my house in love, in prayer, in thought, in care. We get to be mamas for life, even when they're grown up!

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