“Lord, help us sleep tonight so we can be better parents tomorrow for our daughter.”
I’ve prayed this prayer often lately. Not long ago, we had our first child, and sleep has become a challenge. But sleep isn’t the only thing that’s been difficult these days: I long to take a hot shower without having to rush, to read a book without being interrupted, and for some semblance of a routine.
Basically, I want to be in control. And when things don’t go my way, I struggle. I struggle because sleep makes me a better mom, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?
Or does it?
These practicalities — sleep, showers, quiet — certainly aren’t evil in themselves; they’re good gifts from a Father who knows precisely when I need them. They’re gifts I should desire. But I often think these gifts by themselves will make me a better mom — a stronger, happier, more confident mom. For my daughter. For my husband. For God.
But my Heavenly Father knows there’s something better for me in himself, that “better” equals broken. It equals humility. Because brokenness — a vulnerable, desperate heart of dependence on Jesus — is what actually makes me a better mom.
Consider an illustration. I put our daughter down for a nap, thrilled that I now have about 30 minutes to myself. Oh, the possibilities! I could do laundry, clean our bathroom, write, read…
Or I could sleep. Yes, I could definitely sleep.
I close the shades, hunker down on the couch, and shut my eyes. This is glorious, I think, as I anticipate much-needed sleep and begin to drift…
But after two minutes, the baby starts crying.
My glorious, much-needed rest ends, as I get up from the couch with a sigh to care for my baby girl. My heart is tempted to self-pity, even anger, as I think about the rest I so desperately need.
I’d be a much better mom if I’d just had 15 or 30 minutes to recharge!
Wouldn’t I? I’m beginning to see how God’s gracious answer is no — not necessarily.
KNOWING CHRIST IS BETTER
The apostle Paul had every reason for confidence in worldly blessings and God’s good gifts — yet he desired something more, something better:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:4–8)
Paul’s religious and cultural achievements led to an appearance of righteousness. Similarly, our daily checklists and accomplishments (even naps!) can make us feel good, like we’ve succeeded, like we’ve discovered the secret to being better moms, like we’ve “arrived.”
But the reality is any semblance of righteousness — of felt better-ness in motherhood — apart from the wisdom and power of Christ is loss. Paul knew his earthly gains meant nothing if he didn’t know Jesus. And our earthly, motherly gains mean nothing if we’re relying on our own strength, rather than on him.
Often, we compare ourselves to other moms, who seem to have their acts together (especially on social media), and we don’t feel we measure up. So we favor self-care and temporary, fleeting comforts that delude us into thinking we’re a success — that we’ll be better moms as a result of having these “gains.” But apart from a broken spirit that sees how much we need Christ first and foremost, these betterments are futile.
They are loss compared to knowing him more.
WHEN BETTER EQUALS BROKEN
In seeking the Lord about this, I’ve been asking, What does humble brokenness look like? Does it mean I neglect naps, and resist rest, and not care anymore about taking showers? Does it mean I can’t be disappointed?
No. I can absolutely grieve these losses; for motherhood is a high calling that requires self-sacrifice — dying to self. And dying never feels good. Dying feels like death.
But we don’t grieve without hope, because we don’t die to ourselves apart from the hope of Christ’s resurrection. We suffer the loss of all things, including our independence and comforts, to gain more of Jesus. His body was broken and then raised for us, so we would know him and desire him. This is God’s best for us — an eternity in Jesus’ presence — which is far better than our earthly ideas of “better.” “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
The less of me, the more his resurrection life can take over mine, making me more like him — changing my desires, loosening my iron grip on worldly gain, and satisfying me with himself. To be a broken mom means to give up my idea of “better” and submit myself to God’s best for me: my sanctification.
And as he makes me more like his Son through humble, broken dependence on him, I not only look more like Jesus, I love more like Jesus. I love him and my daughter better as a result.
Moms, everything within you will tell you that you need certain “gains” to get through your day, to be a better parent for your children. The world will tell you that brokenness means failure. But there’s only one gain that truly satisfies and betters our hearts both now and for eternity, and it comes from such brokenness: the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
And it only comes through brokenness.