Sanctification in Motherhood

CHRISTINA FOX|EDITOR

I don’t know about you, but when I was expecting my first child and thinking about what motherhood would be like, I didn’t factor in the problem of sin and what its impact would be on my mothering. Before I became a mom, I pictured motherhood to be like the sweet mother and baby interactions I saw on baby shampoo commercials. I imagined cuddles, smiles, laughter, and fun memories. When I daydreamed about motherhood, I pictured myself instructing with wisdom, responding with patience, and always handing out smiles. And while there are certainly plenty of smiles, cuddles, and laughter, there is also the problem of sin.

Motherhood Reveals What’s Already There

Unlike hard and difficult jobs I’ve had before, motherhood is all consuming. It consumes energy, time, emotions, wisdom, and everything else. It’s a 24/7 job, without any breaks, holidays, or vacations. It challenges us in our weakest areas. It reveals our insufficiencies. It shows us just how much we don’t know and how incapable we really are.

And, it seems to spotlight sin in our heart, magnifying it so that we see the depths of our sin in ways we’ve never noticed before.

It’s not as though motherhood makes us more of a sinner. Rather, areas of sin we didn’t realize we had are brought to the surface. Sinful habits and patterns are brought to light that may have once been in the shadows. The pressures, challenges, and difficulties of motherhood somehow make the sin we already have more pronounced. It’s like when the sunlight streams through the windows at just the right angle and shines upon the furniture. That light reveals all the dust layered on the tabletop. It was there before, we just didn’t notice it until the light shone down on it.

In a similar way, specific areas of sin in our heart are brought out into the light in motherhood in ways they never had been before. We learn and realize new layers and depths of sin we didn’t notice were there. For example, we might come face to face with our impatience or irritability. Before motherhood we might not have been the most patient person in the world, but after motherhood, we learned just how impatient we actually are. Or motherhood might highlight a struggle with sins such as worry or sarcasm. A propensity we already had for worry might be magnified in motherhood—probably because there are so many reasons to worry! Motherhood might also reveal just how much we like things to be a certain way—our way. For some, motherhood may shine a light on sins we’ve kept buried down deep in the dark recesses of our heart.

It doesn’t take much for my own sin to make an appearance. Just this morning, I was enjoying a cup of dark roast and reading my Bible before the day got away from me. In the middle of my reading, I heard footsteps pounding down the stairs and the word, ‘Mom!’ yelled at the top of my son’s lungs. I breathed out a loud sigh and responded with an irritable tone of voice, ‘What!’ (While you can’t hear it here, trust me, it was irritable.) The truth was, I didn’t like the interruption to my peace and quiet and my tone made that very clear.

Being a mom reveals in a unique way the true nature of our heart. And like the dirty diapers we change each day, it isn’t pretty.

An Opportunity for Growth

But there’s good news in the midst of the bad. While motherhood shines a spotlight on our sin, it is not outside God’s perfect plan for us. In fact, these sins we notice, we notice them because the Spirit is at work revealing those sins to us. While God uses all areas of our life in our sanctification—work, relationships, suffering, and more—motherhood is another area he uses to transform us into the likeness of Christ.

As our eyes are opened to see our chronic worry or desire for control or some hidden sin, maybe for the first time, we have an opportunity to repent and turn from that sin. When the Spirit reveals the idols we turn to for life and hope apart from God, we have an opportunity to remove those idols and replace them with greater love for Christ. When we feel helpless and insufficient in our mothering, we have an opportunity to depend more and more upon God’s grace. Every day we encounter opportunities to see the depths of our sin and our great need for the gospel.

When my kids were little, older women would tell me how fast the season of motherhood passes and to enjoy every minute of it. Looking back, I agree with them. Not only should we enjoy the precious few moments we have with our children, we also need to seize the opportunities for our own growth during this season. Let’s not waste the season of motherhood. Each late-night visit from a little one, every tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, each disruption to our routine, and every unexpected illness is an opportunity for God to show us our need for Him. Every frustrating moment becomes an opportunity for us to set aside our sin and respond in obedience. Moms, let us yield to God’s work in us as he shapes us into the image of our Savior.

Editor’s Note: This post in an adapted excerpt from Christina’s new book Idols of a Mother’s Heart.

About the Author:

Christina Fox

Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Revive Our Hearts, Desiring God, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament  , Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish and Idols of a Mother’s Heart. Christina serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and is on the national women’s ministry team as Regional Adviser of the Southeast. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.

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