“The same grace that saved me will save you.
Therefore, I recommend, if you have slipped a little bit,
and all of us have at some point,
just take the plunge into the ocean of God’s grace.”
The Pursuit of God
It was a dense and complicated feeling, sitting in the auditorium at George Fox waiting for the graduation to begin. I was grateful my husband was watching the kids so I could be entirely present. I was proud of my sister-in-law who had made so many sacrifices and exercised such discipline to be receiving her doctorate. I was impressed by my brother-in-law who had supported her pursuit of a dream. Those were the feelings I let come to the surface and read on my face. But there was more there. There were hard, scary, sad feelings I kept at bay by biting the inside of my lip and clapping extra loud. Hold it together.
The commencement speaker spoke of the way the graduates would be healing the world with their hands and their character. He noted how they had exercised discipline and made sacrifices. He admired, and predicted absolute, entire success for every one of them. Then, as is tradition in any graduation ceremony, he began to recognize each of them by name. “Taylor Charbonnier”. Joy, pride, love, insecurity, longing, jealousy, regret.
I never made it to my college graduation. Sin, love, grace and a tiny miracle baby took me on an entirely different route than the path I intended. I had planned accolades, independence, and financially measureable success. I meant to “find myself”, if that is even a thing, before I eventually came around to where I found myself that day. I meant to be the person in the funny hat and unflattering robe being honored. I meant to earn a title that would make me someone important. Bachelor. Master. Doctor. Something.
But Mom? Not the one I was expecting. And while I found the title entirely too heavy when I first took it up, I had grown into it. Or perhaps it into me. Whichever way the growth happened, it did. But the accolades of the title I brandished were entirely incomparable to the one my precious sister-in-law had attained.
It is altogether repetitive to go on to say, “Being a mom is hard”. And while I wish there was a more eloquent way to describe the entirely laborious love a mother experiences, I haven’t slept through the night consistently in two years and eight months. I thought perhaps I would cheat, and use a thesaurus so that you, dear reader, would find my language more impressive than my title. Thesauraus.com (because if I get out of my chair to get a real one, I would likely lose my train of thought and just go straight to bed) offers “complicated, serious, demanding, effortful, tiring and, wait for it… HERUCLEAN” as acceptable substitutes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and damn straight.
There is love, joy, laughter, sentiment and purpose in motherhood. Yes. Of course. And those are all amazing gifts. But accolades? Not so much. In this season of son-raising my title earns whines, teacher meetings, discipline, tantrums, sleepless nights, dirty toilet seats, chores, errands, power struggles, eye rolls, pee pants, and nursing. STILL nursing. There is no monthly financial reward, no paid days off, no sick days, no ceasing, and few “thank you”s. Nights, weekends, holidays, I am Mom.
And my heart was stuck there. Weary and worn. I felt lost under the title, burdened by the work and resentful there were at least sixteen more years of it ahead of me before I could come out from under being “Mom” and be myself again, whoever she was.
Even as a mom, or rather especially as a mom, we have a desperate need for the Father. Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my place of quiet retreat, I wait for your word to renew me.” And I desperately needed renewing. I needed a new attitude, a renewed endurance, and a new perspective on work I was doing. Truthfully, my prayer was less repentant and more an invitation to my pity party. “GAWD, heeeelp meeee. This is hard. And I am tired. And frustrated. And wondering if I even like kids at all.” I was whinny and ungrateful. (Everything I get irritated at my six-year-old for being), but, ever the faithful Father, God met me there.
In John 21, I read a verse that cut me straight to the heart:
:11 “Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”
I have read ‘Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish’ several times, and never had this line had any meaning whatsoever to me. You’re probably even thinking “Ok….?” Why would you ever stop to think about the net that hauled the fish? The obvious take-away is Peter’s repentance and the incredible, gracious love of Christ. Why would anyone stop to consider the net? Unless, that is, you are a net.
While you may be thinking it is a reach to personify a seemingly insignificant object, let me remind you, Jesus said in John 10:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…my sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”
And this bleating, weary sheep heard the voice of her shepherd.
I imagine it is the tendency of every bible-reader to identify with Peter in this story. We all want to be the redeemed saint. The eager disciple throwing herself into the sea in pursuit of Jesus. We want to be the one with faith that is recorded, acknowledged and set as an example for the generations to come. We want to be the one honored by being named. And sometimes, you get to be that saint. But, sometimes, sweet, exasperated, Momma, you will find that you are the net.
You are the one bearing the heavy load. You are the one hauling the Lord’s provision in to feed his saints. You are the one cast into the ocean and brought up empty at times, and straining under the weight of your haul at others. But be encouraged Christian, for his word says, “even with so many the net was not torn.” In this one verse, I found my renewal.
This truth was spoken to the depth of my weary Momma heart. He provides the strength for the load he has called you to haul. Was the net stretched? I’m sure. Strained? Absolutely. Perhaps even a different shape than it was before? Sure. But, yet, the net was not torn.
It is not glamourous or prestigious or even always enjoyable to be the tool used by God in the testimony of other saints. Your work is not always memorable, or even noticed. I imagine after hauling in their fish the disciples discarded the net somewhere on the boat and didn’t give it another thought until they needed it again. (Can you relate to the net now, dear Momma?) But that is okay. Because the net fulfilled the purpose God had intended for it. And that, is where you find your accolade. Weather net or saint, you are essential in the testimony God is writing. Even in the mundane and the unnoticed you are working for the kingdom of God. And he is faithful to prepare and strengthen you for the load he will ask you to carry.
Believe this Momma: You are not dispensable. You are not forgotten. You are still you, and the Creator of the universe sees the tiny clothes you fold, and the vegetables you chop (that your babies will complain about) and the carpool you drive and the button downs you iron and the tantrums you calm. He sees you. He knows your name, and he will strengthen you.
So when we find ourselves again weary and ungrateful for the tiny loads we carry, wishing our lives had a different title, let us choose to come to the word of our faithful net-maker. Let us repent, and be reminded of whom we belong and for who it is we toil. And let us then, be renewed.