The words scroll across the main screen of my mind almost every day. They have done so since before my child was born, when I was put on bed rest before reaching my third trimester. Mothers make many sacrifices during pregnancy—from minor ones like giving up drinking alcohol, to major ones like suffering from sickness for months. And everyone knows that raising a child is demanding and tiring. But what imprinted this phrase on my mind most deeply was neither childbearing nor child-rearing; rather, the most dramatic sacrifice seemed to be the act of giving birth itself.
Though my own labor was short and free of complications, yet I emerged from the experience astounded. Why, after going through such an agonizing—and yes, laborious—process once, would anyone choose to go through it again?! Suddenly I beheld the entire world with new eyes: every person who ever lived, in all of human history (apart from our first parents), entered into the world by this process, from a mother who endured this pain.
In fact, until very recently in our country—and even now in the less developed nations of the world—childbirth carried with it not just the inevitability of pain and discomfort for the mother (which we have the option of numbing to some degree with modern medicine), but the tremendous possibility of death. There is a Filipino proverb that says, “A woman giving birth has her one foot in the grave.” Countless women have made the ultimate sacrifice of motherhood: giving up their very lives for their children.
From the beginning God made woman to be a Lifegiver. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve [Life], because she was the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). God gave her, and her daughters after her, the ability to give life with her body—to bear a child in her womb, and nurse it at her breasts. The giving of a mother’s life may, or may not, result in her physical death, but either way her sacrifices are real—she must daily die to herself for the sake of her child. The call to such selflessness, even with its manifold rewards, at times seems unbearable. Loss of sleep leaves one mother physically drained and emotionally unstable; her child’s medical problems cause fear and uncertainty to grip another; and without anything more dramatic, a mother may simply feel the constraints of her baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule on her marriage, work, and social life. In my own experience, seven weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with my premature infant threatened to destroy every vestige of strength and happiness in my soul. What I learned (yet again) in those dark days was that the life-giving mother must possess her own source of life to fill her as she pours herself out. She must be revived by drinking from the ever-flowing Fountain of Life, and beholding the sacrifice He made by spilling His blood on the cross to give us life.
As Lifegivers we are called to imitate that Savior who, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2)—I knew the joy (the ecstasy even!) of holding my precious babe when the agony of labor I had endured was past. And I continue to hope in God’s goodness when the trials of motherhood loom large, knowing that the life Jesus gives is sufficient, and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Finally, the apostle Paul taught that women will be “saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (I Tim. 2:15). Author and teacher Barbara Mouser offers an exposition of these verses that has convicted as well as encouraged me:
Paul prescribes four spiritual virtues for the lifegiving woman…[which] answer the perennial challenges of the lifegiver in her years of pregnancy or child rearing. Faith quiets worry. Love refutes selfishness. Sanctity answers worldly distractions. Self-restraint tames the temper even as it rallies the listless spirit. If a woman perseveres in these virtues through the lifegiving years not only will she be saved from numerous incidental calamities, she will gain the sanctified character that is the goal of the godly woman. (Five Aspects of Woman, Vol 1, p. 196, emphasis mine)
“Motherhood is sacrifice,” then, becomes much more than a mantra for a 3 a.m. feeding, or resignation at having to change my diet for my nursing infant. It encapsulates for me the essence of the Lifegiver—her identification with her Savior, her calling to imitate His selfless love, the goal of her sanctification, and her hope of eternal life.
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Cornel Warren, Managing Editor of Live with Heart & Soul, shares her heart as she reaches Christian women with timeless, beautiful content to encourage and inspire their walks with God, themselves and those around them.