I tearfully looked around my office and said one last goodbye. Goodbye to the television endlessly streaming cable news headlines I may or may not need to respond to. Goodbye to the phone constantly ringing off the hook with reporters needing a comment. Goodbye to the clunky cabinet full of news clippings, press releases, editorials and letters to the editor — many of which I’d spent way too much time obsessing over. And goodbye to wonderful co-workers. Men and women I’d bonded with in worthwhile battles.
The seven years I spent at a ministry helping communicate biblical truth about challenging, controversial issues were ones steeped in the trenches. Every interview, every debate with a talking head, every editorial and every press conference seemed to carry with it the weight of an intense spiritual battle for hearts and minds.
Now, I was going home to a beautiful, doe-eyed girl intent upon waging her own war against my sleep patterns.
On my last day in the office, a dear colleague wisely told me, “God is just moving you to another division in His army.” She was right.
The battlefield I was headed towards was every bit as real as the one I had just left.
I love C.S. Lewis’ simple, yet profound depiction of spiritual warfare. “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”
So too is every square inch of motherhood.
These days, the grocery store is often my battleground. I feel it keenly almost every time I run in to pick up some diapers. With all five of my children. The looks and comments I receive are often insensitive and discouraging. The root lie, however, lurking beneath is an insidious, destructive arrow.
“Are all of these children yours?”
“I’m glad I’m not you.”
“Your poor son. He’s the only boy in this huge group of girls.”
The bewildered, crushed look on my children’s faces is a loud cry to put on my warrior paint. After one such comment, my oldest daughter looked up at me and, crestfallen, asked, “Mommy, what is wrong with us? Why do people say those things?”
“Not everyone knows Jesus, sweetheart,” I responded. “And not everyone believes Him when He said, ‘Children are a blessing.’ But you are. So is every member of our family. God has beautifully put us together and we are grateful.”
As mothers, we battle the ever present lies of our adversary — often in a society that belittles the value of our children and tells us our calling is “less than” and that the pleasure and pursuit of self-fulfillment is “more than.”
It’s a lie I battle not just “in the culture,” but in the culture war that rages within myself. Especially after a sleepless night with a little one that no amount of coffee can remedy.
One such morning, I got a phone call from a dear friend and former colleague.
We chatted about all the goings on in her life. Her speaking engagements. Her book proposal. The interviews she was doing with famous authors and notable leaders. The business trips and vacations she’d been taking.
I looked over at my daughter sitting in a tub of water. A tub of water with poop in it. Having endured a night of viral affliction, both she and the water were extra gross. The washing machine was whirring away at ninety miles an hour spinning off nocturnal crap. Frankly, I could have used a Hazmat suit at that very moment.
Jealousy set in. So did that familiar feeling of shame, discontentment and irrelevance.
“You used to be somebody. Now look at you.”
“Don’t you wish you were doing all the cool things she’s doing?”
“Nobody cares about you. You’re just another stay-at-home mom.”
Truth came gently. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24).
War. We are at war.
My fellow moms, the sunken bags under our bloodshot eyes and the stretch marks around our bellies are medals of distinguished service. The kitchen that may never be spotless and that minivan with petrified chicken nuggets in the car seat is part of the war effort. And on the days when battle fatigue threatens to overtake us, we drink in the truth and maybe, another cup of coffee.
Our mission of love and sacrifice calls out to a watching world, inviting them to find the God who is the essence of both. We are gaining strategic ground and changing the course of eternity. By the grace of God, we will advance — one Costco trip, one sippy cup refill, one tough conversation and one diaper change at a time.