I held him close in the glider – rocking back and forth, back and forth – as His tiny fingers closed tightly around his little truck with big wheels. His breath, wheezing rhythmically, raspy, ragged, and heavy from the ravages of illness, caused his round belly to rapidly rise and fall against my own even rounder one. His little brother kicked from inside. For one moment, I couldn’t distinguish between the outer rise and fall, the baby’s rolling and fluttering, and my own breath.
I looked down at the older brother’s tiny face and was struck all at once by the speed and fragility of life. He was once inside my belly, just like his unborn sibling. While he was in there, I worried about him just as I was worrying now. What if I neglected something that would cause that little life to be cut short? What if I did something that put his life in danger? Should I rush to the hospital? Call the midwife? Worry more than I was already worrying? But he is here now, there is yet another tiny life growing, and my own life seems to be hurtling faster and faster towards eternity than it ever has before.
All too soon my life will be gone. All too soon any of us could be gone. Life is all so precious and fragile and fast – and more of all of those things the longer it sticks around.
One thing that motherhood is slowly, very slowly teaching me is that I am not in control. I worry, I fret, and I do everything in my power to prolong the life of myself and my little ones, but ultimately I’m not in control. The wrinkles appear on my face. The years roll by. My little one gets sick and I can do nothing but rock, soothe, and sing until the storm passes. He falls and I can’t catch him every time.
And so I pray. And cry. Because as much as I know I’m not in control, I so very want to be. So I try to throw it on God and cry as I think what would happen if something did happen. If life were cut short.
Anxiety and the illusion of control often steal my peace and joy. I used to wake up in cold sweat in the middle of the night to check my baby was still breathing. Sometimes I still do. Once, almost a year ago, when he fell from a height, his eyes rolled back into his tiny head, and we rushed him to the emergency, I sobbed as he lay sleeping on the hospital bed. It was all my fault. I was neglectful. If only I had been more observant. If only I had caught him.
I didn’t tell anyone. I was too afraid that they would think what I thought – that they would actually say what I was thinking – “What was he doing? Weren’t you there? Why didn’t you catch him?”
But I didn’t catch him. I was right there – and he fell.
One thing I learnt during my time as a missionary (during which time a lot of things were outside of our control) is that we take too much responsibility upon ourselves. If anything happens it’s always, “if only I’d…”. We hold on tightly to the delusion that we are in control.
So here we are, believing the lie that we are in control – believing that if only we can anticipate every “if only” we’ll wind up having kids that make it to adulthood – believing that every illness and injury is a direct result of our motherly negligence and that if anything should happen it would most certainly be our fault.
But it wouldn’t be. We can cry, pray, fret, and helicopter all we like – but the race isn’t always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Time and chance happen to us all. Only God is truly in control. It is His hand that stretches out over everything and allows us to continue. Or to not continue.
We are not in control.
He finally fell asleep, his breath still ragged, his warm body heavy. I laid him gently down, his tiny fingers still clasping tightly to his little truck with the big wheels. His little brother kept kicking vigorously and I thought how I very likely had another little ball of energy coming my way.
I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that no matter how much I helicopter – he’ll climb high, fall down, and collect every bump, break, and scrape imaginable. He’ll collect germs from all his friends like an old dish rag and come down with illnesses. And while I will give every diligence I know how – his life may even be taken away from me. Slowly, very slowly I am learning I am not in control.
Oh, how I wish I could be, but this is how motherhood is sanctifying me.
Time has never gone faster.
My prayers have never been more heartfelt.
His wisdom has never been more meaningful.
Life has never been more precious.
God has never been nearer.
My purpose has never been clearer.
Motherhood, if you let it, can turn you into a nervous wreck. But motherhood can also turn you into something beautiful, something sanctified and precious, something with more meaning and purpose than you could have ever dreamt. It will teach you to rely on God for all the strength and wisdom you will ever need. It will teach you that you are not in control.
Let motherhood sanctify you. Let it purify you of guilt, shame, anxiety, and the illusion of control.
Run to Him.
He is in control.
“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, 12).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).