A preschool science experiment changed my life and I’m hoping it will change your life, too.
When springtime rolled around and we were preparing the garden, I wanted to teach my four-year-old daughter how a seed germinates. We stuffed wet paper towels into a clear plastic cup and slid a kidney bean inside. A few days later, we noticed that the kidney bean’s seed coat was changing: it was puckering and stretching. The bean was bulging and swelling. It looked uncomfortable. Unattractive. Undignified. Thin white roots extended from the seed. Then one day, a vibrant green leaf burst through the seed. It was amazing! I thought, “Wow! Where’d all of that growth that come from?!” Over the next couple of weeks, two leaves unfurled and a long stem reached for the sun. Meanwhile, down below, the seed had disappeared.
I grabbed my Bible and turned to John 12:24 where Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” I knew this was true of Jesus Himself as He died on the cross for our sins and rose again for our eternal life with God. I knew this was true of my salvation story—I had “been crucified with Christ and I no longer lived. Jesus Christ now lived in me.” And now, I knew that it was true about motherhood, too.
I used to be a seed, alone. My life was neat and tidy. Now—with children filling my womb, arms, and schedule—my life was puckered and messy. My conversations were interrupted and often about bodily fluids. I was sacrificing my time, education, career, relationships, and hobbies to nurture my children, so they, too, could flourish. Motherhood invited me to lay my life down for someone else. I like a seed that had been pressed into the ground. I felt the dying process. But the preschool science experiment and John 12:24 gave me hope that—perhaps—my sacrifices in motherhood were not the end, but rather an avenue through which God would help me to grow and produce good fruit in my life.
Fast forward twelve years and here I am, daily laying my life down for six children, often thinking about that burgeoning seed. I feel the dying process more and more each day. I witness God at work, helping me to grow and do the things I couldn’t do on my own. I see the good effects on my children.
Sometimes though, I do not see good fruit. Instead, I see weeds. Although I am laying down my life, I’m only making things worse for myself and my kids. I give (and give and give), only to snap or crash or explode. I lay awake at night and worry that—even in my sacrificial giving—I am ruining my children.
Whenever this happens, I consider the substance in which I am laying my life down. Here’s what I mean: To grow a plant, we press a seed into a pot of nutrient-dense soil. We add water. The pot in which a seed is sown determines everything for that seed – it’s the difference between life and death. Too often, I lay down my life into something that will not—cannot—nurture me. It’s as if I’m living out of a pot filled with poisonous soil. I may serve around the clock, give up my own interests, and do “all the things” for my kids, but when I do it from faulty beliefs or the wrong motives, I do not thrive. Neither do my children.
I’ve mothered out of poisonous pots before, like:
· A desire to please other people
· A desire to be like other people
· A desire to make up for another person’s failings
I’ve learned the hard way that these “pots” cannot transform my motherhood sacrifices into something living and fruitful. Instead, when I parent out of fear or guilt, I feel exhausted, discouraged, and detached, and depleted.
That’s when I turn to 1 Corinthians 13 for a dose of truth. Check out my mom-additions to the first three verses:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels [if I craft words to communicate perfectly with my child], but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, [if I have all the answers regarding my child’s education, health, and spiritual growth], and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, [if I offer my body as a place for a child to grow, cling, cry, and cuddle; if I serve my child around the clock] but have not love, I gain nothing.”
When you and I lay our lives down in anything but love, we do not flourish the way God created us to. We may give everything away, but we gain nothing.
Of course, our Heavenly Father doesn’t stop here, but rather invites us to “have love”. He doesn’t demand that we create love on our own. (He knows we couldn’t!) But He welcomes us to burrow ourselves deep in His love for us: He is like a pot of nutrient-dense soil that warms, nurtures, protects, and sustains us, creating life where there wasn’t any before.
One day, weary from serving my children out of faulty beliefs and life-draining motives, I opened my journal and wrote a personal version of 1 Corinthians 13. God restored my soul. I hope He uses it to restore you, too, so that you may have love all around you, every day.
“If I am a mom, but don’t have love, I am just a woman trying to manage my child’s life. If I serve my child around the clock but don’t have love, I’m just a servant, exhausted and worn out. If I give away all I have, and if I give my body to be utterly consumed by motherhood, but have not love, I gain nothing.
But if I burrow myself deep in God’s love for me, I will thrive. God is patient with me as I figure out how to raise my children. He is kind toward me even when I’m hard on myself. He doesn’t envy me when I’m thriving as a mom, nor does He boast about how much better He would do it. He is not arrogant or rude toward me even though I show the wear and tear of motherhood. He does not insist on his own way but created me to be the unique, one-of-a-kind, right woman for the job. He is not irritable with me even when I pester Him for help, nor is he resentful of me when I just don’t understand. He doesn’t rejoice when I mess up, but He loves when I get it right. He loves when I believe the truth about myself and my child. God bears all my motherhood burdens. He believes true things about me. He hopes for the best. He endures all things on my behalf. God’s love for me never ends.
I’m working off a limited understanding of motherhood, and what it takes to raise my child. Someday, I will fully understand how much God loves me and my child. But for now, the greatest thing I can do is to let his love surround me, warm my heart, rewire my brain, massage my emotions, guide my actions, permeate my personality, rearrange my schedule, dismantle my defenses, and surprise me with answered prayers and spiritual growth.”
Here’s a start:
- Receive help: it’s tempting to say, “I can handle it,” but perhaps the person offering to help is the hands and feet of Jesus—for you?
- Pay attention: What story is going through your head? Take a good look at your motives (those poisonous pots!) and ask God for the grace to live from His love for you instead.
- Keep good friends: One or two friends who are grounded in God’s love will be a lifeline for you—and you for them!
- Go to Church: Week after week, you will gain little nuggets of truth and encouragement that will keep you grounded in God’s love.
- Surround yourself with God’s Word: Do whatever it takes to abide in Him through His Word.
- Listen to and sing worship music: It will reset your thoughts and attitudes.
- Enjoy your life: Poisonous pots will demand everything you’ve got and give you nothing in return. But when you live from God’s love for you, you will have the margin to rest, celebrate, and thank Him for every good gift.
Laura Booz is the author of Expect Something Beautiful: Finding God's Good Gifts in Motherhood and the host of the Expect Something Beautiful podcast with Revive Our Hearts. She'll cheer you on, share practical ideas, and point out the beautiful ways God is working in your life. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan, and their six children. Connect with her at LauraBooz.com.
True Girl theme verse:
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32
Mom, the best way to teach your daughter to live like an authentic True Girl is to live like an authentic True Woman. And to do that, you've got to get your life lined up with the Truth of the Bible. Listen to Dannah Gresh every weekday on Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth's Revive Our Hearts podcast. The program features biblical teaching, interviews that offer godly advice, and other opportunities to abide in God's Word.