IMG_5037So many things about mothering are harder than I thought they would be. So many moments that didn’t sound hard in advance, didn’t sound hard at the time, and didn’t even sound hard when I was trying to explain them to my husband through tears. There are just so many opportunities to be surprised by your own weakness.

It wasn’t that I had a low view of motherhood coming into it – I knew it would be hard. I guess the thing that I didn’t realize was what kind of hard it was going to be. I got on this treadmill expecting a hard work out of running, and I had good shoes. I was ready! What I was not prepared for was being pelted with potatoes while I was running. I didn’t realize that the real struggle of motherhood is not the using of my own strength, but rather the exposing of my weakness.

I don’t think that this is unique to me. There is a reason that you hear mothers so often talking about being burned out, being tired, being lonely, feeling lost, being discouraged. There is a reason that women so often turn to doubting their worth as a mother or as a wife. There is a reason that we are so quick to feel inadequate, so quick to feel like we are doing the wrong things, and so quick to want to give up. There is a reason that we are so vulnerable to stupid fights about mothering methods, so quick to be threatened and hurt.

I also believe that this is, at least in some ways, unique to motherhood. Hard work is a part of every Christian’s life, or it should be. Challenges will face everyone as they seek to honor the Lord and lay down their lives for others. But the thing that really sets motherhood apart is our cultural expectations.

The things that we have come to believe about the value of life, the quality of life, the kind of work we should desire, and the kind of reward we should receive have been painstakingly imparted to us by the world. Our culture is a culture of self fulfillment. Motherhood is the business of self bestowing. Our culture is consumed with quick results. Motherhood is the long game. Our culture makes great pomp and ceremony over living your dreams. Motherhood is the business of making them sweet for others. Motherhood is not empowering, but it is powerful.

Back in the days of restrictive corsets, women would wear them every day, and through the years they would continue to tighten them so that they could look less and less like a normal and strong woman and more and more like a cake topper. I remember reading once about women who were so dependent on their corsets that they were unable to even sit up in bed without one. Through years of training they had disabled their abdominal muscles – slowly transferring themselves over to an exoskeleton.

I can’t help but feel like this has been done to us. We are a generation of women who grew up in a world that corsets young women with selfish desires, shallow ideals, visions of unattainable beauty, and a false understanding of success.The kinds of muscles that we need to be a mother at home with a bunch of kids are seriously out of practice.
How bizarre is it that a woman with a brood of little people growing up in her care, with her love can regularly wonder what it would be like to do something important? How is it possible that we can easily get discouraged and feel like this work – this work of being everything for other people – isn’t enough for us? What has gone wrong that we can actually feel hurt by a stranger counting our children or laughing at our pregnant bellies? We are simply finding that we are unable to sit up in bed without the encouragement of the world.

And this is what I mean when I say that the true challenge of motherhood is meeting your own weakness.

If you have walked away from the support and approval of the world – if you are acting in obedience to God but not with the smile of the world cheering you on- then this weakness that you feel is a sign of great obedience. Taking off ungodly expectations and desires and stepping into a role that you know God admires is making the decision to care more about what God thinks than what the world says. And while this will reveal all sorts of weakness in yourself, that weakness is only there because you have committed to a real strength – one that can’t be put onto you, but one that has to come from within, and by the grace of God.

The strongest women in our world today are those who are as a group feeling the weakest. It certainly doesn’t feel like a blow for the kingdom to spend another nine months in a brain fog. It doesn’t feel like we are fighting for the future of our country as we drive strollers with one elbow so we can hold one fat defiant hand while sloshing coffee on ourselves with the other.

But His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He loves the obedience of the widows mite – the offering of the littlest thing that is our everything. It can seem so petty and uninteresting when what you are putting in the offering box is giving up sleeping in. Or joyfully driving the mini van that you never wanted. Or spending Friday nights folding laundry and picking up board books. But God delights in that, and He delights in us as we obey.
Do we want to spend our time giving little things that delight our Savior, or trying desperately to please the world? The world might be pleased with us if we stood for hours in our stupid sneakers fighting for a woman’s right to kill her children, but they will never applaud us for being inconvenienced and actually carrying those children.

What we are failing to see is that this weakness haunts us so much when we want to rely on our own strength. But this weakness is His to strengthen. This weakness is the greatest offering that we can give – because it is the offering of obedience.

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34 thoughts on “Unloosed!

  1. Thank you. You are such an encouragement to me. There is such freedom in rally, truly, not caring what the world thinks of us. Oh Lord, take my eyes of that…again! Thank you, Rachel.

  2. Very, very good. So helpful and encouraging!


    I’m sorry this is so short and grammatically lacking, but I’m on my iPad. Otherwise I could go on and on about how this made me smile, how much I think moms need to hear this, how wise you are….

    In Him,

  3. I love the analogy about corsets and how we have been trained to “need” the corsets the world has thrown at us. I want to think about that more.

    I think there are even times that I trade the corset of the world’s approval for my motherhood with corset the church’s/other Christian’s approval… do I have enough children to seem like a godly, devoted mother? Does everyone see how much I am sacrificing for my kids? Do they approve of the amount of time that I spend teaching my kids about spiritual matters? I can be held up by these things rather than by God, His Word and ultimately His approval.

    Thank you for this!

  4. You totally hit the nail on the head, and we need constant reminders that it’s God’s opinion that matters, not other people’s. I used to be one of those women standing up for “reproductive rights.” I used to be someone who never wanted to get married and never wanted kids. And hear I am, married with two little girls, loving God with all my heart, trying to be more like Jesus every day (and failing so often, ugh), and standing in awe of mothers of large families like yours. and yet….I am still struggling to shake the effects that feminism has had upon me. I struggle to serve my husband cheerfully all the time, to not be cynical at times about what I do. Your books and your posts have been so encouraging, such wonderful reminders of what’s important, of WHO is most important. And your sense of humor is the icing on the cake. I go back to your posts again and again for encouragement (bc I gave your books away to a new mom!).
    Keep it up! We need you!!!!! xoxo

  5. Thanks Rachel for sharing! That is just what I needed to read as I lay here this morning trying not to throw up from growing a little blessing! In this weakness and inadequacy, He is strong!

  6. Thank you for this post. I discovered it via Thankful Homemaker on Facebook. Very encouraging for us moms who want to glorify God and not the worldly culture around us. I completely understand how at our weakest (when I haven’t had sleep in nearly 4 years) that God can be praised.

    My family and friends that know how little sleep I get – are amazed that I can function at all (even I’m in awe). I tell them it’s by the grace of God and they figure it must be true, because they cannot find another explanation.

    In raising my children – I have also discovered where I am weak at. I’m happy God always comes to my rescue when I need it the most.

  7. Thanks, Rachel. I think God was just pouring blessings on my head when he timed me having small people alongside your writing. Thanks for taking time during your busy party to write for us!

  8. Thank you!! Thank you!! A lot of times I picture you as the coach in the locker room giving all of us weary moms a much needed pep talk. Thank you for sharing your gift of encouragement with us.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I walked through the grocery store today, with my four children six and under, obviously very pregnant, to hear two women do exactly what you said — count my children, say “another one on the way too!” and turn away in disapproval. It does sting, though I know it shouldn’t. “blessed are you when people insult you” (Matt. 5.11). Thank you for reminding me that I was blessed today!

  10. Ahh..what an encouraging article. I am sad to say I am stuck in that mindset as a young mother, as quoted, has: ” selfish desires, shallow ideals, visions of unattainable beauty, and a false understanding of success” It plagues me everyday to be thinking of these things and not feeling confident as a mother. Everything seems mundane and I am always feeling like my father is standing over my shoulder telling me to do more, be more, attain more. I am thankful that I have a husband who is content in me being a wife & mother and not always pushing me to get some important career. Motherhood has brought out so many weaknesses and shown me how selfish I am. But I love my son so much and am thrilled that I am able to stay home with him and only work part-time out of my house. Thanks again for this post and this blog, and for women who stand up for godly living.

  11. “It doesn’t feel like we are fighting for the future of our country as we drive strollers with one elbow so we can hold one fat defiant hand while sloshing coffee on ourselves with the other.”
    Love it! Were you watching me?! 🙂 Thank you for your wisdom. I look forward to all your posts.

  12. “How bizarre is it that a woman with a brood of little people growing up in her care, with her love can regularly wonder what it would be like to do something important?”

    Amen, and thank you! It has taken God’s pruning to change my attitude about my vocation. I used to think my “something important” needed to be encyclopedia worthy but now know that my daily love and nourishment of my family has great worth. As always, I love what you have to say and enjoy the way you say it!

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you. “I didn’t realize that the real struggle of motherhood is not the using of my own strength, but rather the exposing of my weakness.”

    Four months ago, my baby girl was born with Down syndrome and a severe heart defect. Since then, all I have been feeling is weak. Dealing with all the appointments and feeding tubes and hospital stays… preparing for my daughter’s open-heart surgery… it all feels so overwhelming. How wonderfully encouraging to be reminded that “the true challenge of motherhood is meeting your own weakness,” that I am right where I need to be in admitting my lack of strength and declaring God’s sufficiency!

    Please keep writing — I always find so much encouragement when there is a new post!

  14. Thankyou for your encouraging words! This is the first of your blogs I have read and it won’t be the last.
    Your corset analogy is apt, but I do think it should be said explicitly that living without the world’s approval (the corset) does not automatically make us stronger in ourselves (using our own muscles). In fact, we still desperately need the strength and structure of something mightier than ourselves. Praise be that God is our strength!
    I know this is what you meant, however I think it bears repeating so that none of us feel tempted to feel guilty when we don’t FEEL free from the world. Alison, God is not looking over your shoulder and telling you to be better. He is keeping you in weakness so that you can look to Him for all your needs, rather than relying on the world or yourself. He does this because He wants a relationship with you, He wants you to receive blessings from His hand, He loves you! He knows that when we are not weak, we try do get by without Him. He does not promise to deal with your imperfections at some point in the future (or demand that you do it yourself), He has already done it. Completely. Jesus died to free you from judgement. You are free from the judgement of the world. Don’t substitute it for judgement from other Christian mothers! Let this blog be an encouragement, not a condemnation.

  15. Thank you! I love reading your words- so encouraging!
    Sara F. I will be praying for you, your family and little girl!

  16. Pursuing the corset analogy, my Auntie (born 1891) wore corsets until her death in 1980 and told me she couldn’t stop wearing them as they kept her warm; she felt cold without them, even in summer. The ‘corsets of the world’ must provide that same external warmth and comfort.

  17. Thank you for showing up this popular thinking as wordly. I constantly need to check my thoughts.

    It is a relief to know that this weakness I feel is good, as I must be strengthened by God to do the job he has given me to do.

    Please correct my thinking in application of these truths. Today I had a similar grocery store experience to the one you described. I was trying to pick up fries off the floor with a baby strapped to my chest and two small ones trying to help and people looking on when a kind man stopped to help. I was embarrassed at my weakness. I feel the need to be strong in public, to show that having lots of little ones is good. But on days like today I get pitiful looks from bystanders and I feel like I’ve let the side down.

    Do I let God worry about his glory when my weaknesses are exposed to unbelievers?

    Or is the problem that I have bought into the world’s idea that being inconvenienced in bending over by a baby in a pouch is weakness? And perhaps it isn’t?

  18. In the Bible in Romans 12:2 it says to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It goes on to say that in doing this you will be able to know what God’s will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will. How do you think this portion of scripture might relate to the issue we are discussing? Please feel free to continue this discussion in the comment section. I am certain you have further insights on the issue.

  19. Thank you so much.
    I got married at 22yrs,Marriage life has been tough and i have always thought that i wasted my youth years for a stupid family life that was quite tough,caring for my baby,dealing with my unfaithful ans selfish husband while i should have been completing my degree,working in a mighty company,attending cocktails,travelling the world like my friends BUT not anymore,Thanks for letting me know that God’s opinion matters most and that he loves my obedience.

  20. “We are a generation of women who grew up in a world that corsets young women with selfish desires, shallow ideals, visions of unattainable beauty, and a false understanding of success.The kinds of muscles that we need to be a mother at home with a bunch of kids are seriously out of practice.”

    This post hit me like a ton of bricks…in a really great way. Thank you. Thank you for your insight and your honesty and your encouragement. I am so thankful.

  21. Thanks for addressing our weakness and how God gives us His grace…..I was hoping for approval of family or other people even though I knew that I was doing God’s work…we come from such an approval based culture. Now I’m reminded that my weakness is beautiful and God is working in me. I’ve been contemplating how it would be nice if we had some formalities like in 1820s where respect for person was present and more gracious conduct….Darwinian survival of the fittest is so destructive….Could you address this sometime?

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