Is this really the way God intended it to be? Have you ever felt, amidst the busyness of your life as a mom, like the hard work of child-rearing was swallowing up your entire life? Have you ever desired to discover a deeper sense of identity and purpose?
Many of us live with full lives and schedules—kids' games and concerts to attend, groceries to buy, bills to pay, children to invest in, careers to attend to. Carving out time for self-discovery in these contexts can seem selfish, especially for mothers.
Resist the False Choice
A woman described in the book of Proverbs tears down the false choice between selfishness and self-sacrifice. In the thirty-first chapter of this ancient book, we meet a woman who rises early, gathers food, creates beautiful clothes, and sells them in the marketplace—all while caring for her family. The writer says that by using her gifts, the woman accomplishes a lot of good and "her children stand and bless her" (Proverbs 31:28).
The remarkable point about the Proverbs 31 woman is that she doesn't give up. She could choose to simplify her life, forsake the full use of her gifts, and just focus on one duty (such as being a wife or a mother or an entrepreneur). But deep down she knows her responsibilities don't give her license to forsake her calling.
Rediscover Your Identity
Beginning in my early childhood, I struggled with a focus on performance—and this continued from my parents' nest to my marriage with Gabe and finally into my role of motherhood. Our family life was big and full—and I had a strategy to get there. House clean. Task list long, but items checked off. Crusts cut off sandwiches and kids carpooled to ballet, gymnastics, and baseball. Dinner parties prepped and new recipes tried.
But when night fell and the busyness subsided, I carried a cloud to bed with me. Like my favorite jigsaw puzzle, a piece seemed missing. I was a misfit. Like a "less-than" mother, wife, and woman. My task list was complete, but was I living the life God was calling me—and only me—to?
Trying to "do it all" yielded consequences as disastrous as my monochromatic life did. Either way I couldn't win. Does dying to myself really mean becoming less than who I'm meant to be? I wondered. The art of dying was delicate. I needed to kill my selfishness without killing my soul. Finding meaning in what felt meaningless would be part of the answer. And giving life to buried gifts would be the other.
Life exists in seasons. "For everything there is a season," Solomon once wrote, "and a time for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Seasons to change diapers, breast-feed, toilet train, spoon-feed. But what if it means more than that? Of course I'm called to be a mother just as Gabe is called to be a father. But if I'm not careful, I lose my identity. I become defined by something outside myself. I cease to be Rebekah, the uniquely talented woman made in God's image. I'm now only Rebekah, wife of Gabe. Or Rebekah, mother of Cade, Pierce, and Kennedy. I love these roles, but I also recognize that deriving one's identity from another person is a short road to resentment.
I wonder if women like me hide behind our husbands, our unfulfilling jobs, or even motherhood because we're afraid of embracing the full person God has created us to be. We wonder, What if I find I'm not good at anything else? What if the transformation hurts? What if I fail? Are our desires to satisfy the expecta-tions of others and play it safe keeping us from the full meaning God has for us?
I'm not suggesting that we give up on our families and go make our dreams come true. Quite the opposite! Women must discover their callings precisely because the health of their families, relationships, and communities is so vital. When we become who we're meant to be, everyone around us benefits. When we live out the stories God wants to tell through us, we bring healing to all who struggle alongside us.
Rebekah Lyons is a New York City mom of three and the co-founder of Q Ideas. This article is adapted from her book Freefall to Fly—A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning (Tyndale House, 2013). Used with permission.