Letting Go – The Pain and Joy of Being a Mother

My daughter, son-in-law and family
My daughter, son-in-law and family

As I sit here this Mother’s Day, with all of my children and grandchildren living miles and miles away from me, (some live 350 miles away, and the rest of them live more than 700 miles away from me), I am contemplating what it means to be a mother…

When I was a little girl, growing up, feeling unloved and unwanted, I dreamed of one day having children and a husband, who would always love me, no matter what.  When I grew up, and became a mother, that dream changed…  Oh, I still wanted my children and my husband to always love me, no matter what, but that was no longer my main goal.  As I held both my son and my daughter in my arms after each one of them was born, I felt an overwhelming love for them, which cannot be described.  Then, as I looked at the man that I had vowed to love, honor and cherish as long as we both shall live, I was awash with a flood of love for him as well.  Suddenly, having someone to love me was no longer my priority.  For, in an instant, God had changed the selfish longings of a little girl into an unselfish desire.  Now, my number one priority was to make sure that my husband and my children always knew that they were loved, no matter what.

My son and daughter-in-law
My son and daughter-in-law

In a world filled with condemnation and hatred, I’ve always loved my children, and I strove to ensure they knew that they were loved.  When they sinned or did anything wrong, I always wanted them to know that although I hated their sin, I still loved them.  When I was angry with them, still burning brightly within my heart was a deep, unending love for them.  After all, these were my babies.

Like most mothers, I was and am very protective of my children.  I struggle with the desire to shield them from all of the pain that every man, woman and child has endured, since Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, and yet, I know that this is foolish.  For the scriptures make it clear that everyone must endure troubles, in order to grow endurance and to become complete in the Lord…

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  ~ James 1:2-4  NLT ~

At times, I have felt like a mama bear, protecting her cubs.  There’s a built-in radar within me that KNOWS when someone is hurting one of my children, and nothing infuriates me  more than to see my child in painl. So, just as a mama bear will attack anyone that may only seem to be a threat to her cubs, I have been known to do the same, spending my rage on the person(s) I deemed dangerous, only to look back on the situation, years later, and understand that there may have been an important lesson that God wanted to teach my child.  Yet, rather than trusting in Him, with His unlimited power and love, to protect my children, I trusted in myself, with my limited mortal imperfections, and in the process, sometimes did more damage than good…..

One of the hardest, most painful lessons anyone, who desires to be a good and godly mother, must learn, is that our children, who are such a wonderful gift to us, are ours, only on loan.  From the time we first hold our infants in our arms, we must remember to hold  them lightly and gently.  For if we hold on to them too tightly, we may squeeze the life out of them.  If we look to the bible for examples of women, who were good mothers, the mother, who comes to my mind, is Hannah, mother of Samuel, the prophet of God.

Hannah was so desperate to have a child, that she cried out to the Lord, praying fervently.  In her desperation, she made this vow to the Almighty…

And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to You. He will be Yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”  ~ 1 Samuel 1:11  NLT ~

When I think of Hannah’s desperation for a child, I remember when my husband and I decided to have a child.  Would I be able to conceive a child?  What if I couldn’t have a child?  Did you experience that same desperation for a child?  Does every woman that wants a child experience that desperation?

Look at the price Hannah was willing to pay just so she could have a child to lavish her love on.  For, when Hannah held her beloved baby in her arms, she knew that she would only be able to hold him for a very short time.  Then, she would have to relinquish him to her heavenly Father.

What pain intermingled with everlasting joy, Hannah must have endured, when her beloved baby, Samuel was born.   As he suckled at her breast each time she nursed him, did Hannah contemplate that the time was nearing, when she would wean him, and she must let go of her hold on her beloved Samuel and release him to Eli, the priest and into God’s service?  Mothers, as you hold your infants in your arms, and let them nurse at your breast, do you understand that each time he/she nurses, you are one step closer to letting go of him/her?  With each new development, he/she achieves, holding his/her head up, cooing, laughing, you are one step closer to that moment, when you must relinquish your hold on your child, and let him/her go.

As I look at Hannah, I see much to admire in her.  She longed for a child, so much so that she made a vow to give him back to God, if only He would give her this child.  How exquisitely precious, yet painful it must have been as she held her child to her breast, knowing that as soon as he was weaned, she would keep her covenant with God, and return Samuel to Him.  What bittersweet joy she must have felt, as she changed each dirty diaper, knowing that as long as he nursed and dirtied his diaper, he would remain with her.  Yet when he was weaned, she must let him go.

Surely, she must have been tempted to “forget” her vow to the Lord, yet she remained true  to her word,  and her son grew to be one of Israel’s greatest judges and prophets.  In her obedience and willingness to let go of her son, she enabled him to be all that he was created and called to be.  How sad it would have been for both Samuel and Israel, if this brave and faithful mother had refused to let her son go!  In refusing to let her son go, she could have ruined Samuel’s great destiny.

Then, there is the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, who let go of his beloved son, knowing that in doing so, his son would leave home  and probably live a life of sin.  Indeed, the son did exactly what his father had feared he would do.  He squandered every penny of his inheritance on loose living and loose women.  Then, after losing all of the money his father had entrusted him with, the son really hit rock bottom, living on the streets, homeless, because of his recklessness.  Don’t you think the father grieved for his son, longing for him to return, so he could rest assured, knowing that his son was safe in his presence?  Though the father longed for his son’s love and obedience, he let him go, just as God lets us go our own way.  By letting his son go, the father won his son’s heart in the end, and his son returned a better man after living a sinful, adulterous life, because he was now humble and appreciative of his father’s love.

Mothers, when your child walks away from you, even though you know they’re walking into a life of sin, don’t be afraid to let him/her go.  For the tighter you hold your child to yourself, the further you are pushing him/her away from you.  Yet, by letting him/her go, you are giving God the opportunity to begin a good work in him/her, that He may not have been able to do, because you were always pushing Him away, as you tried to solve your child’s problems.

Are there other examples of mothers letting their children go?  Sure there are!  What would have happened if Mary hadn’t let go of Jesus?  What would have happened if Elizabeth had refused to let her son, John live in the wilderness, wearing camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey?  Beloved mothers, entrust your children to God, and let them go.  As long as we try to hold on to our children, we deny them the right to grow up strong and whole.

Do I wish my children lived closer to me?  Of course I do, but I choose to let them go where God leads them, and I trust Him to care for them and provide for their needs.  After all, my Father can do a much better job in taking care of my children, than I can.

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