Sunday, May 8, 2011

No Greater Love

John chapter 15, v 12 and 13:

This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

I have heard and read this scripture many times over my life.  I have heard heroic stories of people who gave their life for another, and been impressed by their love for another.  I think it is a rare and special thing when someone has the chance to do such a thing for another.

As I have thought about Mothers' Day this year, this scripture has come to mind many times.  It occurs to me that there is more than one day to lay down your life, and I see that evidence all around me, especially in Mothers.  A one-time heroic act takes seconds, or minutes, and is over.  A mother "lays down her life" hour after hour, day after day.  Daily putting the needs of another over her own.  Hourly stopping what she wants to do, in order to do what someone else wants her to do.  Year after year, making sacrifices and allowances because she loves another.

We are, by nature, selfish creatures.  Our nature dictates that we look after ourselves before all others.  We have instincts that protect self, that care for self, and that avoid any danger or damage to self.  I am, by nature, selfish.  I often resent having to "do for others".  Sometimes I complain, and get annoyed.  Sometimes I want to get away and have a break to be selfish.  Sometimes I don't appreciate all that I have.  I am probably not much different than most mothers.  I strive to do my best.  I strive to be what they need.  I strive to be their advocate, their friend, their advisor, their supporter, and their corrector.  I strive to serve them unselfishly, hour after hour, day after day.  To feel honored, rather than annoyed, when I am the only one they want.  When they need comfort in the middle of my sleep.  When they unleash pent up emotions for me to help them work out. 

One of my favorite bloggers, day in and day out is Sarah from Clover Lane.  She is the mother that I aspire to be.  I learn so much about motherhood from reading her posts.  I learn to appreciate my children, to stop complaining, and to do the hard things because it is good for them.  This past week I read a post from her about how a mother needs fortitude.  (Please click on the link and read the post- it will be well worth your time).  I am reposting some of her words here, because she put it so much better than I could have.

We have all heard that we need to take care of ourselves. In fact, I think it's overstated and often misinterpreted, and more annoyingly, I think, it's turned into something shallow and false. A manicure, a shopping trip with friends, a night out. Mommy makeover, mommy spa treatments, mommy's weekend away. There is nothing wrong with those of course, but I feel it's a perfect example of our culture's turn to a quick fix, a Pavlov's way of dealing with something quickly on the surface, and never looking deeper. Those things all help in the moment, and the recharge lasts for a moment, an hour, a day. They won't sustain us.

Motherhood lasts forever (forever!) and takes us up hills and down valleys, and sure there are those beautiful meadows, where as soon as we think we get it all figured out, we are shown otherwise. We meet with unchartered territory and we are filled with doubts and worries and frustration.

Manicures on the other hand, hardly make it through the dinner dishes. A shopping trip, a night out, have always seemed to me like coming up for sweet air, with just a gasp of breath allowed before we go back under and must begin to swim again.

We are looking in the wrong places perhaps. Perhaps our recharge is not "out there". Perhaps it cannot be bought, or stolen, or compacted into minutes, or hours or a few short days.

Perhaps it must be constant and is only found inside of us. A daily commitment to find a moment of solitude, to let our hearts and minds be still. A daily commitment to remind ourselves of what kind of mothers we intend to be for our children.
I am so grateful for the example of my own mother, who always helps me, and any of my siblings, any time we call her.  I don't think I have ever heard her say no to any of the millions of requests.  In fact, she often tells me how babysitting my kids at the last minute will help her out somehow!  Her advice is wise, and I do well anytime I follow it.  I'm grateful for my mother in law, who happily does all the mundane tasks- I have never seen someone cook, clean, do dishes and fold laundry with such true enjoyment!  I'm grateful for my sisters, who are fantastic women and mothers, and who inspire me to be better.  I'm grateful for my friends, who let me vent with understanding, and who give me wise advice and needed support.  I'm grateful for my children's birthmothers, who are both wonderful mothers themselves, and without whom, I wouldn't be a mother.  These women are fantastic examples of unselfishness to me, and I try each day to be more like them.


Katie said...

Oh Shanna, this was just... beautiful. I can't think of any other words. I loved this post! Thank you. (by the way while "Sarah from Clover Lane" might be the mother you aspire to be, YOU are the mother I aspire to be. Thank you for your example to me.)

Rebecca said...

Shanna, I think of you every single Mothers Day because of the post you wrote a few years ago. And also because you are one of the best mothers I know. Like Katie said, you are definitely one to aspire to be.

Rebecca said...

I left out that this post is beautiful and you are so right on!

ali said...

that was a great post-- very well said.