“Children tie the mother’s feet.” — old Tamil proverb
I read that in Amy Carmichael’s biography — the story of a young single woman who, through no plan of her own but simply because she followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, became “mother” to hundreds of abandoned and abused Indian children. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It took rather a long time for the truth of this Tamil proverb to dawn on Amy… …that she must allow her feet to be tied for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.”
There is a pervasive lie in the water that we all drink, and it is this: if you do everything right, you can have it all. It appealed to Eve, and it appeals to us. At least, it appeals to me. It entices me and draws me in, and subsequently wraps me in the chains of discouragement and discontent.
I remember reading in “Loving the Little Years” that it’s okay to have a baby and consequently look like you had a baby. It’s okay to bear in your body the marks of sacrifice. In fact, it’s kind of weird to yield your body for the creative work of forming an entire other person (or two, or ten), and then wanting to erase all traces of that. Go back to your 20-year-old figure, as though that pre-baby body was your “true self.” Yes: steward your body, keep it in good health, realize it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to now serve your adult children and their children, and maybe even their children — but for heaven’s sake, stop trying to erase all traces of childbearing from your tummy and thighs. Your body is a tool to use, not a museum piece to put on the shelf. You are a living sacrifice, and just may look a bit like one, too. You can’t have it all.
“One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”
If you have a Mom-body, it may because you are a mom. That’s not just okay; it’s a gift from God that we don’t need to do penance for.
Somehow I can feel like a truly successful mom is one who hits a home run every day in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and schooling and is involved with every other thing, too, in church and community. And beyond this unseen force that pressures me to stop being a loser and start doing something with my life, there’s of course the desire in me that every once in awhile makes me really really really want to do ALL THE THINGS. The fun things, the important things, the things that SOMEBODY has to do. There are so many things. Shouldn’t I be able to do them, too?
Because if you’re really good at being a mom, those kids will barely be a blip on the screen of your go-go-go and productivity. Right?
We want to have the kids, be a good mom, and have none of that leave any impact on how we look or run our lives.
We want it all.
And yet, shouldn’t there be a mark? Shouldn’t there be an obvious impact? Shouldn’t our lives look like they are being sown into the field of our children’s lives?
It’s okay that your children “tie your feet.” It’s okay that their need for the gospel in word an deed requires every ounce of your energy and creativity. It’s okay that the fearful and wonderful design of them left your belly wrinkled and squishy — with no sign of ever returning. It’s what we were made for: to lay down our lives for these little ones.
If Jesus can stand in eternity, bearing the marks of sacrifice in His hands and feet, I think it’s probably okay to expect that our sacrifices may also leave their mark, on our bodies and time and energy.
We can’t have “it all”. But we can have ALL of the abundant life we so desire as we follow our Savior. And the best part? Chains fall, and we run freely into joy and peace — soft tummies and all.