The question “Who are you when no one is watching?” helps a person gauge their honesty and integrity. Everyone could benefit from this self-reflection from time to time. A more pressing and important question for mothers could be, “Who are you when you are not loving your husband and children, tending the house, or preparing the next meal?”
“I do not know,” has many times been my puzzled response since I cannot think of a time in the last five years when I did not have an immediate responsibility or obligation. I make the time to read a little every day, and sincerely wish that I could play the piano, but who am I apart from a mother?
Motherhood involves a lot of emptying out of ourselves, consumes massive amounts of time and energy, and is a daily struggle against selfishness. So when I am at the end of myself or the end of long day, how do I fill my empty soul?
Podcasts, clothing, exercise, job or volunteer-related recognition, Netflix, blogging and more sit easily within reach to help me define or distract myself. What about God? I go to Him and must quietly concentrate to read His Word. I go to Him and am convicted by the anger I felt the previous day. I go to God, and this is not easy.
I become what I think I about. Reliving a frustrating situation does not help me “vent,” it instead strengthens neural pathways. Following my heart does not automatically bring happiness or fulfillment, for “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). No, I must put my thoughts where I want them to be. Sometimes this feels as if I am stooping down, scooping up the turbulent waters of my thoughts and feelings, and turning around 180 degrees before I set them down with a determined “plop.”
When I am not in the present moment with my husband and children, where I “go” really matters. Where I put my thoughts is not akin to choosing which pair of shoes to wear or what meal to order. Where my thoughts dwell is a choice about how I will live and interact with my world. In Philippians 4:8 we read, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Last year I extensively studied God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Really grasping that it is by grace I have been saved, I was able to see and love people who hurt me with abundant grace. What is deep inside spills out when we are “squeezed” by life.
Similarly, choosing who or what defines me is a decision made daily, and sometimes more often than that. Am I the things that I do, the position that I hold, or am I a creation defined by my Creator? Does my worth come from myself or from the fact that I am made in the image of God? Like the dandelions that perennially poke their heads through my cultivated lawn, again and again I tend towards trying to define myself and my worth. But oh!, the peace, comfort, and security that comes in knowing that I am simply because He made me and loves me. I do not have to struggle or strive to earn His love or be a self-made woman. I can freely live and abundantly love, unthreatened by what others think of me, unashamed by what I could not accomplish this day, and undaunted by my shriveling resume.
Today I loved God by seeking Him first. I loved my neighbors – the little people living in the bedrooms lining my hallway, the people across the street and next door, and the people in my inbox. I simply “was” today. And I “am” right now. And that is enough.