Twenty-something years ago, pregnant with my first child, I participated in classes on prepared childbirth and breastfeeding. Okay, seven babies later, I have to admit that the idea of a mother having to be trained to deliver or nurse her baby seems very silly. What other member of the animal Kingdom has to attend classes in order to do something so natural, something which to a large extent just happens, whether you're educated/experienced or not? Those classes did make me feel better prepared, however, and the breathing techniques I learned have been helpful in an astonishing variety of situations besides childbirth.
One of the books I read then - back when breastfeeding was slowly becoming a more popular option for modern mothers than bottle feeding - had a peculiar illustration. It compared the deragotory labels various countries used for other nationalities. While an insensitive American might use the expression "vodka drinker" to refer to someone from Russia, eastern Europeans had their own slang for us - America was called the land of "milkless women."
Milkless women. Androgenous "females" incapable of mothering their own babies. Sure, American women may look like they have the goods, but in reality they are dry and unfruitful.
Fast forward 20+ years. Today, many more American women choose breast feeding over bottle feeding. Or, aware of the health benefits of breast milk, they at least pump milk to be bottle fed by others to their babies. Can we finally deny the slam that we are a nation of "milkless women"?
I'm inclined to think not. While it looks like we have discovered the value of breast milk for babies, it is not yet evident that we have discovered the value of mothering. Yes, we finally have working lactation equipment - but do we have working hearts?
As a mom, am I grateful for the opportunity to use my energy and my talents to invest in my family? Or, do I resent the imposition of having to care for small, ungrateful children, wishing I could instead use my energy and talents for my personal benefit? Am I willing to spend my life serving in a way the rest of the world fails to notice (or even devalues)? Or, am I hungry for recognition, longing for some kind of validation from society? Do I consider having to wear faded jeans and drive a clunky car a small price to pay for the treasure of holding my children for more than a few minutes every day? Or, do I covet the vacations and retirement accounts of others, inwardly angry that I can't be home with my babies and have a lucrative career?
Honestly, I've felt all of the above at various times. This mothering business is tough work. Sometimes, I don't care what anyone says about the value of raising children - I just want a week on the beach ...by myself, by golly! I can make milk, but I can't make my heart be consistently filled with sweetness, with sincere affection, with sacrificial love for the children God has given me.
God, in His great mercy, redeems even this fundamental relationship. While Satan would have mothers (and fathers) consider their children a burden and a liability or perhaps a glorified pet, God enacts for us the true love of a parent for a child. From creation to Glory, He tells us in Scripture, "This is how you parent. This is what parental love looks like." And, discovering ourselves inadequate to such a high and holy calling, we find in Him the grace and strength to answer in spite of ourselves, "Yes." Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, ends with the beautiful promise that God would send His Messenger, who would "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children..." In Christ, we are freed from being apathetic (or even resentful) fathers and mothers who perform the mechanics of parenting while devoid of truly loving hearts. We are freed to love, and to love generously.
In Christ, we are no longer milkless women. You could even say, in Christ, regardless of our nationality, we are women "flowing with milk and honey."
3 weeks ago