Let me briefly tell you about my journey of motherhood so far: I was deliriously happy to marry my amazing husband when I was nineteen years old. We had our first daughter a few weeks before our 2nd anniversary when I was twenty-one. What took place after that can only be described as an out-of-control snowball careening down a slope that grew bigger at a maddening pace. More specifically, I had five daughters and one son by the time I was twenty-nine. That’s right, six kids before I was thirty years old.
I don’t share that to boast about my large family. There are very few circles left where a family of eight comes with bragging rights. I don’t say that to convince you that I’m a Super Mom because I am most definitely not. In fact, I believe God uses children to sanctify and purify His saints. I am fully convinced that God gave me so many children because I am a selfish person in need of A LOT of sanctification. I shared about my family so that when I tell you right now that I am weary, when I say I am overwhelmed, when I say I am flat-out tired, you will (hopefully) believe me. If you are worn down as a mom, I am right there with you, sister.
Yesterday was a particularly difficult day for me. I felt like all the things my children were doing were in direct opposition to everything I have worked to instill in them. It was an exaggerated, emotion-driven analysis of what was actually happening. In reality, my children were being children and I was annoyed and acting very selfishly. I was exhausted and meditating on what my life would be like if I were serving as a missionary in Brazil instead of being an “unsuccessful” mother to these energetic children. Y’all, everything about my attitude and my thoughts were wrong and dishonoring to God.
I had skipped my Bible study yesterday. Could you tell? Had I gone to the Word of God, I would have read John 15 like I did in my study this morning. I would have been convicted and encouraged in my parenting like I am today. (Sigh) We live and learn, ladies.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another“ (John 15:12-17).
These verses that I have read over and over again sliced me deep this time. My flesh and my soul mourned my outlook on being a mother to these beautiful children that I have. Jesus is talking to His disciples here, giving them some of His last encouragements before He is betrayed and crucified. I have read these verses so many times, but I realized today that there is so much that we as mamas can learn from these words of The Word. I encourage you to read all of John 15. It’s magnificent. So is John 14. So is the entire book of John. Anyway…
The Way of Love
This passage of scripture begins with Jesus commanding us to “love one another,” and He specifies that we should love the way that He loves us. Then He explains that the greatest expression of that love is laying down one’s life for one’s friends. Spoiler Alert: That’s what Jesus did for us. If we are to love like He does, we are expected to lay down our lives for others. I can imagine myself giving my last penny to someone in need or taking a bullet for a family member. I can envision hundreds of big and momentous situations in which I can, for the sake of the gospel, lay down my life for another. I would like to think that I wouldn’t hesitate, but would gladly give my last breath laying down my life for another in love.
But what about daily laying down my life in a million small ways for my children?
I fight that. I hesitate to put my desires and needs to the side to give my children every last bit of myself. Yet, this is what Jesus is calling me to as a Christian and as a mother. When I read this passage I have to remember that my children are my One Anothers. Laying down my life for them is the way of true love. Jesus, help me! I have failed at this in some way every single day.
Being a Friend of Jesus
In verse 15, Jesus calls the disciples His friends. A friend of God knows what God intends to do. As followers of Christ, God has given us His Word and His Spirit, so we are also qualified to be called His friends. The kicker is back in verse 14, though. Jesus says His friends obey Him, and specifically, obey His command to love one another the way that He loves us. Did that simple truth pierce your soul like it did mine?
Growing up I was such a goody-goody on the outside. I was always the teacher’s pet and I rarely got in trouble with my parents. I like to be recognized for doing the right thing. My heart, though…my heart is a passionate rebel. It’s a constant battle to kill my flesh and follow Jesus obediently. My favorite hymn is “O Come Thou Fount” because my heart resonates with the last stanza because I can confess my heart’s tendency to wander away from God and beg Him to “bind” me to Himself. How many commandments have I disobeyed? To love my children sacrificially…to train my children instead of leaving them to their own devices…to not complain…to rejoice...to count my trials as joy…to be grateful…to keep my mind on things above. I am constantly failing at this whole being obedient thing. Yet, God forgives my failures, clothes me in Christ’s righteousness, and continues to be my Faithful Friend. Oh, God, grant me repentance and make it my joy to obey You!
Jesus reminds his disciples that He chose each of them. Jesus operated well within the character of the Triune God because God has been choosing individuals to use for His glory since the book of Genesis. He chose the patriarchs, the nation of Israel, the prophets, the disciples, and He even chooses each of us that He calls to salvation through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). God chose ME, and He pursued my heart and caused me to be born again into an eternal salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5). Every time God remains faithful to the covenant of salvation that He cut for me by the death and resurrection of Jesus, He is choosing me all over again – despite my wicked and wayward predispositions. There is no other truth from the scripture that humbles me and makes my soul sing with thankfulness more than that of God choosing me according to His grace and love.
Bearing Abiding Fruit
Jesus goes on to explain that He chose His disciples with a purpose in mind: that they would “bear fruit.” Bearing fruit entails doing good deeds for the glory of God. For the disciples, bearing fruit consisted of spreading the gospel to the nations. My calling to bear fruit isn’t so different. The hearts that God has currently called me to minister to are found right in my home. Many times, I desire to go beyond the walls of my home to far away places to serve others and spread the good news about Jesus. Why, soul? Why are you always missing what is right in front of you? I have the unique opportunity to pour every ounce of my life out for the sake of the gospel right here in my home! I have six little people who desperately need Jesus and need someone to teach them God’s truth in their everyday lives. God didn’t choose me to be a jungle missionary in this season of my life; He has called me to be a Missionary Mama, serving and sacrificing to lead these precious children to Him. One of the most encouraging things I see Jesus say here is that He called His disciples to bear fruit that will “abide.” According to Strong’s Concordance, that word “abide” means to stay or remain.
That’s what I desire more than anything from my mothering: that all of the laboring and toiling that I do each day will amount to something eternally significant in the lives of my children.
God chose you to be a mother, He has called you to bear fruit in your parenting, and He is saying that the fruit He produces from your hard work will remain. Praise God!
Asking and Receiving
“…so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” Do you know what I should have been doing on my horrible day yesterday? I should have been asking God to help me obey Him, to give me a better attitude, and to help me walk with the Spirit so that I could bear His fruit. (See Galatians 5:22-25. For real though, look it up.) To be frank, I didn’t seek out the Lord at all. I sat and sulked in my feelings of being tired and annoyed and overwhelmed. Don’t follow my example from yesterday; just go to the Father. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Do you need grace and help in your mothering? Are you experiencing a time of need? You have a good God who gives good things to His children, so don’t hesitate to ask Him for help.
It’s All About Love
In John 15:17 Jesus says, “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” The passage we’ve looked at begins and ends with commands to love. And who are some of your One Anothers? Your children are. In the next eight verses, Jesus warns the disciples that they will be hated because of Him, but the friends of God are supposed to love others. Mom, as you train your children to be decent human beings and to know and love Jesus, you will be disliked and opposed. Yet, you are commanded to love. As you endure in this, your obedience to God is producing in you a more genuine love for others.
Mamas, when you feel besieged by needy children and are weary of day-to-day tasks, remember that your work is NOT in vain. You have been chosen as a friend of God to produce fruit in your mothering. You have the ability to ask your Father for help when you feel like you have run out of patience and strength for the day. With every small (and big) sacrifice, you are learning to love in obedience to Christ. You may not be a Super Mom, you may not have an abundance of tolerance for cartoon characters and incessant questions, but you do have Jesus. His grace is sufficient on the easy days and the hard days. Jesus is enough.
Vanessa Ortiz disciples her 6 children with her husband, Noe, near Houston, Texas.