Before I became a mom, I loved sleep. I always have. I looked forward to weekends when I wouldn’t have to set the alarm and could get up whenever I wanted. I could easily sleep ten hours if given the opportunity. Maybe more!
Becoming a mom challenged this love for sleep. Those first few months when my son was a newborn were hard. I slept between feedings during the night. I followed the night time cycle mothers know all too well: feed, sleep an hour or two, and feed again. Repeat.
In the morning, I’d calculate in my mind how many total hours of sleep I got from the interrupted sleep I caught in between feedings. “Six. That’s not bad. You can make it on six,” I’d tell myself. Despite my pep talk, I couldn’t make it. I was exhausted. Over time, I became obsessed with sleep. It was an elusive thing that always moved farther out of my reach. I strategized ways to get more. But even when I did lie down to sleep, the slightest noise would awaken me. Sometimes no matter how tired I was, I couldn’t fall asleep. I told myself, “If only I got a solid eight hours. I’d be a happier person. I’d be a better mom.”
You could say I worshipped sleep.
What? Worship sleep? You might think it’s impossible to worship something we need, something that is good for us. In truth, even good things become idols when we turn to them to give us life and hope.
Idolatry in Motherhood
Jesus summarized the ten commandments as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” (Matt. 22:37-40). When we put our love and trust in anything apart from God to make life work, to give us hope, meaning, purpose, or significance, that thing has become an idol. We turn to that person, thing, or experience to give us what only God can give.
Some idols are obvious to us, such as fame or wealth. We see the rich and famous pursue these with gusto. But there are other idols that are less obvious—sometimes so much so we don’t recognize them as idols. In fact, even good things (like sleep!) can become so significant in our lives we place them on the throne of our heart to worship.
For moms, the best way to determine if something is an idol is to look at how we handle the daily stresses and pressures of motherhood. Because, to be honest, motherhood is hard and filled with hard and challenging days. There are always interrupted plans, sick children, temper tantrums, overwhelming chaos, and bone-weary days. When motherhood is hard, to what do we turn to give us life and hope?
When our husband is out of town for work and the kids have been sick for days and we’ve had no sleep, what do we turn to for hope? Do we seek comfort in food or binge-watching an entire season of a television show? Do we distract ourselves with social media?
When life is chaotic and out of control, what do we turn to for help? Do we seek to control the chaos through lists, plans, and methods, trusting in them to make life better?
What is our ‘if only’? What is that thing we think, “If only ____ would happen, then life would be better, complete, whole?” That ‘if only’ is an idol, something we turn to for hope apart from Christ.
A Mother’s Only Hope
Eventually, my son got a little older and a little bigger and slept through the night. And I got more sleep as well. But you know what? My life didn’t get better. Instead, I told myself I needed other things to change to make life work and to give me hope in the daily challenges of life as a mom. I sought hope in new circumstances, in coffee, in relationships, in new things. I turned to idols to give me what only God could give me.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful,” (Heb. 10:23). The truths of the gospel, of who Christ is and what he has done, are our confession of hope. They are our security; they anchor us in the storms of life and in the chaos of motherhood.
Our God is faithful. He promised to send a Savior and he did. We need to steep our hearts in the Word of God, reading and rereading what God did for us by sending his Son to redeem us from sin. If God rescued us from our worst fear—eternal separation from him—how can he not also deliver us from our current fears? How can we think that he would leave us on our own in our daily problems? How can we think that he would let us drown in the challenges of motherhood? Our God went to great lengths to rescue us from death, going so far as to send his Son to die for us. He has proven himself faithful. How can we not trust him to be faithful in our lives right now?
Moms, we do need help and hope. Motherhood is challenging and sometimes downright hard. But our help and hope are not found in a change of circumstances, in a pint of ice cream, or in a new parenting method. Our hope is found in Christ, in who he is and what he has done for us. He is our help and our source of life.
Christina Fox is a speaker, writer, editor, and blogger. She is the author of Idols of a Mother’s Heart (Dec. 2018), A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament, and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish. She is a homeschooling mom to two boys, loves her coffee black, and enjoys browsing antique shops. Christina shares her faith journey at www.christinafox.com.