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On a recent family trip, our hotel had an indoor pool. My two little ones loved playing in the water at first, but my son quickly grew bored and preferred walking around the pool. I spent the rest of our pool time hunched over, walking him around, clenching his hand because he was quick to let mine go. I had to grip his hand harder and harder as he tried to pull away, believing (as stubborn one-year-olds do) that he could do it on his own. Sometimes I felt patient—sometimes impatient—but I also sensed a steadily growing suspicion that in his stubbornness, my son was more like me than I cared to admit.
Every day, I struggle with sin—especially in relationship to my children. I know that God wants me to be patient with my kids, but I get frustrated when they play with their toys instead of putting on their shoes. I know my children are good gifts from God, but I envy the friend who runs errands alone. My daily actions show that I’m not the compliant child who loves to hold the hand of my heavenly Father. Instead I pull away, believing that I’m strong enough to conquer daily struggles on my own. Like a mirror, motherhood displays my weaknesses, faults, and sins.
I’ve tried to chalk up my sin to simply making mistakes and doing the best I can. I’ve told myself that next time I’ll do better—I just need to try harder. But, I’ve found these mantras to be unhelpful and untrue.
When we recognize that we’re weak and sinful, we put ourselves in our proper place before a holy God. Recognizing our daily need of a Savior puts us on the right path to becoming more like Jesus—the path of sanctification.
Sanctification depends on Christ’s work
Before motherhood, I was quite pleased with myself. Since my husband and I had been married for several years, through God’s grace we had ironed out some of the more youthful difficulties in our marriage. Of course, I recognized myself as a sinner confessionally, but internally, I’m not sure I entirely believed it to be true.
…Then my daughter became a toddler.
Motherhood is hard. It brings out the best and the worst in us. But each moment is an opportunity to display dependence on Christ’s work as opposed to our own.
Hebrews beautifully describes Jesus as “the founder and perfecter of our faith” because he “endured the cross” in order to save sinners (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus’s death on the cross allows for the forgiveness of all our sins, but we’re still perpetual works in progress, until the day we see Jesus face to face. What a promise for us! We’re promised that through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, God will make us more like his Son each and every day.
And how will this perfecting process occur? Often, through hard circumstances.
Just as Christ endured hardship, so will we, and it often comes in the day to day context of motherhood. We experience hard things when our kids wake up several times each night and we have a work commitment the next morning, or when we feel unappreciated even though we’ve spent long hours cleaning the house. Sometimes motherhood brings greater suffering, like when a child raised to trust Jesus rejects him, or during the deeply rooted grief of a miscarriage.
But these hard circumstances are opportunities for us to be weak and needy before our Father. The promise of the gospel is that we don’t have to be strong enough to endure the suffering of this life on our own.
Sanctification is deeply relational
It’s through these difficult times I’m reminded that the process of sanctification is profoundly personal. God made us for relationship with himself. And when that relationship was broken by sin, he went through great lengths to fix it, sending his Son to live with us and die for us. So we’re not simply commanded to obey and sent on our way.
Instead, we’re promised that Christ understands our weaknesses because, during his time on this earth, he experienced temptation just like us. So we don’t need to be afraid when we don’t measure up. We can confidently draw near to Jesus, knowing that he loves us and desires to help us.
And when Jesus prepared to leave his disciples, he promised that his Father would give us the Holy Spirit, who would be known to us, never leave us, and even dwell in us. God always remains near, giving us the means and power to “repent and believe” through every difficult and easy moment with our children (Mark 1:5).
When we’re impatient with our children, God is near. When we preach the gospel to our children, God is near. When we feel like we’re alone and no one is listening, God is near. We’re promised that God will work in us to make us more like his son until we’re complete—and he won’t give up on us before then.
Sanctification results in dependence
My family had a second pool day on our trip, and once again, my son’s interest in the pool only lasted so long. I braced myself for the inevitable tug of war. But this time, I was pleasantly surprised that I could feel his little hand gripping mine. This time, I didn’t have to fight for his hand. My surprise soon melted into the sweetest satisfaction, and my son’s willing dependence filled me with joy.
How often do we fight to let go of our good Father’s hand when he wants to do what’s best for us? But God, with infinite kindness, patiently grasps our hands tighter.
When I consider the process of sanctification, I’m first reminded of my shortcomings, and how often my days look like I’m simply surviving. But when I look at Christ, I’m reminded that every display of sin and weakness is an opportunity for God to make me more like his Son. It’s an opportunity for me to repent of my sin and focus on the cross as opposed to myself.
Every day is an opportunity for me to hold my good Parent’s hand in utter dependence, knowing that I can trust my Father to make me more like him, in and through motherhood.
 Hebrews 4:15
 Hebrews 4:16
 John 14:15-17
 Philippians 1:6
Ashley Anthony is a wife of 9 years, mother of 2, English instructor, and seminary student. She spends most of her day as “momma,” and squeezes as many responsibilities as she can during nap and bed times. She has her M.A. in English and is pursuing an M.A.R. alongside her husband at Westminster Theological Seminary.