“The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” --Mark 13:48.
This Bible verse is very relatable to the hearts of mothers. There’s nothing more beautiful than having a baby, a blessing from God, but what brings joy also brings suffering. Those months of anticipation, waiting for that sweet baby to grace the world with their presence, are also combined with apprehension. Whether the baby is your firstborn or your fifth child, the wonder and beauty doesn’t fade, though neither does the suffering as it only portrays itself through the many phases of parenthood.
Experience may provide us with security, but that doesn’t mean it will make the journey any easier. That journey will become more difficult if we choose to follow a path not in line with our vocations as wives and/or mothers. Family life is a specific calling by God that is an ultimate sacrifice of divine love, just as Our Lord sacrificed Himself for love of us on the Cross. As we walk through the days of motherhood, we must learn to mold those ordinary days into an extraordinary path towards sainthood.
Thinking back to those sleepless nights with my first baby, and now emptying myself for more sleepless nights with my fourth child, it’s easy to reignite feelings of appreciation and pure exhaustion. After my first baby, I remember distinctly cringing when the sun would begin to set. I would dread nighttime. I knew that another night would pass where I would not be able to sleep and I had always valued the gift of sleep.
As the years passed, and God gifted us with more children, those thoughts of recharging my sleep-deprived body seemed impossible. There were countless mornings where I never thought I would have the strength to get out of bed and fulfill my obligations to God or my family. Spiritual reading or daily devotions, even a rosary felt impossible and the guilt definitely became overwhelming at times. Yet God always gave me the strength to get through those trials only to be presented with new ones. On many days, I found it impossible to smile through my tired eyes and just longed for a solid three hours of sleep. It was a deep haze that I felt would never lift above my heavy eyes, but then something changed – I turned what little energy I had towards the Blessed Mother for her guidance.
God gave us the beautiful gift of His Blessed Mother who has remained by our side even as the Queen of Heaven - she should be a source of consolation to all mothers. She is a perfect example as she taught, worked, loved, and prayed alongside Jesus and St. Joseph. We may all strive to live a holy life with lofty goals of a deep prayer life, daily Mass, and charitable works of mercy, but this isn’t always realistic as mothers. God sends each soul a way of perfection to follow in line with their vocation and it is no different for mothers.
St. John of the Cross said, “Love does not consist in feeling great things but in having great detachment and suffering for the Beloved [God}”. This quote truly resonates for all mothers, whether they have little ones at home or are now feeling the effects of an empty-nest. The love of a mother is built on a bed of suffering, but if we begin to search deeper in our souls, we would not want it any other way.
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Let’s remember to look towards Mater Dolorosa who lived her life only to love and serve God. Much joy can be found in contemplating the small aspects of her life. Our Lady lived alongside Jesus Christ, but she also lived a life of joys and sorrows as most mothers do. These thoughts should give us great comfort as we walk through our daily tasks at home. If the Blessed Mother, who was without sin, lovingly swept the floor and washed the dishes by hand, then who are we to complain about vacuuming the rugs and loading the dishwasher? Let’s serve our families with charity and in union with our Crucified Savior.
“Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.” - Saint Francis de Sales
As mothers, we are given a wonderful opportunity to unite our sufferings with Christ, if we only remember to present those sufferings in reparation for the sins of the world, for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls of our children. God has truly given us a gift that we often take for granted. We may fail in our lofty goals of fasting, prayer, and penance, but the gift of caring for our families is truly a sacrifice, but with innumerable graces. It’s important for us to understand our talents and limitations, because through the grace of God, we are all called to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.
God knows our limits, if only we could truly learn to detach from our personal goals and beg for His graces that we may follow only His Will. His path might not be exactly what we envision, but His way is even better - if only we would accept the challenge. We might not always be 100% mentally present for Our Lord as we struggle with dirty diapers, hungry mouths, and crying babies, but those early chaotic years of motherhood was His Will at that moment. And there’s no place we should prefer than in union with His Will for our salvation.
As we push our minds, hearts, and souls through the rigors of motherhood, we must remember that someday we will have the opportunity to focus on a contemplative spiritual life and at the time we will be quite disappointed in ourselves if we didn’t fulfill our ordinary role as a mother in an extraordinary way.
“Watch ye, and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” Mark 14:38.
Copyright 2017 Danielle Heckenkamp
About the Author
Danielle Marie Heckenkamp is a stay at home mom and freelance writer who lives in the beautiful state of Wisconsin with her husband and five children. Motherhood has allowed Danielle to re-discover her love for writing. It is through her daily experiences as a mom and the love for her Catholic Faith that show forth in her writing. Danielle is the co-author of a nonfiction book about manners and common sense. She is a coffee-drinking, Midwest girl, who loves to spend time with her family, attempt outlandish recipes, and read any book she can get her hands on. You can find more of Danielle's writing at Loving These Days or step inside her daily life at her instagram account (@dmheckenkamp)