I remember the first time I heard C.J. Mahaney preach about the cross. Anyone who has had the privilege of hearing C.J. preach about the cross does not soon forget the experience. When I first heard him there were many times he could hardly speak from being simply undone emotionally. It was evident that God had revealed something to him that was beyond words, articulate though he be, and his sincere emotion preached the sermon almost as much as the text. I just sat there. uncomfortable actually. I didn’t feel this way about the cross on which my Savior died. I identified more with the cross in the sense of “taking up our own cross daily…” or when “God’s will crosses my will”. But this description of the cross I heard from C.J. Mahaney, this declaration that the cross was something done for me but also something done by me was frustrating. It was frustrating because I knew that technically these things were true, but no genuine emotion accompanied the truth. I couldn’t muster any feelings about what I was beginning to understand as the center of all Christianity, not just the starting point. I see now how that frustration was a catalyst to pray that God would give me an ever increasing love for the cross. I wanted to experience “mournful joy” when I considered my Savior’s death. The Holy Spirit planted a deep desire to love the cross more.
The answer to this prayer was not a super-mystical sudden revelation of Calvary. God used His Word, various teachings, and many books or articles to help me understand the cross better. But there was one expositor in particular that helped transfer the written word to my heart. This divinely appointed means of moving the truth of the cross deep into my affections was motherhood. Let me explain.
Having been raised in the faith from age 9, I had mostly committed the sins of a righteous man. In general, I was submitted to my parents when I lived at home. I loved the church and was very active in ministry. I had no detectable rebellious phase. I married a godly Christian man and we enjoyed an easy marriage, free from the usual first year shock of reality. I committed garden variety good girl sins like not praying enough, internal frustration with students at school, laziness on the weekends, etc.
Before I had children I fantasized about being some combination of Elisabeth Elliot, June Cleaver, and Martha Stewart (now what in my average-at-best history compelled me to even consider such an image for myself I do not know, but I suppose we’ll save that for another post). But reality has proved to be much different. I am confronted daily with a huge responsibility in raising children and my inadequacy to do so. I am also confronted with the truth that I am angrier than I thought I could be. I am more selfish than I ever dreamed. I am more inconsistent than I want to be. I pray less than I should. I love comfort more than I should. And the list goes on. It seems a classic case of Romans 7:15 “For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do.” Motherhood keeps me exposed for who I really am, a sinner in need of a Savior.
And here in the daily challenges of motherhood my prayers for more love for the cross are answered. In His mercy, God reveals that indeed it was my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. If I don’t understand this dark truth, I cannot love and appreciate the bright beauty of grace. And this grace flows from the cross abundantly providing pardon for my sins, access to the Father, and power to live for His glory. I am happy to say that even as I consider what God has done, tears fill my eyes.
Thank You, God for answering the prayers you prompted me to pray. Please continue to help me grow in my love for the Savior and His work on cross. Thank you for motherhood, not just that I get to be used by you to further their love for the cross, but that they are ever being used by You to further my love for the cross.