Joseph isn’t the only dreamer. But somehow, when I dream, it is oh so different. More like a fantasy…
It began when the nurse placed my oldest twin in my arms soon after his birth. In the fantasy I had created in my head (partly based on a circa 1988 made for t.v. movie, and partly on the testimonials of many moms before me) a maternal gush would erupt from my heart toward this child. Reality is, the only things I felt in that moment were relief, fatigue, and thirst (what is up with the ice-chips?) I thought I had maternal gush with my third son, but it was only the Percoset which dropped me into a post-partum stupor the first week I was home. Perhaps the most shocking collision between fantasy and reality was breastfeeding. The fantasy: me and the boys in white, somehow in soft focus; them peacefully partaking of the milk of life, me with a tired smile on my face looking lovingly at my babies. Reality: pain that made me want to punch something every time they latched on. Before I continue and cause great concern to all the maternal gushers and lactation experts, I want you to know that very soon after they were born, I fell madly in love with each of my babies. There are emotions reserved for them that simply can’t be described with words. And I even cherish fond memories of milky smiles and warm baby bodies pressed up to mine while I nursed them. But the new-born phase seems to most tangibly illustrate something that characterizes much of my experience of motherhood: fantasy and reality are two very different things.
Before I had children I fantasized 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). Reality is I constantly fall short of my own expectations of who I should be. Reality is that I am angrier than I want to be. Reality is I am more selfish than I want to be. Reality is I am more inconsistent than I want to be. Reality is I pray less than I should. Reality is I love comfort more than I should. 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.
It is the mercy of God that I am seeing the real me. I don’t like it in the moment, but seeing my sin has caused me to understand better, appreciate more, and grow in deeper affection for another reality. It is the reality of the gospel. Reality is “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, that no man should boast.”(Eph. 2:8,9). Reality is “If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9). Reality is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) Reality is “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). Reality is that “when we are faithless, He is faithful”. All of this is reality for me because “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:4,5,7).
How would I understand these verses if I were able to actually be for ten minutes, the fantasy me? When I peel back the layers of the “fantasy” mother I long to be, what I find at the center is a golden me. I want to be perfect, and beautiful, and dare I say, worshiped. But because of God’s patience, and mercy, He shows me who I am. But He also shows me His Son. He shows me the reality of the gospel at work in my life. He shows me grace flowing from the cross in forgiving me, and changing me.
So the next time I see “reality” and she doesn’t look like June Cleaver, rather than spiral down into condemnation, frustration, hopelessness, or discontentment, I pray God will help me to remember the more powerful reality: there is only One who is worthy of all glory, honor and praise, and He has made a way for me to be forgiven, set free, and live for His glory. Now that reality is beyond any of my wildest dreams!