February 12, 2011

On Love and Motherhood

Everyone who is familiar with the bible at all knows it.  1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 is one of the most popular passages:

     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 
I just recently sat down with this passage for the first time in a long time.  It hadn't changed.  I still remembered it well, but what had changed was me.  I was now studying it through the eyes of a mother.  That's how long it had been since I had opened my bible and actually read this popular passage.
What struck me the most when I read it this time around was the sequence of the definitions of love.  First and foremost, love is PATIENT.  
There is meaning behind every little detail of the bible, so surely this is significant, I thought.  And this sent my mind thinking and dwelling on my mothering and my love for my children. 
The definition of patient is: bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.
After I read that, I immediately thought back to a photo shoot I had just tried to accomplish that day with the children.  Valentine's day is upon us, and I wanted to capture a cute, perfect image of my children for a Valentine's card for the grandparents and special people in our lives.  But of course, a perfect picture with 3 children is a hard task to accomplish:
My picture taking efforts were fierce, but I came back with nothing.  
The lighting was terrible because my day had been so full with diapers and meals and cleaning and carpool lines and naps and nursing and crankiness that I wasn't able to do the photo shoot in perfect lighting.
No one would cooperate and look at the camera.  
And smiling?  Forget it.  Any smiles I got looked fake because no one was having a good time while Mommy barked orders for the "fun" picture I was trying to achieve.
The baby didn't last long before he started crying.  
Mary Ellen ripped her heart in half almost immediately.
Hattie wouldn't sit still.  She wanted to get down, run off and play.
I was left with a lot of frustration and a bunch of non-perfect pictures.
 This is just how motherhood is a lot of the time, isn't it, especially when one has many small children.
But love is patient first.
Ben has never slept through the night, and he is over 3 months old and almost 16 pounds.  For the past week, he's been getting up every 2-3 hours all night long.
But love is patient first.
I am potty-training Mary Ellen who never wants to stop what she's doing to relieve her bladder before it's too late.
But love is patient first.
Hattie has to be reminded over and over and over again to clean up her messes.  And most of the time, my reminders are followed with whines and frustration and sometimes even tantrums.
But love is patient first.
The girls fight constantly over anything and everything.
But love is patient first.
Motherhood is much about bearing and enduring pain.  In fact, it begins that way with pregnancy and then the child's birth.  And it doesn't stop there.
It is filled with difficulty, on almost a daily basis.
Raising children can be very provoking.  My nerves have never been so challenged.  I recently told a friend that I never even knew I could get so angry until I had children.  They can annoy me so. 
And yet, I am called to endure all of this with calmness.  Because love is patient first.
I can't stop thinking that I probably don't do a very good job of putting patience first in my love for my children.  I think God brought me to this passage and had me focus on the fact that love is patient first for a reason.
I think the message I walked away with was this: My children will not feel my love if I'm not patient with them.  In the midst of all the chaos, I must stay calm for them to be secure in my love.
And them being secure in my love is very important to me.
Because I do love them so.
So I pray, that, starting today, as we near a day that celebrates love, I can learn to always be patient first with my children. 


KatieLee Photography said...

I love that the chalkboard basket came in handy for you :) Pictures of 3 children at one time are possible when you have extra help - but pretty much they can be impossible when you are by yourself! You still managed to capture all the personalities in that picture though :) Large lollipops will usually make children sit for a short time but that's all I've found that works! Love ya'll!!!

The Joiners said...

Thanks for the reminder AND for your honesty- I have a feeling I will be calling you for advice once I have kiddos of my own :)

MommyWilcox said...

I needed to read this today, Stephanie! And by the way, I love the picture!

The Jasters said...

Thanks for writing this post. I really needed to read this, especially since my patience has been pretty much non-existent lately. This really encouraged me!:o)

Wisdom From the Pope

“The inalienable dignity of every human being and the rights which flow from that dignity - in the first place the right to life and the defense of life - are at the heart of the church's message." Pope John Paul ended his address, saying: "In spite of divisions among Christians, 'all those justified by faith through baptism are incorporated into Christ...brothers and sisters in the Lord.'" Pope John Paul 2