Are there not days when you wish you could just do this!
'And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart'.
For some reason, I always used to think this verse was for evangelists and missionaries. Perhaps because preachers always used it in that context and they didn't give messages that were solely devoted to motherhood, not even at the conferences for women that I used to attend. I didn't think it applied to me because I had completely underestimated the value of the work I did at home in raising a family. I have now come to appreciate how vital the work that I do in the home is. I realize that I am 'doing good'. I belong here with these people that He has brought into my life. God not only designed me to do this work and called me to it but he also provided me with a manual for motherhood. Have you ever heard it said that there is no manual for motherhood? I own one. It is a Bible and it is full of verses that address the daily issues that I face. And one of those issues is weariness and here is a Scripture that addresses it and teaches us a lot about a subject that I believe affects every single mother.
The first thing we need to understand is that weariness is not the same thing as physical tiredness, although physical exertion, a lack of sleep and being tired in our body will certainly contribute to weariness. Weariness I believe, has much more to do with our state of mind. Note that the verse exhorts us not to 'grow weary' - a process is involved. It can creep up on us slowly or the growth may be rapid due to circumstances beyond our control as one stress is added to another and soon we are carrying a burden that weighs us down.
I want to make it clear that I'm not speaking about deep seated emotional issues. I cannot address clinical depression even though I have some knowledge and experience in that field. (I used to be an occupational therapist) But you don't have to go through a trauma to be affected by weariness as a mother. The first step in dealing with it and not allowing it to multiply and smother us is to recognize what causes us to grow weary. What makes you feel weary may be a non-event or seem a trivial matter for others.
I started to consider what caused me to become weary and near the top of my list was weeds for they are one aspect of my work at home that I never seem able to keep up with, even though I now understand the benefits of mulch! This summer was wet and humid and I became weary of the weeds which were just rampant. It seemed a never ending task just to keep them out of the areas that we cultivate and it became an unpleasant task because the leeches were in plague proportions. On one leech infested day I gave up on weeding the orchard fence and decided to pluck a few weeds from under a palm tree close to the house. I was about to sit down and was just inches from the ground when I saw what I thought was a cushion. It wasn't a cushion. I ran like a madwoman. I had almost sat on a sleeping python! The very one in this picture that my son took great delight in photographing.
Weeds, leeches, snakes, ticks, mosquitoes and relentless humidity over summer were all taking away the pleasure of gardening and eroding any delight gained from living in a forest setting. I was losing all motivation for tending the gardens we had established that were providing organic, healthy homegrown produce for our family. I was starting to become weary in 'doing good' in the garden for the sake of our family's health and well being, something which I value highly. What's more, I had allowed myself to start questioning whether this property really was the right place for us. Negative thoughts were creeping in. It all seemed too hard - too much work. I was even fearing the future. How will we look after this place when we are older? And knowing that the snakes will always be with us 'Will I move as fast then when I come across a snake?'
You might not have to cope with the knowledge that snakes are sunbathing in your garden or slithering around in your roof but I'm sure you can think of work around the home that you are weary of. It's often the tasks that need to be done for family members on a regular basis that are often taken for granted. It may be the laundry that is overflowing from baskets that refill faster than you can empty them into the machine.The floors that you try so desperately to keep clean that never stay that way.
And then there is the clutter. They say it wearies the soul and I believe this to be true. I don't cope well in a cluttered environment. The clutter doesn't even need to be visible. It may be an untidy closet that requires attention that no one else sees but you know it is there and that it needs sorting but you have no idea where to start or how you will even possibly find the time to begin organizing it. Pictures on pinterest of fancy wicker baskets in rows with labels neatly tied on with ribbon are all very well but you still don't have shelves in the closet to stack them on! Everything is just shoved in there and in some ways it is a picture of how your life feels right now.
As I am typing this I feel I am only just touching the surface of weariness, its causes and how it affects mothers and homemakers. What I have mentioned thus far are externals - they are what people see and for some this is a cause of much anxiety. They are ashamed and don't invite people to their home for fear of what they might think even though they eagerly desire to offer hospitality. The thought of someone calling in unexpectedly is too much to bear.
Lets add in some other factors that can weary us. The atmosphere in a home. There might be arguments between siblings, tension between a husband and wife due to financial pressures. A teenager who is giving verbal expression to rebellious thoughts. In the midst of this you are trying to toilet train the toddler and if you are homeschooling there may be a child who is struggling with some area of learning. You have thought about returning him to school because you are beginning to believe you are not cut out for this anymore.
There are mothers I know and admire greatly who have children and family members with serious and ongoing health issues. There will be mothers who might be reading this who have experienced levels of weariness that do not come close to anything I have ever experienced and I don't want to make any comparisons. I'm trying to address the everyday issues that we all face and have to deal with from time to time. The flu and stomach bugs, head lice and all those other things that tend to be passed on and shared with other members of the household have great potential to weary us. They may be short lived for the individual but it's the mother who finds herself getting up each night to different children and the 24 hour bug becomes a week long ordeal. She is physically tired but now sick and tired of being sick and tired, for she also succumbed to the bug. She is so weary. I haven't even mentioned pregnancy, giving birth and how having a newborn to care for can affect us. There is so much that can weary us as mothers.
On their own some of these events and occurrences may not cause us to become overly stressed. We can cope with a few piles here and there, deal with a bout of sickness and put off weeding the garden but add in a few trying events and mix it all together and the weariness starts to set in. If we are not careful we may cultivate it, for example, staying up too late searching the Internet for answers for a problem that has started to bother us or trying to settle in our minds our stance on a certain issue that has left us confused. Another means of cultivation is adding more than is needed into our schedule. Over committing ourselves to activities outside of the home and saying yes to too many requests is something many of us will identify with. If you are involved in ministry you will be very conscious of this. The disciples were not immune either. In Mark 6 .31 Jesus beckons them to "Come aside and rest a while". 'For there were many coming and going and they did not even have time to eat.' This same description could be used for many a household in today's society - we just stop at the fast food restaurant on the way home which is hardly nourishing!
The result of weariness taking root and spreading, is something the author of that chapter truly understood. It prevents us from doing good. We lose motivation, we are overwhelmed and want to give up on something that held great benefits for others such as that garden we established or more importantly, the nurturing and training of a child.
If you are walking the path of weariness today and are feeling overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood I want you to know that you are not alone. I would like to pray for you. Do not be afraid to share, even just to say 'I'm feeling weary today'. Don't think that what is wearying you is trivial because you know of others who are facing harder trials. We are meant to bear one another's burdens and in doing so we fulfill the law of Christ. (Ephesians 6.2)
Is it over two years since this picture was taken? I never imagined I would have a 20 year old son and a toddler!
In a follow up post I'll share more about how I deal with weariness as a mother. It's been almost a 20 year journey for me and I'm still in the midst of it with all my 7 children still living at home. How I wish I had taken hold of that opening verse years ago and seen that it was not just addressed to those in ministry outside of the home. Dear mother you are doing good and the Lord does not want you to become weary - why? The answer is in the second part of the verse 'for in due season we shall reap... if we do not lose heart.' And it is with those wonderful words of encouragement that I close this post. 'Do not lose heart'.