The Source of Selfless Joy

Until recently, my one-year-old still woke overnight to eat. Every night since his birth, he would wake around midnight to 2 a.m. for this purpose. For the first six months of his life, I was his only source of nutrition, so I was burning the midnight oil with him every night. After I returned to work, we transitioned to a bottle, which meant freedom—my husband could now share in the midnight feedings. For weeks, I would feign sleep or ask my husband to take the night shift because, after all, I’d woken with him exclusively for six months. It was about time he shared the responsibility.

Weeks turned into months, however, and my husband was regularly exhausted from night shift duty. I could see his exhaustion, yet I still let him get up for the majority of night feedings each week. I allowed my desire for sleep to deprive my husband of much-needed rest. I acted like my husband owed me for all of those sleepless nights I endured, and I didn’t care enough about my husband’s needs to share the burden. I was being selfish.

My husband and I had lunch with my pastor the other day. During our conversation, we were discussing parenting and he commented, “When you get married, you realize you’re a jerk. When you become a parent, you realize you’re a selfish jerk.” We laughed and moved on, but I’ve thought about that remark many times since then. Moms are known for their sacrifices—we give up firm skin and toned abs for stretch marks and cellulite, we endure countless sleepless nights to feed or comfort our children, we may even forfeit careers and equal pay for motherhood. Selfishness is not typically an attribute that characterizes mothers.

Yet my pastor’s comments struck a nerve. Among its many challenges, motherhood is hard because it requires a daily commitment to put another’s needs before our own. When faced with this demand, we can see our own propensity for selfishness clearly. The midnight wails of a hungry infant or the constant questions of a curious toddler are regular reminders of our deeply ingrained self-interest. And managed in our own strength, the needs of our children can lead us to irritability and frustration.

The truth of the gospel provides the source of selflessness that motherhood requires. In Christ, we have perfect selflessness. Consider Paul’s words from Philippians: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself . . . he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:4–8 ESV).

Jesus is our selflessness. As we cling to Christ, his sacrificial life and death are the well from which we draw the strength to serve our families with selfless joy.

How have you been selfish lately? What demands of motherhood have you been trying to fulfill in your own strength? How can resting in Christ transform your selfish struggle into selfless joy?

 

 

Rachel Forrest is a 30-something working mom of two. Though she’s an event planner and office manager by day, she’s truly a logophile. She loves words and creating with them. When she’s not chasing her toddlers, you can find her nose stuck in a book. She also writes about the “coffee stains and growing pains” of motherhood at www.rachelforrest.me.

 

 

 

 

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