In our moms’ Bible study yesterday, we were discussing Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24, you know, where he tells his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
Denying self…it’s a challenging topic, but it seemed to resonate deeply in this group of moms. And to cause a great deal of guilt. One of my friends said that she struggles to deny herself, that she feels guilty when after a stressful day with her children, she just wants to have a cup of coffee by herself. I think we all could relate to what she was saying.
This struggle felt most difficult for me as a brand-new mom when I felt like I didn’t have a sense of self anyway, that suddenly all of me was “Mom.” I felt like wanting to be alone or do anything other than mom stuff was not only selfish, that it was perhaps a rejection of the blessing that God had given me in my new son. Yet I longed for time to myself, and then I felt guilty for wanting it.
Another mom blogger recently made the good point that it was the time with her children she would remember in the future, not the “me time.”
I agree with her. Even now it is the precious daily moments that I spent with my children that I most remember when I look back at their younger years, but that doesn’t mean that the occasional moments I carved out for myself weren’t important. As an introvert, I know that I recharge when I’m by myself. And as someone who works at home, I also know that when I have some time on my own to work when they’re at school or with a babysitter, I anticipate the time when I’m with them again. Sometimes it’s the moments away that enable me to more thoroughly enjoy the time I’m with them.
As strange as it may sound, brief times away from my children make me a better mom, I am certain. And so I try to think of them that way, even a moment to myself in the kitchen or a snatched trip to the gift station, as gifts from God for rejuvenation.
I don’t believe when Jesus told us to deny ourselves that he meant we should not pay attention to our own needs. I think he meant that we needed to surrender to his lead and to let him be in charge of our lives. Sometimes as a mom I deny myself in ways that are, frankly, kind of stupid. For example, I am always toting along snacks and drinks for my children and never bothering to bring any for myself. Then I wonder, four hours later, why I’m so short-tempered with them.
I don’t feel Jesus would approve of my behavior there. After all, he was the one who made sure everyone in the crowd got some of the loaves and fishes. I also see Jesus recognizing the importance of taking time by himself or only with his beloved disciples to pray and have fellowship (Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35, 6:31; Luke 9:18). Did Jesus have “me time”? It seems that maybe he did (although maybe he would have disliked that phrase as much as I do or thought of it more as “God time”). Maybe Jesus was an introvert just as I am, someone who needed to be alone to recharge.
As much as I have learned about being more like Jesus from the putting aside of my own needs that has accompanied motherhood, I also feel called to time away, time alone or time working where I can recharge, spend time with God, and return even more appreciative of the great gift that is motherhood. And not feel guilty about it.
If anyone wishes to come after Me,
he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.