Maybe we lose it the first time we hold that precious, helpless baby.
He looks to me with deep sapphire eyes so unknowing and wild. And yet, somehow he knows to come to me to meet his needs. He nestles in and searches for milk, for the liquid that will sustain his tiny life.
In those first moments, though completely exhausted and healing from my own wounds, I know with unwavering certainty this will be my life story.
It is to care, to the best of my abilities, for this fragile and weak and wild-eyed little person so small against my chest. The one that was formed inside my own body.
Never have I known a feeling so fierce. It is almost an unrecognizable emotion, hard to name it. Some might call it love.
Its hard to understand the level of giving of ones self until this moment and the many moments thereafter that turn into days, which morph into weeks, years and in most cases, a lifetime.
I recently had a conversation with a young mother who mentioned to me after I inquired about how it was all sorting out, motherhood that is, that she had never known just how selfish she was until she had a baby. I agreed and remembered all too well having that same revelation in the beginning of my journey.
Granted, we are not all the same. Some of us may be more natural servants. Some of us may be more selfish by nature or even by nurture.
I have never read The Message version of this passage in the bible, I find it most interesting:
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples.
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? -Matthew 16:24
These words from Jesus are so powerful and so against the popular culture its almost offensive to read them. I can remember really wrestling with these verses when I was a new Christ-follower. I had big questions. What kind of life is a life lived in suffering and self-sacrifice?
I wrestled so much with them, that they began to change me, transform me.
Just as I had wrestled with these words in my mind as a young woman, now I wrestle with these words in my heart and especially in my actions with those closest to me. Every. single. day.
And I love the last bit of this. "Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."
I want to find my true self. There have been times in my life that I thought I found myself. Even years ago. I have always been a very self-reflective-in-tune-with-myself kind of person.
The beauty is that the hunt for our TRUE SELVES is a sneaky, elusive matter. It's always changing, shifting shape. The one grand mystery of our existence.Even so, there have been times in the motherhood chapters of my story that I have seen glimpses of my true self as though I were staring into a great, dark and very old forest. All of a sudden my silhouette slips out from behind the trunk of a twisted and gnarled oak tree and stares right back at me, figure to figure.
The moment is fleeting, but it is real and it grounds me. God speaks to me through these moments and I know that I am getting closer to Him.
I still don't know how the magic happens. I don't understand how sleepless nights and countless loads of laundry folded, and so many batches of chicken pasta salad (the kind with the grapes cut up in it Mom!) transcend into the eternal.
The many mornings I wished that I could just have a few moments to shower and get ready just for myself, but I get out of bed and I pack those peanut butter sandwiches anyway. I look after all the missing gloves and single lost socks. I give of my heart in moments of great emotional turmoil, in delicate matters of friendship and of enemies at school. I try my best to answer all of the big, big questions about life and God and the how the universe works.
And it's hardest to give when I am tired. Or I'm in pain from arthritis in my joints. Or I haven't had an adult conversation in many days. Or my husband seems distant because we have not truly seen and truly heard each other for long stretches.
But we do all these things anyway. We give of ourselves anyway.
Maybe (again I don't know for sure) the magic happens when we surrender to our self again and again. We get a little bit better at the way in which we do it.
Please don't misunderstand me. It is important to take care of yourself and make time for your husband and all of those other good things, like pursuing our dreams and making a difference in the world. There is definitely a balance to learn there. One I am still working on as well, that may be a separate conversation for another day.
But looking through the lens of self-sacrifice.... I am getting just a little bit better at the "having-a-good-attitude-while-serving" part. I am getting better at the "asking-for-help-from-the-source", God himself.
It is making all the difference.