The shriek of my 1-year-old son broke the short reverie. I rinsed his hands and wiped down the high-chair tray before swinging him to the floor. He toddled off to tackle his sister, who was reading a book in the family room.
I went to join my tousling children, fighting my own rising wave of frustration. Writing was my passion; I had been a writer and a writing teacher for years before becoming a mom. When we had our daughter, my writing work had to scale back; after the birth of our son, it had become almost nonexistent. I felt the loss of that outlet nearly every day. In my worst moments, I saw my children as hindrances to the passions I wanted to pursue.
As mothers, our desires and passions may need to be shelved for years at a time. Whether it’s a ministry we want to join, a hobby we want to pursue, an activity that energizes us, or educational goals we want to accomplish, many good pursuits have to wait—or be dramatically scaled back—when we’re in the thick of mothering young children. This is true both for moms who are full-time caregivers and also for moms who work outside the home. I certainly know the frustration firsthand. But as I sought the Lord’s help, asking him what to do with my feeling of frustration, he began showing me that the frustration itself was a gift—and a way to point me back to him.
Over the long years of wiping runny noses rather than writing eloquent sentences, I learned three ways that frustrated passions can bless us.
1. It Centers Our Affections on Christ
The passions and pursuits that bring us joy—things like a jog on a beautiful day, or facilitating a ministry, or making art—are gifts from a loving Father. But they are still gifts, and they aren’t promised or guaranteed. They shift and change depending on our season of life. What is promised is the unchanging love of God (James 1:17)—and that is something we can pursue in any season of life.
Exhausting days full of messy meals and needy children may make it more difficult—or even impossible—for a mother to write a new book or launch a new ministry. But one of the many gifts of the gospel is that it can be lived out in any context or season of life, and external pressures can often help us to focus on the internal presence of Christ with us. We can be mothers who pray while we change diapers and who sing songs of praise in the car. When other tasks outside of mothering become nonexistent, the eternal task of loving Jesus becomes central, and we can be women who choose to adore Christ in the chaos of our everyday lives.
When I didn’t have the time or energy to derive joy from the writing I so deeply loved, I asked God to help me find more joy in him alone, and to experience his joy in mothering as I worked unto him (Col. 3:23–24). He loves to answer this prayer and fill us with his joy as we do what must be done.
2. It Offers Us an Eternal Perspective
In his classic essay “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis writes that “the books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.” Lewis eloquently explains that when we experience beauty and transcendence in things here on earth, it is because they spark in us a longing for heaven.
When our pursuits on earth are stopped or shelved because of our role as mothers, we can remember that the longing we feel isn’t ultimately for the activities that bring us joy but for a permanent experience of that joy, which will be found in Christ’s presence eternally. We can allow our frustrated passions today to point our hearts to our true longing—for heaven—which should cause us to worship the Father who welcomes us there through the work of his Son (John 1:12–13).
3. It Places Our Hope in the Right Place
Our culture says mothers should be able to do it all—juggle every ball with ease, have a “side hustle,” work harder, look better, and become the best version of ourselves. Our pursuits of education, physical transformation, artistic expression, and even ministry can lead us to think we must work to better ourselves. But that puts the onus for life transformation squarely on our shoulders—which isn’t only exhausting; it’s impossible.
We can only become the best version of ourselves when our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Getting stronger at the gym won’t necessarily strengthen our souls, and flourishing as an artist won’t automatically yield spiritual fruit. Any lasting change comes through God’s process of sanctification in and through us (1 Cor. 6:11). When we have no external activities to look to for our own transformation, and when all of our passions and pursuits have been lovingly stripped away, we find where our hope for change and sanctification truly lies, which is in Jesus alone.
While a pause on our passions in a season of motherhood can be painful, it can also help to keep us aware that this life was never meant to be fulfilling. Rather, it is meant to make us holy and—joyfully—more like Christ, which is the greatest gift of all.