Theology of Motherhood

Surrendering to the Sabbath of Sacrifice

Photo of Ideal Sabbath
Perspectives for when your day of rest doesn't feel so restful

Dear Leona,

This past Sunday was my “begin again” first attempt at bringing this idea of Sabbath into our home… (hopefully by the time you are reading this, we will have this rhythm so engrained into the fabric of our family that you will be amazed that there ever was a time that we were just “figuring it out.”)…

I met the day with high hopes of limiting my time on electronics, playing with you and your brother, and spending contemplative moments in scripture while you two napped.

But then real life happened...

Your naps were very short, which resulted in a very grumpy version of my sweet and energetic budding toddler… Tobias napped only very sporadically in a sort of “micro-nap” fashion… Daddy spent the better part of his day writing a paper for school… and so, I was left to care for you children in all your grumpy and tired glory.

Sometime in the middle of this day, emotionally worn out, I found myself exclaiming in exasperation that this day didn’t feel very “sabbath-y”… Where was my rest? Where was my quiet contemplation of scripture over a cup of coffee or tea? I wasn’t even able to watch the live-stream of church (hello COVID-19 era…) for more than 15 minutes before having to soothe and feed babies. Didn’t you children know that this was supposed to be a day that felt good and restful for me and my soul!?…

And it's at that thought that the Spirit stopped me in my tracks.

Now, full disclosure on what it means for the Spirit to speak into your heart when you’re in the thick of parenting two under two… I’m writing this on Tuesday, and am just now having some semblance of clarity of thought to put together what the Spirit is calling my mama heart to. Rather than these lightning bolt moments of spiritual thought, I often catch glimpses of spiritual musings and have to set them aside to be pondered when I have a clear headed moment (in this case, two days later).

The whisper I heard on Sunday morning (afternoon? Evening? Was it Monday? Who knows…) begged this question: 

"What if these inconvenient interruptions are the exact thing God desires you to experience on this Sabbath day?"

I caught that thought, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, so I stuck it in my back pocket and continued throughout the day. (Sometime around noon I had given up on my grandiose notions of having a quiet and restful Sabbath bible study, and embraced the chaos that was presenting in the Konhaeuser household)…

The rest of the day consisted of lot’s of screaming (luckily, just yours and your brother’s… not mine), lot’s of feelings (both yours and mine), you falling and hitting your head, and ended in a whirlwind over-tired bedtime for all of us… Definitely not what I had planned.

But in the last few weeks, my heart has been trying to absorb and learn what we are to glean from this practice of Sabbath. Certainly, it is not a biblical command for New Testament Gentile believers, but I believe that in embracing the wisdom set forth in Old Testament rhythms we can learn something about ourselves and our God.

As I learn about Sabbath, I learn that the intention of Sabbath is to teach us to stop from our tiresome work to remind ourselves that it is not this tiresome work that ultimately sustains us, but the kindness and abundance of the Lord.

I learn that Sabbath helps us look forward to the promise of complete rest in the fulfillment of the kingdom, and to remind ourselves of the hope that one day we will be free of the painful toil of work where we have to supply our own sustenance.

Ultimately, Sabbath is a way to teach my heart to trust in God’s story and calling of self-sacrifice, rather than the worldly and animalistic instinct of self-preservation. And so, as I reflect back on my “not-so-sabbath” Sunday, I wonder if all those moments of setting aside what I desired for the benefit of you and your brother were in fact more of a Sabbath than I could have dreamed up for myself.

Maybe all of the moments from Sunday to Sunday when I feel exhausted and overwhelmed, when my view of the day is slipping away between my fingertips, maybe this is when God is training my heart in the way of the gospel.

Matthew 16:25 Quote

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it"

From Genesis 1 to Revelation, there is this theme woven into the fabric of the scriptures:

God wants us to partner with him in ruling over and subduing the earth in his creator-image…

But this can only be done right when we surrender to His definition of good and evil– when we embrace his self-sacrificial spirit, his tenacious solidarity with these people he created.

But instead, throughout the whole biblical narrative, people instead choose to try to secure their own futures, trust in their own definitions of good and evil, and succumb to a life of anxiety, dissension, division, and frustration.

The world tells us not to lose ourselves...

The world tells us to make sure we hang on to our sense of self, and that this mothering gig doesn’t take away from who we truly are. But I believe that the reality of the scriptures is that motherhood is a spiritual gift because it teaches us what it looks like to embrace a life of self-surrender. Through this self-sacrifice, our eyes are opened to see the truest form of who we are– a light-bearing, redeemed child of God, commissioned to bring forth his new kingdom with the light of our lives.

While some might need to experience a full Sabbath day to practice total surrender to the provision of God, mothers are provided with Sabbath-moments all throughout their lives.

When the babies wake up in the middle of your “work from home” hustle;

when they are tired or grumpy while you’re trying to cook dinner;

when your entire day is consumed with soothing and feeding these little people who so depend on you…

We mothers cannot be consumed with self-preservation, or we will find ourselves drowning in disappointment and frustration as we try to hang onto an illusion of ourselves that exists outside of motherhood.

I believe that the words of Jesus are clear- surrender to the loss of your life, and you will find life that is truly life.

Let go of trying to preserve your pre-motherhood sense of self. Lose your life of self-preservation, and find the life of self-sacrifice that God has gifted to all mothers (and ultimately all believers).

We can practice this radical trust in God through the practice of Sabbath days.

Days where we cease from our work as a reminder that it is not our own efforts that sustain us, but the complete provision of our Lord, and the promise of a complete liberation from the darkness of this world…

The work we can cease from can span from our actual income-producing work, to housework, to even the spiritual “works” that tend to make us “feel better” about our relationship with God.

The work we cease from in Sabbath is the work where we are forsaking trust in the Lord and taking the wheel of sustaining our own livelihood. Sabbath sings out, in the timeless words of Carrie Underwood, for Jesus to “take the wheel.” Sabbath is an intentional stopping from our self-preservationist tendencies to remind ourselves of the sovereignty, goodness, and provision of God.

But, we can also practice Sabbath moments in each day of motherhood.

We can meet the inconvenient interruptions to our intended day with joy- seeing them as reminders that our daily toilsome efforts are not what sustain us, and that one day we will be liberated into the fullness of the promised New Creation.

We can choose to quiet the lies of the enemy that tell us that we need self-indulgence to enjoy this life, and choose instead to see the joy in the sacrifices we give to our children each day.

I pray that you will come to know the “life that is life” in the sacrifice of motherhood.

I pray that you will cease resisting the daily grind of motherhood in your Sabbath days, and instead see that these precious children are the essence of living out the fulness of Christ’s sacrifice.

I pray that by being a pocket of light for God’s glorious kingdom in your corner of creation, light will then radiate from your home, your children, and your husband… And go forth to create great impact in the world that needs His light so greatly.

Scriptures for Further Study:

Genesis 1:1-2:3

Exodus 20:8

Deuteronomy 5:12

Romans 12:1-5

John 13:12-17

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