By Jessamyn Rains
When I try to describe how my life has changed since becoming a first-time mom at the age of 38, then going on to have 3 more children in 4 more years, the most succinct description I can come up with is that I have turned into my minivan.
It’s a great minivan, don’t get me wrong: It’s utilitarian, roomy, dependable, and economical.
The problem is that I also have become utilitarian, roomy, dependable, and economical. These were never particular goals of mine.
Worse, I’ve become so commonplace that I’m practically invisible. What is more commonplace than a middle-aged mom driving a gray Honda Odyssey minivan? There are hundreds of them in every Walmart parking lot.
This feeling of invisibility is not unique at all. Many moms in the throes of raising young children feel that they have had a loss of identity. Many of us have given up jobs, put dreams and plans on hold, and have had our lives dramatically redirected in order to take up the demanding, often difficult work nurturing and sustaining new life.
Sometimes, when we have the time to think of it, we wonder who we are becoming.
It’s hard to have perspective on this when you’re in the middle of it, as I am. But here are a few metaphors (aside from the minivan metaphor) that I’ve found it helpful to meditate on in this season of my life:
How does a caterpillar feel when it is in the chrysalis, being completely reassembled? I imagine it feels rather unattractive. A bit like an amorphous blob. It would probably be glad (if it could have such thoughts) that its transformation is taking place in such a discreet place.
And yet, when it emerges, no one doubts the value of the time it spent hidden, in the interim “becoming” state.
While it’s not likely that the world will consider me “a beautiful butterfly” when I emerge from the chrysalis of early childhood mothering, I know that the work God is doing in my heart is “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7).
I thought I knew what God, the potter, was making me to be: I was going to be an artisan handmade ceramic coffee mug, with a deep indigo glaze, sold in some hipster coffee shop in a big city for twenty or thirty bucks. I thought I was just about fully formed–ready to put in the kiln and fired–when the Potter took me, rolled me into a ball, and threw me back onto the wheel.
As of this writing, I’m still spinning on that wheel.
I don’t know what I will look like when He is finished, but I know that I can trust Him, and that all His works are wonderful (Psalm 104:4).
All my life, I have prayed to be spiritually fruitful, to be used by God. Is it any surprise, then, He has allowed me to experience a loss of identity? Jesus said that “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the grain and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24).
Being buried in the dirt and splitting open is a necessary precursor to fruitfulness. It can feel scary and painful, even hopeless at times.
But when the season changes, that green shoot will pierce through the ground, up toward the sun.
And this is just the beginning.
We’ve had our minivan for four years now. I sometimes think about all the traveling we’ve done in it, all the beautiful places we’ve seen from its windows: lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, cityscapes, quaint old towns.
In the same way, one of my roles in my young children’s lives is to share with them all that I find beautiful and worthy in God’s world, to transport them–figuratively and sometimes literally– to these places.
Their burgeoning delight in the world around them multiples my own joy, and makes me almost happy to be a utilitarian, commonplace minivan.