How Motherhood is Teaching Me to Reimagine Sacrifice

woman carrying smiling baby

“Look at how much God is letting you sacrifice for this little one already,” she texted back with the confidence of a seasoned mother.

My friend’s wisdom stunned me. I just shared how I’d been experiencing chronic pain throughout my entire pregnancy. Get to sacrifice already? Is she nuts? I’m about to endure labor, delivery, AND postpartum recovery after suffering for nine months. What about that is blessed? Wait… did she say ‘ALREADY’?

Only the beginning

And… turns out… she was right. A challenging pregnancy was only the beginning of how much the Lord would let me sacrifice for my little one. 

The first five months of my daughter’s life would include some extremely difficult moments: Cluster feeding (16 nursing sessions per day for three weeks), colic, thrush (twice–in a row–both of us), severe neck rash, “poor coordination” of the mouth (rejected bottles, weekly OT rehab), sleep-deprived insomnia, Torticollis (weekly PT rehab), dairy allergen, tongue tie, awful vaccine reactions, breastmilk supply scare, delaying maternity leave for months on end… the list goes on. 

Truthfully, as I’m writing this, we are still in what feels like the thick of it. 

And I’m confident that many more sacrifices in motherhood are ahead of me.

Reimagining sacrifice

I’ve realized my understanding and expression of sacrifice have been severely lacking through all of this. I’ve needed—I need—to reimagine sacrifice.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Matthew 16:24-26

I wouldn’t have said this before having kids, but I can see that I used to think picking up my cross was an “as opportunities arise” sort of thing. Or, sadly, only when I felt like sacrificing for others. But the call to die to ourselves is 24/7. Not when we feel like it or when it’s convenient. Discipleship demands sacrifice, and throughout the New Testament, it’s clear that Jesus never hid that cost.

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:27

I get to live into this 24/7 reality tangibly as a mother with a newborn. She needs me at all times. I don’t “get” a break. I’m “always on the clock.” And to be honest, I’ve found myself feeling resentful of that, especially when it became clear she was never going to take a bottle, and I couldn’t break away for more than 2 hours at a time. 

And then I remember Jesus: Who did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:27–28). Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8).

So, what is this vision of “reimagined sacrifice” through motherhood? It’s seeing that self-sacrifice is a non-stop, never-ending invitation to follow the way of the cross.

I’ve come to the realization that we cannot love others by way of sacrifice simply when it’s convenient and still fully follow God. We must be willing to lay aside our desires–at every invitation–to truly love our neighbors as ourselves (Galatians 5:13-14). Of course, we don’t do this to appease God or earn His favor. Praise God; we already have that because of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:4–7). We choose it imperfectly because we know it pleases our Father and want to be more like His Son (Romans 8:29). 

A matchless reward

Our reward is matchless. The Lord lets us sacrifice to know Him more and be made more like Jesus. What’s better than that? This is grace upon grace. 

Through these sacrifices of our unique newbornhood season, the Lord is both sanctifying me and revealing more of the gospel. He is mercifully making me more selfless, patient, empathetic, resilient, grace-filled, prayerful, surrendered, and vulnerable than ever. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t downright tricky or if I always gladly chose to give of myself in this season. But I will say this: I know now that a life of true sacrifice reaps a matchless reward.

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