Few Sundays are more exciting than a missionary farewell. Somebody is voluntarily giving up two years of normal life to roll up his or her sleeves and serve, heart and soul, 24/7 building the kingdom. Missionaries are brave, they have faith, and despite being a bit wet behind the ears, they are undaunted.
Wait…I could say that exact same thing about a mother announcing a new pregnancy. She will be giving up two years of her normal life (at least), rolling up her sleeves to serve, heart and soul, 24/7 building the kingdom. She is brave, she has faith, and despite being either wet behind the ears, or actually quite seasoned, she is undaunted.
So why isn’t she getting a plaque in the foyer as a memorial for her sacrifice and service?
Now, I’m not suggesting a mother’s mission is finished after a mere two years, just as missionary work doesn’t end at the two-year mark. No, I only mean to draw a very tongue-in-cheek comparison between the two periods of life. Having done both, a full time mission and early motherhood, let’s take a look:
A full-time, two-year mission is like going through a concentrated boot camp for the rest of your church-service-oriented life. It stretches you to the limits and then stretches you even more. Its unrelenting, no-rest-for-the-weary schedule is just what a young body needs to develop a deep love for the work. Missionaries are up to their elbows wading through the nitty-gritty of helping others be born again. Sweet is the work, long are the hours, and exhausting are the bike rides.
And we couldn’t be prouder.
Now allow me to juxtapose this unquestionably wonderful period of self-sacrificing service to the early stages of motherhood.
Helping a new soul grow from embryo to self-feeding, potty-trained individual is like a concentrated 2-3 year boot camp that prepares a mother for the rest of her family-oriented life. The nine long months of pregnancy stretch her to her limits and then stretch her even more. The unrelenting, no-rest-for-the-weary schedule is just what a young mother needs to help her develop a deep love for her child. She is up to her elbows wading through the nitty-gritty of helping her babe not only be born, but also walk, talk, and sit still in church. Sweet is the work, long are the hours, and exhausting are the car rides.
Yes, the first two years new babyhood (sometimes three) feels strikingly like my missionary days. The days are emotionally taxing, physically laborious, and yet those days allow for inexplicable amounts of joy. And just as a missionary’s time is not his own, a new mother’s body is not her own. Whether she’s pregnant, nursing, or just has one of those babies who wants to be held all day, she is on the Lord’s errand every waking (and sleeping) moment.
So you see why I wouldn’t be opposed to mothers treating each of their new pregnancies like mission calls, standing at the pulpit, fresh with resolve and devotion, telling us how excited they are to be asked to help build the kingdom one soul at a time. Friends and family would flood the pews, special musical numbers would be sung, and perhaps even a modest open house reception after the meeting.
Unless, of course, she’s like me and the mere thought of food makes her sprint for the bathroom for at least the first three months. (Not unlike a missionary in a new country…will the comparisons never stop?)
Margaret Anderson in a BYU graduate, free-lance writer, returned missionary, wife, and the mother of five small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com