"Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."
Psalm 126:5 and 6
When our children were very little, a lot of crying happened at our house, and some of it came from the babies. A lot of it came from the mama.
I was frustrated, angry even, that this career I had chosen - motherhood - had turned out to be a colossal disappointment. My babies were not downy-headed angels who ate their meals then snuggled against my cheek and fell obediently asleep. My toddlers were not adorable, wide-eyed wonders in impeccable Hanna Andersson outfits.
They were loud, messy, demanding, inconvenient, disobedient. They were monsters.
And, frankly, some days, so was I. I was not the angel in the house, the soother of all woes, blah, blah, blah. I was tired, exhausted really, and disillusioned.
Often, I felt even if I couldn't articulate the question of "How can this make any difference? Who cares?"
And all of the lovely rhetoric from women like Elisabeth Elliot and Teri Maxwell just made me angrier. Their words, well-meant and Godly as they were, seemed patronizing and/or made my already huge burden of guilt even heavier. Why could I not be like other mothers - soft-spoken, perpetually patient, with a meek and quiet spirit? Why did I end up in tears at the end of nearly every exhausting, frustrating day? Surely God did not mean for one of His greatest gifts - children - to have this demoralizing effect on their mothers!
And what would happen to children raised by such a mess of a woman?
One night, in desperation, I opened the Bible and just sort of grazed, hoping to stumble upon something which might calm the storm in my heart, even for a little while. (I know that "lucky dipping" is a very poor method of Bible study, but I wasn't exactly in a frame of mind which allowed for methodical, well-thought-out exegesis.) God, in his good providence, brought me to Psalm 126, and verses 5 and 6 suddenly became a life-line for me.
God never said that the sowing will be all roses and downy-headed slumbering infants. The sowing is painful. The work of this life is hard, back-breaking, spirit-crushing, mind-numbing. And that original curse applies to farming, preaching, teaching, soldiering, fire-fighting, legislating, paper-pushing, and, yes, mothering.
So we sow and we weep. Why? Because He has called us to faithful sowing, with or without tears. My job is to sow, row upon row, field upon field, season upon season.
And yet we do not sow without hope. There are promises, too! Promises of reaping a harvest with joy. With shouts of joy, no less!
For mothering (and fathering, by the way), the very next Psalm offers some amazing promises. (What a coincidence, right?!)
"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives his beloved sleep." (Ahh, sleep! That would be a joyful harvest!) "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."
And Psalm 128 goes on to enumerate more blessings attached to families!
So, the harvest is there, the reaping is there, God's promises are yes and amen.
The tears are very real, very much real, undeniably real. But the good news is that they are only the beginning, the preface, not the end.
The end is joy.
Now, I can't say that after this epiphany, I was never again frustrated or angry and never rebelled against the harsh reality of life with infants and toddlers. I'm still reduced to tears some days, even now that my children are older and the nitty-gritty of life isn't quite so gritty anymore. Motherhood is still frustrating and I begin to suspect it always will be.
But, occasionally, God, in his infinite mercy, reminds me of those verses in Psalm 126 and I remember that my faithful sowing, even accompanied by tears, will last only a short time and eventually, in this life or in the life to come, I will reap with joy a God-given harvest which will be better even than the smell of a newly bathed baby or loving toddler arms wrapped around my neck.