One of the greatest challenges of motherhood is the way is forces me to let go of my control freak tendencies. The mess. The unpredictable behavior. The demands on my time and energy. All of these things are out of my control. I know you don’t need me to tell you all the ways toddlers and newborns can thwart our attempts at order, cleanliness, and calm; I’m sure you’ve seen all your mama-friends’ Instagram stories.
But I don’t only like to control my environment. I really like feel in control of myself—my time, my emotions, my personal growth. I like to have it all together, and though I hate to admit it, I like for other people to think I have it all together. And if not, I at least want to have the choice. Dirty dishes in the sink? I decided to leave them there; I’ll deal with them tomorrow. Going out of the house with spit-up stains on my shirt? I chose not to check the mirror one last time before I left; I decided no one would notice or care; I decided I didn’t want to make the effort to find a clean shirt again. It’s all my choice. I am in control.
Until I’m not.
I’ve spent my entire life trying to keep it together, but postpartum depression was the thing that finally brought me to my knees.
I often describe my postpartum depression as something like an out-of-body experience. I was watching my anxiety attack from far away, trying to get through to that girl. I’d think, “There’s no reason to feel this way. Everything is ok. Take a deep breath. Calm down.” But those thoughts couldn’t reach whatever part of my mind was reeling. I was no longer in control of my emotions, my responses, my mind. It’s a scary feeling, to be honest.
Before this, I was white-knuckling my way through motherhood like a nervous new driver grips their steering wheel. The result was that I was often overwhelmed, because I was living like it was all up to me while believing I wasn’t up to the task.
I’ve heard it said that while we need not be grateful for every moment, there is something in every moment to be grateful for. This is how I’m thinking about my PPD; I wish I had never experienced it, but I’m on the hunt for things to be grateful for within the experience. And one of those things is the recognition that I need to cede control of my motherhood journey to Jesus.
In A Family Shaped by Grace, Gary Morland writes that even after we’ve eliminated bad habits and disharmony from our families and even after we’ve adopted more peaceful practices, we still need to hand over our families to Jesus. He writes that I need to release my family, my role, my limits, and the results. Releasing my role and my limits is what really got me thinking. Gary suggests this prayer: “Thank you that my limits are the beginning of your life being revealed in my mortal body.”
I have spent my entire motherhood journey trying to compensate for my limits, but postpartum depression taught me that I just need to release them to Jesus and trust him to fill in the gaps. Gary goes on to pray, “I act as if releasing control is a sacrifice that I have to do as n act of faith out of obedience. In reality, releasing is a relief. It’s a gift.”
This has been true for me. I’m grateful for my postpartum depression because somehow, miraculously, in its aftermath, I’m feeling a sense of sweet relief. Maybe this is how God is redeeming that hard, painful season. I feel as though God is healing not just the depression. He’s also redeeming the mothering I did before that point. I’m not merely returning to how I mothered before the PPD set in. Instead, I’m moving forward in an entirely new sort of freedom and grace.
“You have been specifically wired and gifted to cover your specific assignment, your course on the river. Your family is your course on the river. But you were made to do this in union with God, not on your own.”
A Family Shaped by Grace releases today. It’s an easy read and very straightforward. As I read, I found myself wanting more Gary’s story of transformation, but maybe that will be his next book. 😉 In the meantime, A Family Shaped by Grace was a gentle, kind reminder about how living like Jesus really can transform our families for the better.