The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

The Word that Best Describes Motherhood

“What word do you think best describes motherhood?”

I was sitting in a Bible study fifteen years ago with a room full of other moms when that question was posed. The women surrounding me were not strangers. We’d worshiped together and prayed together. We’d swapped recipes and hand-me-down clothes. We’d debated discipline techniques and preschool choices. We’d discussed nursing bras and baby bulges, sleep deprivation and potty training.

But we’d never talked about how a mom can press through her days with full hands and an empty soul. We’d never mentioned the barrenness that can come from tending to the fruit of our womb.  Or how motherhood can drain a woman dry and leave her with a shriveled spirit and a hurting heart.

I squirmed on that old plaid couch and dropped my eyes to the floor, my cheeks burning with shame for the thought that teetered on the tip of my tongue.

My one word wouldn’t elicit my peers’ applause or earn me a Mother-of-the-Year Award. But it was the word that described the state of my soul five years and three children into motherhood.


Motherhood felt hollow.
I’d never lived so poured out and dry.
I’d never been battered by so much guilt and unsettled by so little confidence.
I’d never been entrusted with a job so big wrapped in endless hours of smallness.
And I’d never tried so hard to hide my ache.

I don’t know what those dear moms would have said if I’d spoken the truth on that day long ago. I’m not sure how they would have responded if I’d admitted that sometimes the baby wasn’t the only one flooding the midnight hours with tears.  Sometimes this mama did, too.

And even on the best of days, motherhood didn’t feel like a joyful jaunt; but rather, a humble hollowing.

I wish I’d been brave enough to be honest that day. I have a feeling that a few of the women around me may have admitted their own emptiness, too.

But instead, I kept my eyes peeled to the ground and that uncomfortable truth tucked safely beneath my shaky smile.  And I nodded in agreement as those sweet mamas spoke of  joy and gratitude, satisfaction and wonder.

And I prayed that God would make those words true of me, too.

When I think of her now, that younger-me with babies clinging to her knees and wails echoing through her nights, I want to sidle up beside her and let her in on a little secret.

That hole in her heart— the one her children can’t fill and her husband can’t fix–is a gift.
Because all of those glaring gaps will eventually launch her straight into the arms of Jesus.

I want to tell her that the drain of motherhood will one day drive her to discover the delight of her Savior.

And in time, her weary weakness will reveal His unwavering strength.

If I could wrap my arms around the younger-me, I’d tell her that I still haven’t won that Mom of the Year award, but I’ve learned that she was right about one thing–

Motherhood is, indeed, a humble hollowing.  (Children excavate our pride and unearth our flaws; they expose our selfishness and renovate our prayers).

But motherhood is also a holy hollowing.

Because when we let the grit of motherhood launch us into the grip of our Savior, we find a life welling with wonder and a soul saturated with grace. 

And best of all, we discover that our empty places can become holy spaces when they are filled with love of Christ.


One thought on “The Word that Best Describes Motherhood

  1. Ruth, now a senior

    Absolutely true, and most helpful. Please continue to share what turns us toward God and encourages us all.

    December 1, 2017 at 1:11 pm

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