Looks like I’m a new fan of France.
Turns out they are handing out medals for this gig of motherhood.
I know, I didn’t believe it either.
It was during a recent trip to Mexico for a visit with my Dad and stepmom, where a kind man broke the news to me. I was flying solo on this specific trip, so you can imagine his surprise when I shared that I did have six kids living it up with Dad back at home. The man exclaimed, “Well then, you win the French medal awarded to mothers!” My little brain probably emitted smoke or something. I’ve heard a lot of comments from strangers about our family size, but this one stumped me. Is this guy serious? Someone is handing out medals . . . for being a mother?
When I got back to my room that night, you know I went straight to Googling it. Turns out it’s legit! It’s called the Medal of the French Family. It is “a decoration awarded by the government of France to honor those who have successfully raised several children with dignity” (taken from wikipedia’s article found here).
We’re not talking the local girl scout troop here. This is a national government that is handing out medals to moms. Is this not blowing someone else’s mind too? Heck, I’d settle for my child just saying “thank you mom“ when I hand them their sandwich. And that’s without having to remind them. But an actual medal? What would that level of recognition do to the calling of motherhood? What would it do to the weary matron soldier within her four walls who wants to give up doing her work?
Maybe I’m being too dramatic. It’s not as if I am mounting up on my horse and going into battle every morning on the front lines of war, like a soldier who easily earns our accolades of bravery. Or wait, maybe I am. It’s not a war that we see with our eyes like somewhere over in Iraq. Our war is not against flesh and blood. It’s not even against our own flesh and blood, although there are days when I feel like it is. Rather it’s “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
As a mother, I see more and more that I represent everything that that serpent hated: the ability to birth life, to nurture life, and to raise up lives that will hopefully be kind, just, and loving to others in this world.
But I didn’t always think this way. Before becoming a mom I would have rolled my eyes at such a thing. What’s the big deal? They are j-u-s-t moms. It’s not like they are doing anything significant with their time and talents. It’s not like they are making any “real” difference. True story.
I grew up with a very present Dad and a very distant mother. And by distant I sadly mean, 17 years of having very little relationship. Maybe you could understand then that becoming a mother was low on my life’s to do list. Because why would I sacrifice so much and work hard at being something that had no real value or purpose in my own life?
And I had no real reason to want to see otherwise, until I found myself in a courtship with my husband to be. So back in 2005, I decided to ask God a simple question: “What do You think about being a mother?” Turns out He thought a lot. Thankfully, it was not a one day overhaul. The first thing He showed me was that it wasn’t that I did not want to be a mother, but it was more about me not seeing the value of one. And He has had me on a journey over the past 8 years to dig up the real gold medal in this field called motherhood.
So let’s start at the beginning of what brought us to our title: the pregnancy and birth. Guess what folks: the entire human race hinges upon. . . you. We were created to be used to bring forth life. Sounds like someone else I know: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” Jesus said in John 10:10. And here is little old me and little old you, who find ourselves in this crazy whirlwind called motherhood, where we get to be just. like. Jesus in bringing forth life. Did you catch that? As mothers, we get to partner with Jesus like no one else can. We are used in our child’s first birth, and by the grace of God, Jesus will be the Author of their second. Isn’t that amazing?
But the bringing forth of their lives comes at a cost. During my fourth birthing occasion, my daughter’s 98th percentile-sized-head came barrelling down the birth canal during a 29 minute labor with no anesthesia on board. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I was going to die. Not that I have a clue what dying feels like, but it seemed a fitting description of the pain and emotion I was feeling in that moment. “I’m gonna die!”, I exclaimed to anyone who could hear me. It was the only thing my brain could think of to describe the experience in that moment. And it probably didn’t help either that my pain tolerance is like a negative four. And without missing a beat, the veteran nurse who was standing by me, said without any emotion and in the most monotone voice ever, “You’re not gonna die”. I don’t even think she looked away from the vital monitor to say it to my face. Obviously she had heard that one before. Not so original on my part, I guess. Not so indeed.
I can hear a lot more in her words now, almost as if the Holy Spirit was coaching me along at a critical moment…
“You are not the first one who has shouldered this amount of pain. You are one of many mothers who have fought hard and tirelessly pushed to bring forth your child’s life. You are joining the ranks, my dear. Our whole existence as a human race rises and falls on the role that you play. That you play. Oh, and you’re not going to die. You’re actually going to live. And your daughter is going to live because of the 9 months and 29 minutes of pain that it has cost you. Life comes at a cost. It always does, on some level. That’s why it’s so valuable, so precious, so worth every ounce that you give for it. And I have entrusted this life to you, her mother.“
And as I gave all I had, suddenly it was over and my daughter now lay on my chest breathing freely. She has been along for the ride, a passenger on the train of my labor. And it has cost her nothing. It’s not fair, is it? I lay my life down so that someone else can live: No, it’s not fair. But its worth it. Every last heave. Every painful cry. Every last drop of spilled blood. It’s worth it so that she could live. So that she could live.
Maybe those French medals should be cut in half somehow. You’ve earned half the medal now for carrying and birthing the baby, and then come back and see us in 18 years to collect the other half. Kind of like those BFF necklaces back in the day. Remember those? Well how about one for mothers like this . . .
Seems kind of fitting since you feel like your heart is cut in half anyway: torn between doing what you want to do and what you are called to do. Hear this, most days I do not want to do the work of a mother. The time it takes to raise these six blank slates who are waiting to be impressed upon and loved, is astonishing to me. And then throw on the load of maintaining a household (you mean you want me to feed you?), and you bet your sweet bottom, I deserve that medal!
I have gone to bed many nights hoping, praying, begging that the next morning I magically could wake up excited and passionate for the day. If I was a good mom, I would actually enjoy taking care of my kids. If I really had God’s heart for this motherhood thing, then all of this work would be easy and come naturally to me. And you know what results from all of this self-imposed condemnation? A pile of guilt and shame that says I don’t deserve any medal. Then it dawned on me just the other day, it’s okay that I don’t love what I am doing. I love my children, make no mistake, but I do not enjoy what I do on a daily basis. And that’s okay. Jesus even asked God to “take this cup from me”(Luke 22:42), so don’t feel bad for all the times that you have asked God to do the same thing for you. But may I add, don’t be mad at God that He has not taken it from you. There is something about the doing, the years of work that puts in us a level of wisdom and ownership that we could not have received any other way. This is where courage is truly birthed in us: waking up and facing each day, again and again. Courage says, Everything in me wants to run in the opposite direction, but instead I will choose to not give up. I know what you are thinking: But I don’t feel courageous. But you are. You keep showing up each morning for this gig, somehow. Or through some One.
And this is how we are finding our medals that our hidden in this field called motherhood: by showing up. The good news is that they are not earned in a day, nor lost in a day. Because God knows that we will all have days where we lose it. And it really has nothing to do with how many kids you have, but that you have had one at all. Nor is it about having a perfect heart, but rather a willing heart that keeps showing up to each new day with a shovel in hand.
God gives The Purple Heart to our willing heart, even if our government does not.