Just a week after we brought our adopted daughter home from Uganda, some very dear friends hosted a beautiful baby shower to welcome us back. There were piles and piles of gorgeously wrapped gifts. Diapers, wipes, baby lotion, hair products, ridiculously cute pajamas, frilly dresses, adorable shoes, monogrammed bibs, a high chair, and even the stroller and bedroom set we registered for. You name it we got it. And do you know what I was most excited about? The diaper bag.
My diaper bag. (Ahem . . . I mean, my daughter's diaper bag.) It was a beautiful black monogrammed canvas tote from the Pottery Barn. It had about 800 pockets inside . . . then another 400 pockets on the outside. I was more excited than any normal human should ever be about filling up that diaper bag. I took special care deciding how many diapers to keep in the bag. Which pocket should I use for baby lotion? And which pocket should I use for baby powder? Should I keep snacks and juice in separate compartments? Do I still carry a purse? Should I use the inside pockets or outside pockets for my cell phone? And where do I keep my chap stick so I don't lose it? You know, all the logical questions for a new mom.
It was as if all of a sudden, I could now identify with this mommy-world of diapers and sippy cups. I was one of them. After years of longing to be a mother, I was more than eager to trade in my office-appropriate wardrobe and designer handbag for spit-up-stained t-shirts and an 800-pocket canvas tote. But as the first weeks and then months of motherhood passed, the sleepless nights and spit-up-stained t-shirts still weren't fulfilling me like I expected them to. And I wondered, how is it that after years of waiting for this very moment, for this beautiful baby girl, I am struggling to be satisfied?
My daughter is the epitome of cuteness (no, seriously, she is), but despite her genuine adorableness, I was still struggling to keep it all together as I always had . . . but now the struggle was with motherhood, too.
I remember one Sunday morning in particular, scrambling to get to church on time. My husband was working that weekend so it was just my daughter and me. No biggie, I thought. I've totally got this. She looked adorable in her perfectly accessorized dress and hair bow . . . and I looked . . . well . . . okay. I had managed to get mascara on and my shoes matched, all big accomplishments during this season of my life. I grabbed my (I mean, my daughter's) canvas diaper bag and we made it to the service. Success! Or so I thought.
Just as she started getting restless during the sermon, I couldn't find her sippy cup. I rummaged all through the depths of the diaper bag. No sippy cup. Crap. I was sure I had snacks in there somewhere . . . nope. Maybe I should check her diaper . . . wait – where the heck are the extra diapers?!?! And where is my dumb chap stick already?!?!
My diaper bag might as well have been empty. I had no diapers, no snacks, no juice. Nothing. Mom fail. This mom fail stung, and its painful sting made me realize I had placed my sense of my worth in being a mother – a great mother. I was so concerned about the appearance of motherhood, that I was barely surviving actual motherhood. But putting my hope for fulfillment in my identity as a mama will never fully satisfy me . . . just like being a wife, climbing the corporate ladder, buying that great pair of shoes or having the perfect home . . . will never fully satisfy me. Yet I run to these things time and time again.
Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14
In these verses, Jesus is promising us abundant, fulfilling, eternal life and satisfaction in himself. If I'm being honest, my longing to draw near to Jesus paled in comparison to my longing to be a mother. I was desperately seeking acceptance in the world of motherhood, all while forgetting God already accepted me long, long ago because of His perfection, not mine. I searched so hard for an identity as a perfect mama in the depths of that diaper bag, thinking it would fulfill me. But the more I dug into the pockets of that canvas tote, the more I came to realize I will never fulfill the role of the perfect mama, because God didn’t make me to be the perfect mother. But he did make me to need the perfect Savior. When I realized that my greatest need was to need him, not to be the perfect mother, I found my identity in Christ’s perfection at the bottom of that diaper bag. . . and my favorite chap stick, too.