"Mommy, what are those silvery lines on your hips?” Brooke was inquiring about the stretch marks that are plentiful on my body since birthing three of my five kids. She was studying them with an intense curiosity mixed with great concern as to what kind of horrible animal could have scratched and scarred me so greatly. As I informed her about the beauty of what the stretch marks represented to me, she couldn’t get past how unsightly they were to her.
Good thing those marks aren’t on your feet where everyone would be able to see them,” she quipped back. Again, I stressed the fact that the stretch marks were a beautiful reminder that my body was used in a sacrificial way to make her birth and the birth of her two sisters possible. It’s the mark of the ultimate servant who gives their life to make new life possible for others. Not that I actually died in the process, but the way my body looked before I had children, smooth and unblemished, died during the rigors of pregnancy. Impressed with my own answer, I replied back to her, “Now don’t you think they are beautiful?”
She wasn’t in tune with my spiritual correlations and clever metaphors. “Mom,” she started slowly, “you are beautiful, but those marks…not so beautiful.” Oh, the honesty of a six-year-old! Really, she’s right in one sense. The marks themselves are not so beautiful. They are jagged, uneven, and discolored signs that my skin was stretched almost beyond what it could bear. It was stretched so thin that it will never quite be the same.
I stood before the mirror and continued to examine the stark evidence of my past pregnancies. A strange sense of pride welled up in my heart as I realized these scars made me like Jesus in a way. I gave of my life to make new life possible. I carried this new person and took on their weight. I was stretched almost beyond what I could bear. My experience left me scarred and forever marked. But the product of these scars is a joy I could not have any other way.
It still moves me to tears to think about Jesus’ scars. Amazing that the God of the universe would care so much for me that He would allow His Son to give up His life for me. While I have not been called upon to physically die for my children, I have been called to die to the selfishness that characterized my life before kids. Life was about me back then. My schedule, my needs, my wants, my time, my money, my desires, my dreams, and my plans dictated how I spent my life. But that is not what God wanted for me. He wanted my life to be about Him and His plans for me. So in march not one, not two, not three, not four, but five little beings to make sure I am reminded on a daily basis that acts of service to others is what the pathway to joy is paved with. Little stones of service that, when carefully laid beside each other, lead to great places.
Braiding this one’s hair. Tying this one’s shoes. Fixing this one his favorite cookies. Changing this one’s diaper. Taking this one out for coffee. Cheering this one at her sport’s events. Praying this one through a hard time. Washing this one’s clothes. Dusting this one’s room. Cleaning up this one’s spilled drink. Teaching this one to roller skate. Planning this one’s birthday party. Helping this one catch a frog. Putting a bandaid on this one’s scraped knee.
And that’s just one day in the life of a mom.
I am convinced there is no greater way to model for our kids the heart of God than to serve our families with a happy heart. Not that we are to become our children’s slaves. That would teach them laziness and disrespect. But to model for them the joy that can be found in giving our lives in service to our Lord and others. When we model this for our kids, we set the standard for what we expect from them. I expect my kids to have a good attitude when serving family members and others. I want for them what I have discovered—when you serve, you look at lot like Jesus.
We give of ourselves when we give gifts of the heart—love, kindness, joy, understanding, sympathy, tolerance, forgiveness.
We give of ourselves when we give gifts of the minds—ideas, dreams, purposes, ideals, principles, plans, inventions, projects, poetry.
We give of ourselves when we give gifts of words—encouragement, inspiration, guidance.
Emerson said it well—“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.”
Jesus gave the one true gift in the most profound way. He gave His very life so I could find new life. My scars, therefore, are precious reminders—treasures, really—of my service that started the moment of my children’s conception and continues to this day. Giving of my body gave my kids a chance at life. Modeling Jesus’ example of service points them to a new life they can have in Christ. They don’t have to fall prey to the selfishness that reigns in this world.
I don’t have to fall victim to the selfishness that screams for attention sometimes as well. I become a giving person by giving. I become a caring person by caring. I become like Jesus by acting like Jesus. Not by thinking about it, not by making promises to do it, but rather by the act itself.
Just as these acts change me permanently, my scars also are a permanent marking. Trust me, I know how permanent they are. Before I came to appreciate their beauty, I tried all kinds of creams and lotions with big promises to reduce the appearance of scars. Some products were even bold enough to claim to heal stretch marks. I became a marketing statistic as I fell prey to their empty promises. No amount of cream, no amount of rubbing, and no amount of wishing them away worked. They have become permanent residents on my hips. So, since I cannot make them disappear, I have chosen to embrace these symbols of my courageous attempt at motherhood.
Jesus embraced His scars as well. And now for all of us, they are symbols of His courageous success of becoming the Savior of the world. In His resurrection, He could have come back without the scars on His hands, feet, and side, but He left them there. The rest of His body was whole and healed, so why leave these scars? While theologians could argue this question in great debate, I think He left them because He wanted to. He came to love not the scars themselves, but what the scars accomplished. He was called to be the Savior of the world, and He did it. I am called to be a mom, and I’m doing it.
Let’s face it. Motherhood is a stretching experience whether we are talking about our physical bodies, our mental capacity, or our spiritual outlook. But it brings me such joy to see the correlations between my service to my children and what Jesus has done for me that I thought it worth pondering. Whether you birthed your children through your body or through your heart through adoption, you have served…you have sacrificed…you have been stretched.
I looked at the older woman and wondered what it meant.
Do we tell with our body about the life we have spent?
The wrinkles on her face, the posture of her back.
The fingers softly bent, the joy in her laugh.
I’d seen other faces marked with a frown and scorn.
Their presence seemed quite harsh, their spirit very worn.
But in this woman was a beauty, despite the evidence of time.
Peace in her cloudy eyes and laughter behind her laugh lines.
She had a grace about her, though her body was now slow.
For she had learned the joy of being, and in her heart she knows.
She spent her life in celebration, choosing joy to be found
In whatever life gave her she stood on His solid ground.
Lord, may the markings on my body be like hers in some way
That I loved and laughed and gave and celebrated every single day.
Refresh My Soul
Read Psalm 100 and record your favorite section of this passage
In verse 2 it says to come before the Lord with joyful songs. How have you been coming to the Lord lately?
It is good to be honest with God, but we must be careful that we don’t become whiners. There is nothing that aggravates my heart more than to hear whining and complaining, especially from my kids. I can’t help but think the Lord might feel same way. I have caught myself coming to Him simply with bad attitude. Is there anything you’ve been having a bad attitude about lately?
Even amid hardship, trials, and things that don’t go the way we want them to, we can find something to be joyful about. My stretch marks story might be a silly example of this, but it makes this point. How did this perspective encourage you?
Read 2 Corinthians 9:13.
What must accompany our profession that Christ is our Lord?
Sometimes it is easier to be obedient in our actions than our attitude. Do you need to take an honest look at any of your mothering attitudes?
The prayer that changes everything, according to Stormie Omartian, is praise. Write a prayer of praise to God regarding being a mom.
“I will walk in my house with blameless heart” (Psalm 101:2). This verse is both convicting and challenging to me. David, the author of this psalm, knew he would need God’s help to have a blameless heart. There are things he encourages us to avoid throughout Psalm 101. List those things here.
Interestingly enough, all the negative things listed in this psalm affect our attitude and our desire to praise God. Are you looking at TV shows or movies that are negative and dishonoring to God? Are there people in your life who are dragging you down? Do you struggle with talking poorly about others? Are there areas of pride in your life? Take an honest evaluation of each of these questions and list your answers here.
What does it mean to walk in my house with a blameless heart?
Write your favorite line from the poem on page 137 and why it touched your heart.
Lysa Terkeurst is a wife, mother of five, and the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She has appeared on many national broadcast programs, including Focus on the Family. She is the author of a number of books, including What Happens When Women Walk in Faith, and the coathor of A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life.