“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”—John 10:10
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”—Matthew 16:25
I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers this past week. Sunday was Mother’s Day, and last week was also my mom’s birthday. Furthermore, we are moving her into a new house in town this week, which has given me a lot of opportunity to think about my childhood, and all I owe to my mother, as we pack up the house where she and my dad lived for 30 years.
The amazing thing about mothers is that they give life. They actually give life! Not in the sense that God gives life, of course. Obviously mothers don’t create living human souls or anything like that. God is the one who creates individuals, who speaks our souls into existence and crafts them in His image and gives them life. In the ultimate sense, God is the One who makes people. But God uses a mother to nurture and sustain the physical life of a baby, from embryo to fetus to infant to young child. How amazing! Our life comes from the life of another. And here’s something even more amazing and mysterious: even though God made our souls, our personalities and character traits, along with our faces and bodies, often look a lot like the mother and father we come from. God makes us, but the influence of our parents runs deep. Our life comes from the life of others. We are all unique individuals, but we are not islands. We are connected; we owe our lives to other lives.
And mothers play a central role in this connectedness. God actually designed women’s bodies so that they have life to spare. During pregnancy and nursing, they share their own physical lives with their children. They “eat for two” and give out of the excess to nurture the life of another. I’ve been told that it’s a beautiful experience, but also a very draining one. It’s exhausting to share your life with someone else. It’s exhausting to give and give and give some more. And it doesn’t stop when they are weaned. Raising children takes a lot out of us long after they have developed teeth and learned to hold a spoon. We continue to give and give. It costs money and time and energy to sustain the life of another. And yet it is what we were made for. We weren’t made to live selfishly. Even those who never have children find work and worthy causes to pour themselves into, because sooner or later we discover that a selfish life is an empty life.
This is because we were not made by a selfish God, but a God who freely, generously, sacrificially, gives life. A selfish God would never have made us at all. And because God is a life-giver, life-giving is woven into the fabric of everything He made. When we live to give life away, we are going with the grain of creation. If we live as takers only, we are trying to get the universe to do something it simply wasn’t designed to do. Our sinful flesh, which is out of step with God’s original design, often takes the promises of God and tries to turn them into permission to be self-focused, but to do this is to twist the Word of the God who gives.
Take John 10:10, for example. Jesus says he came to give life to the fullest. Abundant life. In our sin and immaturity, we read this to mean that Jesus came to give me everything I want. More money, a bigger house, a better car, if only I had more faith and figured out the secret of “claiming” His promises. What foolishness. Doesn’t it make more sense to assume that the Jesus of the Gospels wants us to use our lives the way He used His? If He gives us abundant life, is it so we can have more than enough life for ourselves, or so we can have life to share?
Our family celebrates several birthdays in May, plus Mother’s Day, which means there is a lot of feasting this month, a lot of full plates. At these meals of abundance, it’s common to hear one person (usually a child) ask “Can I have some of your (cake, ice cream, chips, strawberries, etc…)?” and the answer (from an adult) is usually “Of course. I have more than I need.” When you have more than you need, you share it freely. When Jesus fills us with life, it’s not so we can hoard it, it’s so we can be life-givers. It’s so the world can say to us, “Can we have some of that life?” and we can say “Of course; I have more than enough.”
Jesus said we would lose our lives if we try to save them. He said we would find life when we lose it. Mothers give so much, and what they get in return is the joy of seeing someone else receive life. A pregnant or nursing mother is a great picture of abundant life, life to the fullest. She has more than enough, and she is happy to share. My sincere prayer is that when the people of this world look at me, and when they look at Community Church, they would not see us hoarding life, but sharing it freely. And yes, this means sharing the material blessings God has given us. But it also means sharing our joy. It means sharing life-giving words of encouragement. It means sharing the Gospel. It means sharing other people’s burdens. It means people look at us and they know we have life to spare, and that we’d be happy to give them some.
Sometimes, of course, we don’t feel like we have any life to spare. Our cup is not overflowing; it’s dry. Next week we’ll look at God’s plan for filling us up when we are empty, so we can have something to offer those around us.