Discovering true strength in the daily duties of motherhood
Last week my little brother contracted a mild virus that caused a horrible, itching rash. Worn out from scratching and crying he lay exhausted in my arms as we walked the trail that winds around our property. After 20-30 minutes of walking, my arms began to ache and I started stumbling. The added weight of a sleepy toddler was taking its toll. I tried to set him down and rest, but he grabbed me tighter. I lifted him up again and we walked on. As I carried him, my arms screaming for rest, I pondered a verse from Proverbs 31.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. Proverbs 31:17.
As my mind explored that verse and the now apparent literal meaning behind it, new things came to light that I had never considered before.
“She dresses herself with strength and makes herself strong.” This didn’t just happen. This mother’s remarkable strength was not something she was born with. She seeks daily to strengthen herself and provide for herself and her household. The role of mother is a physically taxing job. Her job starts when her first child is conceived in her womb, and it never ends. Daily she must rise up and strengthen her arms.
But just how does she do this? What exactly are the jobs of a mother’s arms?
First, a Proverbs 31 mother is a Comforter. As the old saying reminds us, “If Mother ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” the mother is the emotional comforter for the family. Rising every night, she nurses the smallest baby who needs her nourishing care. She soothes the little ones who awaken from nightmares early in the morning. She walks for hours on the cold floors to rock the sick baby to sleep. When I lie sick in bed, my greatest wish is always for my mom to come sit on the bed and hold my hand. When I am sad, my greatest desire is for her to hug me. It is a God-given gift to mothers. They are comforters in a special and holy way. The comfort of their arms and hands is remarkably soothing. Even the tiniest baby can recognize its mother’s touch.
Second, this mother is a Supporter. As she leads her children through their beginning years and then prepares them for adulthood, her arms must never grow weak. Her first earthly loyalty is to her husband as his helpmeet, and her second loyalty is to her children. When her children are young, they need her arms to teach them to walk. A baby wants to see his mother’s arms waiting to catch him. As her children grow older and more independent, she will use her literal arms less and less to catch them as they fall. But as her bodily arms fall unneeded to her sides, she must not neglect her figurative arms. These arms must grow stronger and stronger as she continues to support and lead her children from a distance.
Third, the mother from Proverbs is a Leader. As she holds the baby, leads the toddler, and teaches her growing children, she is leading their footsteps through life. Her hands must continually be clasped in prayer and her arms grasping for the Lord’s strength as she points the souls entrusted to her to their Lord and Savior. As they struggle and fall, so will she. She must strengthen her arms physically and emotionally so that she may train them, encourage them, and ultimately send them out into the world. Her hands must be firmly rooted in the arms of her Savior.
But the roles of a mother are not limited to her lifetime. As I said, her job begins when her first child is conceived, and it never ends. A mother’s legacy and inspiration lives on to “rise up and call her blessed.” I can still remember being four years old and watching as my mother read to me. I didn’t watch her face or the page before me. Instead I watched her hands. I was fascinated by my mother’s hands, and I still am. I love how soft and smooth they are and yet how strong. I love how long her nails are and yet still worn down with work. I love the gold bands on her hand; because of them, I am here. I still remember the feel of being comforted by my mother. I am still enraptured by the way her hands look. I hope my own hands resemble hers one day.
I have seen my mother carry child after child when she was too tired to take another step. I have seen her lift her children to give them a better view of the world above them. I have seen her push strollers, wear backpacks, carry diaper bags, read books, swing children, rock babies, change diapers, brush hair, wipe tears, clap in encouragement, and stop to hug a grumpy child. And yet she doesn’t seem to weary. Her arms are still incredibly strong. She still rises every morning and girds herself with strength.
Rising in the morning and making yourself strong is not an easy task. I know my mother feels like she doesn’t do it every day. But her children know differently.
Mothers, your children love your arms and your hands. They provide the support, comfort, and leadership that they, as children, desire. As you read, your children stare at your hands. As you walk, they love the way your hand feels holding theirs. As you wipe their tears, your children are amazed at how comforting your touch is to their troubled hearts.
Whether you feel worthy or not, your children believe in their heart of hearts that you still rise every morning and strengthen your arms just for them.
And that’s why your daughters pray that they will be just like you one day and that their arms will be as strong as yours.
- Jessica Pritchett