When I was pregnant at 23, I devoured parenting books. My husband and I bucked the current trend to wait for children: Our first son was born the day after our one-year anniversary. We adopted the cry-it-out method in a studio apartment. I quit my job and spent precious hours shoveling sand, watching boats, and picking flowers.
As much as I wholeheartedly embraced motherhood, I had no idea how self-revealing it is—how tangible the gospel message becomes when we have to flesh it out with little offspring following our lead.
Author Rachel Jankovic could easily elicit some sympathy as a mother of six children under the age of 8. I confess, I expected some head-spinning stories when I read the title of her new book: Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood (Canon Press, 2012). In a follow-up to her first book, Loving the Little Years, Jankovic addresses a range of topics relatable to most mothers in short, punchy chapters. But she offers no excuses or formulas.
With humor and candor, Jankovic provokes us to allow Scripture to define our way of thinking rather than the world’s truisms—or our own feelings. She applies biblical paradoxes to motherhood: Give to be full; worship amid laundry mountains; express gratitude in apparent lack; overcome discouragement with obedience; embrace trials for growth; train—both ourselves and our children—in the tension of law and grace; rather than listen to our weary souls, feed them with Psalms and hymns. Thus we unlock unspeakable joy and fulfillment in our work as mothers.
King David often spoke to his soul: “Why are you in despair. … Why are you disturbed,” he wrote in Psalm 42. But he chose not to dwell there: “Hope in God, for I shall again praise him for the help of his presence” (verse 5). As mothers, we get a picture in Fit to Burst of how to align our souls with gratitude and obedience amid milk spills, stomach viruses, and “pants that are too tight after the last baby.”
But often our cries of despair go deeper: Our society places little value on father-mother roles meant to uniquely illustrate Christ’s redemptive work in fallen people. Fit to Burst provides timely encouragement to Christian moms who wade through a culture that offers sympathy, shortcuts out of hard circumstances, and an underlying message that engaged child-rearing is for unambitious and boring women.
Jankovic rightly notes, “The more we are steeped in the language of the Bible, the more we will recognize when things of the world are slipping in.” After nine years of parenting, I see more clearly the correlation between what I meditate on and what comes out in the form of attitudes and actions. Sometimes I am fixated on an unmet to-do list and it’s as simple as reciting a Psalm. I am back where I need to be: My children are a blessing. I am doing kingdom work.