Self-awareness and change is hard work.
Marriage is hard work.
Motherhood is hard work.
Life is hard work.
I think at some point we forget this truth. Somewhere in our cultural dialogue, we have forgotten what it means to do the hard work, to struggle, and to finish what we began.
My dad is the one who taught me about hard work. You set your eye on the goal and then get to work. You finish the job. Being an avid reader, I remember many times, “Get your nose out of that book and look up.” He always wanted me to be aware of the beauty around me, to be aware of what was right in front of me. My dad is struggling with cancer. He has done the hard work, he continues to do the hard work of enduring to the end.
That’s the personal note on this subject. Now let’s talk about what it means to do the hard work.
In the scripture we are taught to “work out your own salvation (Phil. 2:12).” Amulek reiterates this instruction when teaching the humble Zoramites, “...and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God... (Alma 34:37).” Many might use this verse to imply that the work of receiving salvation is all on our shoulders. Yes, there is work in keeping the commandments, but more important is the work of building a relationship with God and trusting in His grace for the empowerment, enlightenment and strength needed to do the work He requires.
I like how Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke about our work with God. He said:
Our Heavenly Father has described His vast plan for His children by saying, ‘Behold, this is my work and my glory —to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ Consider the significance of the Lord’s use of the word work. What He is doing so lovingly and redemptively is, nevertheless, work —even for Him! We, likewise, speak of ‘working out our salvation,’ of the ‘law of the harvest,’ and of the ‘sweat of the brow.’ There are not idle phrases. Instead, they underscore the importance of work. In fact...work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity.
The Lord has a work. We as mothers, wives, and daughters of God have a work. It is a spiritual necessity to do that work. However, hard work does not need to have negative connotation. Notice in Elder Maxwell’s quote he said that the Lord is doing the work lovingly and redemptively. We can do our work in that same manner, showing ourselves the compassion we need in order to do the work being asked of us with that same love.
M. Catherine Thomas gives us some insight into how we can do such work:
I encourage you to design your own spiritual practice for training your mind, things you want to rain yourself to do every day in order to raise your spiritual energy level, in addition, of course, to your prayer and scripture. What you repeatedly practice I’ll become your inclination....Setting out to create new mental habits is something like a spacecraft trying to escape the force of gravity—at first it takes quite a bit of effort, and then you break free, and it almost runs itself (The God Seed, pp 208-209).
How many of you set out to be mothers with joy, anticipation, a little nervousness but mostly excitement? How many of you, at some point in your mothering, realized that it was a lot harder than you had originally anticipated? Motherhood burn out is a real thing! It takes work to keep redemptive love as a focus, not only toward your children and spouse, but also toward ourselves! And yet, the work of a mother is the same work God has —to bring our children to Christ. What better mission is there than that!? Making it a priority to create a spiritual practice for ourselves is vital in fulfilling this great mission.
Yes, these roles we play in life can be exhausting, but with the Lord and His mission as our focus we have the capacity to find joy in motherhood, joy in self-discovery, joy in marriage and joy in life! Then we can move forward with a steadfastness in Christ and do the hard work required of us! Our children deserve mothers who will do that hard work.
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Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song.
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel.