By Rachel Kang
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 9.
You bring the baby home, snuggle her tight, and wrap her warm. You nestle your nose into her neck, over her forehead, across her cheek. She wiggles and squirms, breathes a faint and innocent sigh, all the while your insides melt and, altogether, you come undone.
These are the moments that make us moms—gazing into the eyes of our children, hushing them sweetly until their cries are calmed, seeing their peaceful faces glisten under the light that slips through half-cracked doors at midnight.
We hold them close because it’s our instinct to carry and care for them. We hold them close because we sense that it’s what our hands and hearts were created to do. We hold them close because that’s all we know. To hold, to hug, to have—no one has to teach us these things. We just know them; we just do them.
That’s why our hearts flutter when we let them take the keys to the car, or when we send them off to college, or as we watch them straighten the boutonniere on the tuxedo. That’s why waving goodbye as they slip out the door for that first date, and hearing them scream when the needle penetrates their arm, and kissing their cheeks every morning on the way to work is hard.
Letting them go is what makes holding them close so hard.
There isn’t a sane mother who wakes up in the morning with happy thoughts and pleasant dreams of sending their children off and into a world where there is risk, and danger, and pain, and death.
Even now, I am writing these words while sitting next to my newborn son. It is late into the night, and I am on my bed in my room watching his chest rise and fall with every breath. He is cuddled beside me, hands clasped like he’s praying, and I cannot help but think about how, someday, I will have to let go of him.
Someday, I will not be able to hold him in the hollow of my hands like I can now because he will grow wide and tall. He will explore the world, and he will meet people that he will want to be with more than me. I will not be able to hide him or cover him or shield him every minute of every day. He will be exposed, and he will be released, and he will be unveiled to the world, and he will go.
In my late night thinking, I am reminded of a woman who is scantily studied, hardly known, and barely remembered—Jochebed, mother of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses.
What we know of her is that she put her newborn son, Moses, in a papyrus basket to float down the Nile river. What we know of her is that, for three months, she nursed her son and held him close, only to find herself in a position and place of having to let him go.
Jochebed was a mother, not some bedtime Bible story hero. She was a real mother who gave birth to a real boy—she loved him and nursed him, holding him closer than her own breath. She was a mother who stayed awake with her son in the wee hours of the night, watching him curl up close with hands clasped, as if to pray. Watching his breath rise and fall, singing and praying over him—falling in love with him and vowing to herself, and to God, that she would cradle him, and care for him, and cling to him all the days of his life.
She was a courageous mother who realized that cradling and caring for her son might even look like letting him go.
To save his life, she had to let him go.
To allow him to fulfill his greatest purpose, she had to let him go.
To save the lives of her other children and the nation of Israel, she had to let him go.
To fulfill her greatest purpose, she had to let him go.
She didn’t cower in fear; she didn’t hide away or ignore the situation surrounding her like I sometimes want to do. Instead, she did the hardest thing for any parent, any person to do when they love someone—she gave him up.
Our God is a faithful God; he does not allow for our hardest choices to be made in vain. And God paints a beautiful picture of just that through the story of Moses’ birth. Jochebed knew that if she held onto Moses, he would be killed because of the decree set forth by Pharaoh’s desire to eliminate the Hebrew population. But she also must have imagined that there would be risk in trying to preserve his life. What if Moses ended up in the hands of a dangerous person? What if the basket sunk and the baby drowned? What would he think of his own mother abandoning him? What if he died? What if? Even still, she had faith that, by letting him go, she would save his life. Here’s the first way that God honored her sacrifice: she not only spared Moses’ life, but she spared the lives of many—the entire Hebrew nation to be exact.
Another beautiful picture of God’s goodness is how he orchestrated a way for Moses to be given back to Jochebed after she let him go. In Exodus 2, Miriam, Moses’ sister, follows the basket that her baby brother was put into as it floats along the riverbank of the Nile. Upon witnessing Pharaoh’s daughter find and show signs of wanting to keep baby Moses, Miriam approaches Pharaoh’s daughter, asking if she would like for her to find a Hebrew woman who could nurse the baby. Pharaoh’s daughter approves and sends Miriam, who returns to Jochebed, their own mother, and brings her to Pharaoh’s daughter as the Hebrew woman to nurse Moses. Jochebed released her son, forfeiting him to be saved and raised by an Egyptian family—a pharaonic family at that, and was miraculously still the one to nurse and hold close her own son.
Jochebed’s sacrifice not only foreshadowed the sacrifice that God too would make—sending his beloved Son to be the Deliverer and Savior of all mankind, but her sacrifice also foreshadowed just exactly how Jesus’ story would end. That, in the same way that Moses was returned to his mother for a short time, Jesus would also return to his Father for all of eternity.
In that is our truth, our lesson—the example that we should look up to. That, in Christ, our letting go of the children that we hold closely to will never be in vain.
Our children are filled with purpose beyond our understanding and power beyond what we could ever contain. We are entrusted with this gift to hold close so that we might live out the incredibly difficult but eternally powerful gift of letting go. We might be letting go of them to save an entire nation or only just to heal one heart, but one thing is for sure. We won’t get to hold them forever, but God will forever get the glory.
And that is all that moms should be here and living for—His fame and his glory.