You know how Eve got those commandments in the Garden of Eden that contradicted each other?: Don’t eat the fruit, and oh, be sure to multiply and replenish the earth. I’m sure there was some genuine and well-deserved stupor on Eve’s part. Luckily, she’s smart and she got it right in the end.
Nowadays, things are only slightly less complicated. The proclamation on the family teaches us that the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force. In other words, have children. And then there’s that little scripture in Doctrine and Covenants that tells us to “Be not weary in well-doing.” Is it really possible to have children and not be weary? In fact, if I died right now, my tombstone might accurately say, “Weary do-gooder.”
I chuckled a little inside when I heard that scripture read in church a few weeks ago (and probably made some witty comment under my breath about the impossibility of compliance when, for example, you have a newborn and a potty trainer at the same time– which I don’t at the moment, but I remember.). I mean, telling a mom to not be weary is like telling Mike Rowe to not get dirty. So, I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, because, let’s face it, if I ever have a snarky reaction to a scripture, I’m probably dead wrong.
Here’s what the scripture says:
D&C 64: 33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
Do you think weary is supposed to mean tired and exhausted? If so, this commandment escapes the realm of possibility because I don’t care how much faith a mother has, she’s still not going to get enough sleep. Perhaps there’s more to it than that.
Dictionary.com defines “weary” like this:
/ˈwɪəri/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [weer-ee]
1. physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exertion, strain, etc.; fatigued; tired: weary eyes; a weary brain.
2. characterized by or causing fatigue: a weary journey.
3. impatient or dissatisfied with something (often fol. by of): weary of excuses.
4. characterized by or causing impatience or dissatisfaction; tedious; irksome: a weary wait.
Perhaps the Lord is asking us to adjust our attitude more than our physical or mental state. He’s asking us to not get dissatisfied with our work, to not become discouraged. We may give up sleep, but we should not give up hope in what we’re doing. This is what I’ve decided. With absolutely no authority whatsoever, I’ve rewritten the scripture to read what I believe it actually means:
“Don’t get discouraged in your very important responsibilities. They are tedious, but they are an important part in my eternal plan. What seems ordinary and insignificant to you actually has infinite and eternal influence. Believe in it, and keep going.”
Looking at “weariness” in a new light, and with a specific twist toward my job as a mother, I loved reading these scriptures (my thoughts are in red):
Gal. 6: 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Key word: in due season. The fruits of motherhood are slow growing, but fainting is not an option if we hope to ever harvest.
(The footnote next to the word weary leads to this scripture:) Luke 8: 14 (14-15) And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. So interesting that it cross-references a scripture about distraction. It’s easy to feel discouraged in the labors of motherhood if we give too much importance to the cares of the world. And yet, if we choose thorny paths, we are kept from the development of perfection– both our own and that of our children.
Isa. 40: 28, 30-31 ¶ Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. . . . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Did that say there is a cure for weariness? Yes. And it’s in the Lord– waiting on Him. Consistency and patience.
Jer. 31: 25 For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. The Lord heals, invigorates, and blesses those who come to Him.
And, of course, Elder Maxwell says it best in an awesome talk called “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds” :
The urgings for us not to weary in well-doing contain prescriptions to avoid such weariness. (See Gal. 6:9; 2 Thes. 3:13; Alma 37:34.) We are to work steadily, but realistically, and only expect to reap “in due season.” (Gal. 6:9.) We are to serve while being “meek and lowly” (Alma 37:34), avoiding thereby the wearying burdens of self-pity and hypocrisy. We are to pray always so that we will not faint, so that our performance will actually be for the welfare of our souls, which is so much more than just going through the motions. (See 2 Ne. 32:5, 9; D&C 75:11; D&C 88:126.)
And that my friends, is how I was wrong. Because with faith in and help from our Savior, even us mothers can move past weary and keep doing the work we were called to do, just like Eve did, invigorated by the knowledge that we’re truly doing “that which is great.”
30 thoughts on “Be not weary: the paradoxical commandment for mothers?”
Thank you for this. I’ve been a bit weary of late myself, and do have those knee-jerk snarky reactions to some scriptures and teachings … I am glad I’m not the only one, though that’s probably a bad thing too. haha.
I think the definition of weary that I too often fall under is “impatient with or dissatisfied with something.”
Yes, I am impatient for my daughter’s nap time so that I can finally clean my house. I am dissatisfied with this impatience. I am fed up with my selfishness…it all ties into each other.
Elder Maxwell’s quote on being weary is so in tuned with motherhood. Rather than focus on the clean house and the “bad” guilt, I need to focus a little more on how I am raising my daughter. Am I doing my best? Am I showing love? Am I serving with all my heart? These are questions that I can passionately answer “Yes!” to.
Thanks for your insights. A great lesson to learn.
Genius. I wish I could take a moment in time and remember it long enough to go home and research my scriptures and find my own answers to my own problems the way you do. Problem is, I get distracted (not choked, just…you know) and I forget what I was thinking about in the first place. I love how you really feast and dive right in the scriptures. Love, love, love it!
Great post. I must remember it next time we have a horrible FHE with three teens/pre-teens…I’m weary just thinking about it!
I loved this post. You have put a finger on something I feel like I have been struggling with. I have become a little weary. Thanks for the wake up call, I needed it!
I don’t know how many times I’ve used the word weary in the past few weeks but its been a whole lot. I’ve become extremely weary with so many things lately. Thank you for your insights. I will have to study those scriptures myself and gain some much needed strength to continue pushing onward.
Thank you so much!!!
Thanks so much Steph for this, I truly needed it not only as a mother but for my church callings. Are you ever weary after serving for many years in the same calling? I have and am but this is the wake up call I needed. Thanks again. Love ya!
I read the title of your post, then went to retrieve my hot chocolate from the microwave. I was thinking about what I would say about weariness in motherhood. I decided the scripture was talking physically weary, but weary in spirit.
The definitions you gave provide a whole new insight into it.
I have to say that one of the best things about blogging is that I’ve learned from so many moms not to wish away this time when my children are young. I try to savor as much of it as possible. But…….last night I was weary.
Today I will not be.
Excellent post, Steph… the way I see it, I may be plum exhausted by the end of the day (I will, after all, have a potty trainer and a newborn in just a few months) but I’m always willing to get up and do it all again the next day, because the process is joyful. Do I have weary moments? Yes. But overall, though I’m almost always tired, I’m still always WILLING.
I’m glad you pointed all this out. I’ve always thought of it in the attitude department but I like the further study you’ve done.
One of my favorite quotes is
“It isn’t what we have done that makes us weary, but what we have left undone.”
I find that after a day of hard and exhausting work I feel so good, so energized. But on the days that the sink is full of dishes, the laundry backed up, etc, all I want to do it crawl under a rock and sleep forever.
I don’t know how you always seems to time things so well.My newborn and my potty trainer were up the entire night last night and I was sitting here on my couch this morning waiting for them to wake up, dreading the start of my day. Thank you for reminding me of what I need to know before my day even begins!
I have been very “weary” this week and there is something(s) in this post that make me smile and feel a little less so. Thank you for writing this.
Loved this post. Loved the analyzing of definitions (you may already know from my blog but I love official definitions) and the conclusion that we can be a mother without being weary. So good!
My experience has been that much of the “fatigue” type weariness in parenting can be avoided by getting enough sleep at night and recognizing that raising children is not a project. It’s amazing to me how many extra demands I placed on myself (especially when my kids were small) that had nothing to do with what the Lord wanted me to do with and for them.
Child rearing can’t be quantified on a to-do list. It can’t be charted and regulated and enrichment-ized and systematized. Most of the time it isn’t even particularly structured, and it sure isn’t predictable.
When you allow for all of those variables, and your expectations adapt to the needs of your children and the promptings of the Spirit, much of the ‘weariness’ of child rearing dissipates.
And the “foundation” you’re then laying is one of joyful submission to the will of the Lord. Is there anything greater to instill in our children than that?
I struggled with this almost ten years ago (has it really been that long?) when I had 4 under the age of 4. My wonderful mother sent me two things to read.
This article by Winnie Dalley from the March 1998 Ensign entitled “Seize the Joy.” (http://tinyurl.com/ybojnrl) I particularly latched on to this quote, “A house does not have to be perfect to be a home of joy, a child does not have to behave perfectly to love and be loved, and every moment of life does not have to be perfect to be of value. Too often, I realize, we fail to see the glorious reality of the simple joy that abounds in the seemingly mundane routine of day-to-day living. Instead, we tend to idolize the past, idealize the future, and devalue the present…. What better way to show our appreciation to Heavenly Father for what we have than to embrace our lives, albeit “ordinary” and “unexciting,” with joy?”
The other was the book “Arise and Shine Forth” with talks from the 2000 BYU Women’s Conference. One talk really struck home for me. It was called “Who Sweeps a Room” by Nancy Young. (They don’t have the transcripts for this talk on their site, how dare they!) I will come back later and type in my favorite part. She speaks of doing the mundane and weariness and looking to the Savior. It is beautiful.
I love your thoughts on this Steph. I also love your whole thought process. Thanks for sharing that. sometimes I get so discouraged that I don’t think like “spiritual people”…
But maybe it’s that I DO, I just don’t keep the thought process going long enough. I was right with ya when you were making comments under your breath in church, but that’s where I probably would have dropped the ball. Thanks for teaching me to keep thinking about it a little longer.
Did you know you were inspired to write that for me? I needed to hear it, so you were given the thoughts to tell me. Thank you from the very depths of my heart. Thank you for being open to inspiration, for having the courage to share it, and for being worthy to receive direction from the Lord so you could lift my burden ever so slightly. I really wish I could meet you and give you the biggest hug in the world, because, really, this isn’t the first time you have helped me. I hope you never stop, and I hope to be like you someday. I hope to be able to lift the arms that hang down weary just as you have done for me. Thank you so much Stephanie! I love you. Sounds a little cheesy, but it is truly heartfelt. Thank you again.
I’ve been feeling a bit (errr…a lot) weary lately, and a bit sorry for myself…so thanks for that! I will be turning to the Lord to lift my spirits! 😉
Sorry, everyone, but this post was for MOI.
If I was a tatooing woman, that scripture would be permanently inked on my forehead. Or, more likely, my hand or somewhere I can see all the time.
There are times were I think about it daily.
I have made it a matter of much study and prayer and pondering, and while I have drawn many of the same conclusions you have, I also learned a couple new ones.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thanks for the attitude check. Ever since I started working more last month I have been very weary and complaining about it. I can feel my burdens getting lighter (or am I just growing and able to bear more?), but I do need to think more positively about it all.
Being weary, as in being dissatisfied…that makes a lot more sense than physical weariness because what mother doesn’t feel that bone-crushing sleepiness when there’s a baby or a wayward teenager?
How is it that everything you write is golden?
I loved your thoughts here. I am so extremely physically weary of late, that it is hard to keep my mental weariness in check. While I cannot deny that they must be tied together (or else why do the scriptures also tell us to retire to our beds early?), I know I can work on my attitude far more easily than I can my physical exhaustion. Attitude adjustment, here I come!
Your way with words and conveying what you feel to all of us who feel the same way is a true gift and talent. Thanks for developing it and thanks for sharing this post.
I desperately needed to read this … and I also loved the quote Chocolate on my Cranium wrote. I need to burn those words in my heart and mind.
This is one of my absolute favorite scriptures! It really encourages me as a mother. It reminds me that what I’m doing is good! I’m laying the foundation of a great work!
We chose this scripture as our family theme for the year. It was neat having my 5 year old think of “small things” she can do that lead to a “great work.”
Thanks for this post!
Found your blog today, and have enjoyed so far. I have always liked this scripture, and find it to be more encouraging than anything else. We WILL get weary, but I’ve always taken it as an encouragement like “Don’t get down. What you’re doing is important.” What mom doesn’t need encouragement?
Great insight. Thanks for the thoughtful post. When I was RS Pres we used this as a presidency theme, and it became so important to me. Thanks so much.
Stephanie, I hope it’s OK if I quote you in my RS lesson this Sunday. GREAT insights. What a gift. Thank you.