Jenny and Michael are going to Africa… again. They’re going to de-worm a million kids, build the area’s first university, nearly eradicate West Nile Virus, and then end it all by awkwardly bobbing to worship music while dripping in sweat surrounded by ever-grateful dancing townspeople. (Please excuse the gross stereotyping and ridiculous exaggeration- it’s all coming from a bitter mind.) The couple stand before us all now, sharing with the congregation what prayer requests they have and other stuff probably. I don’t know because now I’m standing over the bathroom sink vigorously scrubbing spit-up off of my shirt. Jenny’s off to save the world and I reek of sour milk. Score.
I hate this feeling. Jealousy gets me nowhere. Right? I know it doesn’t. But I just really love Jesus and really want to do stuff for him. Be his hands and feet you know? I’m actually being serious. Just a touch of sarcasm. I’m a very passionate person. My heart literally HURTS real pain when I read about suffering in the world. I immediately want to act. I can’t tell you how many other moms I have heard grumble about the fact that we want to go to Africa (or fill in your mission field here) too. It’s hard not to feel like a waste of space when your Christian counterparts are making huge waves for the Kingdom and you’re just trying to make it through the next wave of laundry.
Shrug shoulders. It’s just a season. It’ll be over before you know it. My time will come… So just suck it up and wait until then.
I’m calling bull.
The first thing the enemy wants you to believe is that you are not important for the Kingdom. Go ahead and get sucked-up in tummy-time, then lesson plans, carpooling, perfecting cookie-monster cupcakes… whatever. Don’t get me wrong, being a mom is an incredibly important job. But it is never our most important job. Our most important job always, is to be a disciple of Jesus.
The enemy has so succeeded in making us feel so lowly and unimportant that we forget that our sanctification (becoming like Christ) is numero uno. It’s not glamorous. It doesn’t get a spot light.
But when your kid gets cancer.
Or your husband has an affair.
Or your Mom has a stroke.
Or your community encounters a natural disaster.
Your heart is ready to respond. It’s ready to respond in a Christ-like way. You are grounded in His peace, love and wisdom- in the midst of the chaos.
In a way, even though we detest it, we see this season as a sort of “pass” to not engage deeply in the spiritual life. We know that God knows we are quite indisposed and can’t possibly serve the way others can. We know he gives grace. And he does. But there’s also this:
“We are saved by grace, of course, and by it alone, not because we deserve it. That is the basis of God’s acceptance of us. But grace does not mean that sufficient strength and insight will be automatically “infused” into our being in the moment of need. Abundant evidence of this claim is available precisely in the experience of any Chrisitian.” – Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
How can we expect to respond appropriately to a tantruming two-year-old when we are disconnected from the creator of love, wisdom and peace? Obsessively reading parenting books, Christian or not, is not going to replace the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Ever. Our sanctification is the best parenting tool we have.
Beyond parenting, the Holy Spirit prompts us to serve in ways that are hugely impactful. Taking flowers to your neighbor in a time of need. Sponsoring (and actually corresponding with) children through Compassion International and other similar organizations. Crying with the woman who just lost her baby. Building meaningful relationships. Anytime we let peace, love, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control shine through in our lives we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit. (Borrowed that thought from Jen Hatmaker’s most recent sermon) Don’t minimize your impact. Don’t let the enemy make you feel small. You are so important. Furthermore, you have no idea what will come your way that will require supernatural strength and provide an opportunity to witness. I’m not talking about evangelizing, I’m talking about actually responding to a situation the way Christ would.
Engaging in sanctification is a gift anyway, right? It’s a gift I wish I would give myself more often. When I engage with Christ I get to dismiss (at times) house cleaning, meal planning, empty conversations, meaningless crafting, shopping, decorating… I don’t know it could be anything that doesn’t really matter. Engaging takes time, but it’s really the best way I get to spend my time. When I start my day with God, I center myself around His Kingdom, not mine. I literally plan my day differently. It’s the days when the cleaning or the shopping or the texting or the whatever overtakes me and I don’t just. stop. I don’t just trust that this time with Him will be well spent and nothing is more important.
It’s a slow process at times. I don’t get the “oohs and ahhs” from my peers or any “likes” on Facebook. There’s no stickers for this one. I have to pray that God will give me a desire to spend time in His word, aaand that He’ll help me to wake-up early (Caleb started me on that prayer- it worked!). Mostly, I pray that I won’t be overwhelmed with my desire to fulfill the “duties” of this world.
You know, there have been times when this dedication has really paid off… and then the times when my neglect is quite evident. His grace is so good, it makes us so loved and so accepted no matter what. But it does not magically make us like Christ. Your whole family can probably attest to that. Sorry, that was harsh, but I’m right a little, yes?
So, what do you do with this? I’m not sure what you need to do but my friend, Kimberly, and I have decided that the best thing we can do is create a discipleship group. We’re going to go through a book about practicing the disciplines and encourage one another. Would you like to join us? Grab another friend or two but try to keep it to 2-3 people because according to Kimberly, that’s when real growth can occur. (She’s kind of a small groups guru- check-out her site here)
Also, here are some books to help you along your journey:
Please share whatever resources/insight/experience you may have! I’d love to hear it!