Click here to read part 1.
Yesterday's post was about how motherhood follows Jesus's model of making disciples of all nations (motherhood does ministry like Jesus) and today we're going to talk about how motherhood does ministry for Jesus.
Just so we're clear, the word "ministry" has many negative associations in my head. I think this is best illustrated by the time some friends and I picked up a youth speaker from the airport and drove him to a church event two hours away. I hoped for good fellowship and asked lots of questions, but I was very discouraged by the conversation. Eventually he even put his earbuds in and tuned us out! The man traveled to speak all the time and left most of the parenting to his wife. He openly told us that he didn't really study the Bible, and that was plain throughout the event because he managed to "preach" entire "sermons" without opening the Bible.
But he talked about ministry. Oh yes, he likes doing ministry. He went to a well-known seminary. He speaks at camps all the time. He knows people. I know I should show this man some grace, but I can't help but wonder, "Is any of this really for Jesus? Is He pleased with this?"
Contrast that experience with a week during the summer that I visited my cousin Karen three years ago. She has two young children and is in the process of adopting a daughter from China. Both of her children have had different allergies and other problems that made mothering very, very difficult. But that summer (and when I've seen her since) I was amazed as I watched her calm her colicky baby and patiently shepherd her older daughter's heart. I remember feeling so bad for how difficult her life was, but I was amazed at how quick she was to tell me about God's faithfulness and what good He was bringing about through the situation. I remember thinking, "I might end up having not-so-easy children...but that wouldn't crush me because it hasn't crushed her." God gave and is giving her so much grace, and she lavishes her children with unconditional love. Without a doubt I know that what she is doing is for Jesus and that He loves what she is doing!
I remember being at the library several months ago, very frustrated with Stephen and not feeling a whole lot of unconditional love for him. He was being extremely fussy that month, and especially that day, and it was just about time to eat, so I, red-faced and flustered, grabbed a John Piper book and sat in between some shelves in the kids section so I could feed him. I opened to a random page and was blown away by Mark 9:36-37:
"And He took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 'Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but him who sent Me.”
John Piper commented:
"Receiving a child into your arms in the name of Jesus is a way to receive Jesus. And receiving Jesus is a way to receive God. Therefore how we deal with children is a signal of our fellowship with God. Something is deeply amiss in the soul that does not descend (or is it really ascend?) to love and hold a child."
Wow! I looked at Stephen in a whole different way after that revelatory moment. What a crazy thing for Jesus to say, that by receiving a child I am receiving Him! This as-if-you-did-it-for-me concept is also seen in Matthew 25:34-40.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.'"
When I read that I can't help but think particularly of those who through adoption welcome, nourish, and clothe young people or babies in dire situations who would otherwise probably die. Jesus said that by doing that's for Him. Every single time you give a meal to someone in need, it is as if you are serving up some food for Jesus! I'm not sure if anyone has the energy to work at a homeless shelter three times a day, seven times a week, but mothers feed their needy ones that often for all of childhood!
Note: Since it says "as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers", from what I can tell this passage applies to what we do for other Christians, as not every needy person on earth is considered a "brother" by Jesus. However, there are plenty of other passages (like Luke 6:27-36) that say we are to show mercy to unbelievers too, so either way my point still stands that loving children shows love to Jesus.
I am just amazed at how Jesus cares for the marginalized and how much He calls His church to do the same. Caring for children is such a high calling, and what a privilege that mothers get to do it on a daily basis!
So take heart, weary mother, and know that your work, as demanding and consuming as it is, is so much bigger than just trying to keep your children alive another day. You're parenting for Jesus and for the nations (see yesterday's post.)
May 1 Corinthians 15:58 encourage you:
"Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labors are not in vain."
Cruise director, journalist, aide to a child who has primordial dwarfism, actress, 4th grade teacher, Target cashier, flight attendant, sign language interpreter, pastor's wife, best-selling author. Oh, and...mom I guess. Homeschooling mom.
This is what I would have told you at almost any time during my childhood if you asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were variations, of course, like dolphin trainer or linguist or Disney World tour guide. And over time one or two items might have dropped off the list. I accepted that being a flight attendant might be demanding, I wouldn't make it as a journalist or actress, and I don't have enough red clothes to work at Target.
But I had ambitions.
Growing up, a lot of people told me "You're going to be something big!" "You are a very special girl." And, with a pleasant pun on my name, one kind elderly man always greeted me with saying, "Hope for the world!"
I imagined people writing biographies about me and the significant impact I made during my short time on earth.
Then I found myself married, pregnant, and having a baby before I turned twenty. My husband feels very strongly about homeschooling and raising a large brood of children---and I do too!---so God-willing I'm pretty much locked into this job of stay-at-home-mom for 30 years or so. (I did joyfully choose to do all these things at these parts of my life, but you know how it is with unwarranted self-pity!) So I figured that maybe when I'm 50 I can do those things I'd always dreamed about and really change the world.
Yes, that's being overly dramatic, and of course homeschooling moms can write books and even interpret sign language on the side. But sometimes it does feel that I could have done so many things but I traded it all for what? Diaper-changing and tantrum-handling? Anti-climactic.
By the way, writing this blog post was interrupted by snatching important papers from my baby before he ripped them, changing his poopy diaper, sternly warning him to not touch cords or eat board game pieces, and nursing (though thankfully I can type while doing that!)
Thankfully, however, God used multiple different resources (His Word and the women in my church primarily, but also multiple blogs and an excellent book by Carolyn Mahaney called Feminine Appeal!) to bring me to the conclusion that there is nothing more significant I can do with my life than to take on this role of mother.
My reasoning behind this is because motherhood is the best means I can think of to 1) Do Ministry Like Jesus, and 2) Do Ministry for Jesus (which I'll post tomorrow.) I realize that not every woman is called to motherhood, but I do think it would help the church to see the value in this crucial role.
1) Motherhood does ministry like Jesus.
In Bible college for my Evangelism and Discipleship class, we had to read a book called Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. I only read enough of it to finish my book report, so I missed out. However, the book clearly asserted through scripture that the main way Jesus evangelized the nations was through the discipleship of only twelve men (and more closely, three.) Reach the many by discipling the few. I liked that. I agreed with that. And the more I read the gospels the more I see that this is true.
However, it wasn't until after becoming a mom that I realized motherhood beautifully follows the ministry model of Jesus! How much more life-on-life can you get than spending nearly every waking hour with someone---or multiple someones---for at least 18 years? I love the "Hey Christian Girl" meme that says "Let's get married and start making disciples" because the more I think about it, the more I see that the context of the family is absolutely the best way to raise disciples.
(Note: I may be giving the impression that if Christians parent correctly, their children are guaranteed to believe in Jesus one day. The Bible gives no such promise. In fact, as I read the Bible I see that a lot of times godly men produced ungodly children, and ungodly men produced godly children. However, I can still parent with hope that my children will one day love Jesus because of the power of the gospel that will be spoken repeatedly to them on a daily basis.)
A young man from our church was baptized a few months ago, and at the baptism he was asked to give his testimony. His was similar to mine and that of many believers I know: his Christian parents raised him and taught him the Word and eventually he made the decision for himself to follow Jesus.
Some would call his story of conversion "boring" because there was no dramatic experience or criminal past.
Yet after he gave his testimony, one of our pastors said something like, "That is one of my favorite kinds of testimonies to hear! Praise the Lord that his parents obeyed scripture and trained him up in the gospel! May we all do the same with our children!"
Awhile ago I read an excellent collection of short biographies by Noel Piper titled Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God. There were some really beautiful, exciting missionary stories in there, but most of all I appreciated the chapter about Sarah Edwards, the wife of Jonathan Edwards, who spent her days tending to the home and her eleven children.
The book references a study that was done in 1900 by a man named A. E. Winship. He compared the descendants of Sarah and Jonathan Edwards with those of a man who had lived around their time but was a lazy, irreverent, alcoholic.
The other man's family produced mostly a slew of men and women who were a hurt to society (7 murderers and 60 thieves, for example.)
The Edwards family, on the other hand, produced:
1 U.S. Vice President
3 U.S. Senators
13 college presidents
66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
80 public office holders
100 lawyers and
Additionally, members of the family wrote 135 books.
Even if I lived on my own and spent myself doing something that the world sees as "significant", I could never in one lifetime do for the world and for the Kingdom what my children and their children and their children could do! Don't even get me started on how exponential the adoption and foster care potential is with my children's children's children!
The Edwards family exemplifies Psalm 145:4, which says:
"One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts."
Psalm 127:4 says "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth."
Jim Elliot commented on that verse in a letter to his parents:
"Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as a heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly - all of them, straight at the Enemy's hosts."
For my non-Christian friends who are concerned about me brain-washing my children and forcing them to pretend to believe in something, let's talk about it privately or I could do a separate post later :)
In conclusion, I hope you see the power of a family and the power of a mom who invests in her kids! Mothers, may we thrive in this mundaneity and look to Jesus, our perfect example as we seek to influence generations upon generations who love God and can change the world better than one person ever could!
Click here to read my other posts on significance:
The Significance of Staying
The Significance of Being a Homemaker
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today