“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” Mark 9v35
I have been struggling lately with the high demands of being a mother. The first thing I wake up to is my baby crying. He needs me to feed him and to change his diaper. Then my toddler is awake. She needs me to change her. To get her food. To figure out, out of the many foods we have, what she wants to eat. To clean her up. To figure out which book she wants and where it even is. She has a wound on her foot right now and needs extra help. One moment she wants in her chair, the next moment she wants out. She’s dropped her book and can’t reach it. She’s looking through her Jesus Loves Me book and comes to the page with the red bird (her favorite bird) and she won’t stop grunting until I come look at it. I stop what I am doing, walk over, she points and says “Tee!” (that’s the word for everything that excites her) and smiles up at me with this proud, joyful sparkle in her eyes. Doesn’t that make it all worth while? When your toddler expresses joyfulness that you’ve paid her attention? When your baby coos and smiles at you when you sit by him?
If I can be honest, not always. It doesn’t. I feel extreme gratitude in the moment when that happens, but in all honesty, five minutes later, when Joshua is crying because he’s lost his pacifier, and Jovi is crying because she dropped her water from her high chair and she doesn’t want sweet potatoes anymore but raisins, and she really needs a diaper change but is covered in tomato sauce and Joshua is crying because he is gassy… you get my drift. I am no way complaining about motherhood and being that person that points out how hard it is and how you need to really think before you have kids. I’m trying to do the exact opposite. Bear with me.
Motherhood is hard. It is hard. Isn’t anything worth while difficult and in need of great endurance and perseverance and sacrifice? I have been reading Garden City by John Mark Comer. It’s an amazing book about how important our work is on Earth and how it prepares us for inviting heaven on earth. The verse quoted above in Mark 9 brought up a lot of questions and insight. John Mark says in his book, “The word ‘first’ can also be translated ‘great.’ Jesus essentially says, ‘You desire to be great? Okay, I put that in you. Here’s how - become a servant.’ The word ‘servant’ is diakanos. It means ‘one who waits on tables.’” I can say that, as a stay-at-home-mom and a wife, I have waited on a lot of tables. Jesus says that whoever wants to be first must be the very last and servant of all. Servants serve others. That is what their life is about. When was the last time you went to a restaurant and thought, wow, I want to be like that waiter over there gathering up all those dirty dishes and sweeping up food on the floor and dealing with this picky customer whose steak wasn’t grilled to perfection? I haven’t. . . But Jesus seems to be telling us the message that these small, non glamorous acts of service, for others, not for ourselves, are what He values, what He says is great.
He redefines greatness.
How does this apply to us moms? It should be so encouraging! Goodness, how many times have we wiped poopy bottoms, cleaned spit up or vomit off the carpet, gotten peed on in the bathtub, had snot wiped on our shirt right as we’re heading out to a dinner?
These are marks of servanthood, of greatness in Jesus’ sight.
And I am not being funny here.
After saying that about being a servant to His disciples, “He took a child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.’”
Wow. Not only does our motherhood fit in to this idea of servanthood, but Jesus literally takes a child and uses her as an example. What an honor we must feel! I bet if any women were standing around, Jesus was probably getting a lot of “Amen, hallelujahs!” Can you imagine the purpose and value it gave mothers back then? Children then weren’t viewed the way they are today. They were at the bottom of the social chain. But Jesus says to welcome the children in His name. He says to serve them.
Serving the servants?
We are fulfilling Jesus’ will as moms!
Our work is not insignificant.
There isn’t something “better” or “more fulfilling” to do. (I am in no way downing working moms. Motherhood is a part of our identity, but it’s not all we are. And for some mothers it is necessary for them to work. I am, though, challenging the idea of how the world presents working and being a mom, that you need to be the CEO of this company or this author or whatever it is to be important and have purpose or happiness. That being a mom isn’t “enough” or isn’t “cool” or isn’t really an identity you want to be defined by.)
Anyways, being a mom is. So. Important. We are literally creating, nourishing, and raising up the next generation. Or we should be. We are servants of Jesus. We are serving Jesus.
When I had my first baby, Jovi, I went through this struggle. I felt like, even in the Christian circle, I had to do something else to be complete, some other form of ministry. I needed to be a missionary or lead a Bible study or paint or something. Something more. Those things aren’t bad; they are great, actually. But not when they are done out of an identity crisis. Jesus gave me this passage to think about.
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25v35-40
How many babies and toddlers are hungry? Thirsty? A stranger to this world when born? Naked? Sick? In prison? Okay, maybe not in prison I would hope, but you get my gist.
I am serving Jesus.
You, mamma, are serving Jesus.
You are a servant. That’s a compliment.
It is scary in a way to think about how our culture is devaluing motherhood. Being a stay-at-home-mom isn’t something you want to do. There’s something better out there, something more worth your time. Learning? The school will take care of that. Nourishing? How about day care? Even in some Christian circles… learning about the Bible? Don’t worry, there’s church for that. And goodness, we have the internet at our fingertips! Why not just throw a screen in front of them and let them learn?
That’s pretty worrisome in my opinion. Yes, we are to live in community and receive help (that’s a whole other blog post. And I am also not saying that in being a mom, you can ignore all other peoples and their needs because being a mom is enough and outweighs all the other things. There is more to this world than our little family bubbles.)
But, we are their mothers.
We have so much power in that identity.
We have so much influence.
We (should) know them so well, from the day they are conceived and onward. God gave us the gift of having bodies that create and nourish eternal, human beings. We need to embrace the whole story. The entire role. Not just maybe the pregnancy. The gift doesn’t end when pregnancy is over. Motherhood is for years. For life, even. And if Jesus says it is worthy work, then it is.
You are made in the image of God as a child bearer. As a nourisher. As a creator. As a teacher. As a servant. Jesus came to be a servant. It is honorable work. Yes, to the world, it is not honorable work. But that is because the world goes against everything Jesus teaches. Under what influence are you living?
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15v19
In John 17 Jesus is praying to His Father and mentions that we are not of this world just as much as He is not of this world. We are different, set apart, for Jesus. As you go about your daily tasks, as you begin to feel the frustration of being needed 24/7 to do these “mundane” duties, remember Who you are made for, Who you are made after, and Who you are serving. Remember Jesus’ honorable work and the blessing that is for you as a mamma.