The ten year old climbs into his bed, takes a deep breath of the clean fresh sheets, and exclaims, “Ah…. that smells so good!”
Husband walks into the door after a busy day at work, and there is gratefulness in his eyes when he sees the table set, and smells good smells coming from the kitchen. He says words of thanks for a meal prepared, and for a family to share it with.
Her little voice wakes me up in the middle of the night, her hand tapping my shoulder. “Mommy. My bed is wet.” And off we go again… change the sheets, get a good wipe-down, slip on fresh pajamas, all while feeling around in the dark so we don’t wake Sister. We whisper words to each other and tuck back in with a kiss.
Those two boys look so sharp in their uniforms, all ready to hit and catch and throw. They’ll not know for many years (maybe until future wives clean the miniature baseball pants of their own little ones?) the careful scrubbing it took to get all those slides into home out of those baseball pants. (Isn’t it funny how boys love to slide, whether the ball is closing in on them or is still in the outfield?)
“Mommy! Will you paint my nails?” Later, we head outside and she is so excited about patting seeds into soil and lugging around the watering can, she does not even notice the dirt under her freshly painted bubble-gum pink fingernails.
Yes, there are days when it just seems like too much and that the only reason we clean and cook is for it to all be undone by dirty shoes and hungry bellies. We want to get our own nails done instead of dabbing drops of color on tiny hands.
We say in our inadequacy, “I am not domestic! I thrive on going and doing, not staying and working! I don’t know about all this nurturing!” We sigh and cry out quiet prayers for help under our breath.
In the midst of all this mother-life, we are being transformed. He hears our prayers. The mess and the needs don’t stop, but as we look to Him for grace and strength, as we keep on even though we don’t feel like it, He changes us.
Marriage and motherhood are two ways He takes self-centered, self-fulfillment seeking girls, breaks us open through the joys and pains, and transforms us into wives and mothers, and even better, disciples.
What Jim Elliot said is true, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Because when we lay down our lives, in these daily acts of care and love, we are sowing seeds into a Future that will not disappoint, into a treasure that we cannot lose. And I don’t mean our husbands and children won’t disappoint us. No, they will, and we them in return.
I am not talking about hoping in the promises parenting books offer, that the correct methods will produce teens that don’t talk back or college entrance or kids who grow up to take care of us when we are old.
No, this is a deeper Hope, a more distant future, the one Paul spoke of in Romans*… we hope for redemption, for the Day when our faith will be made sight. We hope in Him, we hope in the Rest He has promised us, in the eternal reward of seeing Him face to face.
Sometimes we need to take a breather, to slip out of the constant neediness to have our own needs met. But please, let’s use that time to refuel and fill back up with Him and His help, so that we are ready to give again, instead of simply craving more time to serve ourselves?
Because this work does matter.
It matters to the One who said, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” Matthew 10:42.
And it matters to the ones we are serving.
Our serving fills their hearts with love. It shows them- our husbands and our children- that they are important to us, that their needs matter to us.
But best of all, our serving shows them that they matter to their Heavenly Father, that He would care for them by giving them someone (you! and me!) who loves them, loves to help them, wants to be with them.
We can show them gospel love by laying down our favorite book and setting up the ironing board, lingering by their bedsides with a story while they fall asleep, closing the computer to look into eyes and listen to what is on their minds.
Maybe you are like me, and you don’t feel naturally domestic. Nurturing does not come easily. Here are some things that have helped me:
- Asking- sometimes begging- Him for a love for my home, for a nurturing heart that welcomes my husband and children. Our Father loves to give good gifts to His children.
- Doing. Just doing it. Making the bed, getting dinner ready, giving a hug or a word of encouragement. Sometimes in the doing of the thing, the affection for it slowly comes.
- Remembering. That I have been brought In. I was once a stranger, and Christ has made a Home for me, set a table, prepared a Feast.
So let’s pray and do and remember. For them, for Him, for our own joy that is set in our certain Future.
*And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
(Romans 8:23-25 ESV)