Joy that can’t be taken


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I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to follow Christ in this particular season of life lately. This week especially it just seems the Spirit is constantly urging me to ask God, “How do I pursue holiness? What does it look like to glorify you in this? Where can I change, what expectations do I need to let go of, what are Your expectations for me?”

Here’s something I know for sure. My life is nothing new. Being a stay-at-home mom with 4 small kids is not unique. Millions of women have done it before me. I cook and clean and do laundry and teach and train and rinse and repeat. If there is anything new about it, it’s that I’ve got the benefit of a washer and dryer and dishwasher and cleaning products and electricity and store-bought food, making my life slightly easier than the lives of those who’ve gone before. But even with these conveniences the core responsibilities are the same as they have been for generations: to care for the spiritual, physical and mental health of a husband and children.

I think that one of the less helpful things about the endless blog posts that inundate our feeds is that everyone thinks that they are saying something new, or have discovered something new, about this mothering journey. I suppose that is probably occasionally true, but let’s be honest, most of it is recycled. There is, I’m sure, someone somewhere who has said exactly what I’m saying here and they’ve probably done it better. I’ll admit that I sometimes cringe when I see yet another post or article about the crucible of young motherhood. Not because it’s necessarily wrong but because I simply don’t need to hear again, “What you do is valid!! This hard work is worth the reward!! NO ONE UNDERSTANDS HOW HARD THIS IS AND WHAT WE DO IS VERY VERY SPECIAL!” The message of these sorts of posts always seems to me to be that if I can just find enough self-worth in all of this work I do I will be satisfied. If I can get enough people to recognize what I do, or at the very least feel sorry for me, I will be validated.

When I read or hear something that elevates my season of life, that says that being a mother of young children is something that brings identity, I am tempted to do one of two things. I will either hate myself or love myself. Both are forms of pride that say no to God and yes to self.

The hating myself usually looks something like this:I don’t use organic house cleaning products, my kids eat chicken nuggets 3 times a week, we watch way too much TV, I don’t have enough cute chalkboards in my house, my 4 year old isn’t reading, we’re not memorizing entire catechisms together, my kids are singing Taylor Swift instead of kids praise songs, we don’t go on family bike rides together, what am I doing with my life??? This may not really look like pride at first glance. But it is a deceitful kind of pride that masquerades as self-deprecation. Because when I am thinking this way it is all about me. I’m not thinking about God I’m thinking about me. I’m not thinking about others, I’m thinking about me. I’m not even really thinking about my children or my husband, I’m thinking about ME.

The loving myself goes something like this: This IS really important, what I’m doing. These people do not know what I sacrifice to care for this family. I lay down my life for these kids and this man all day every day. Being a stay-at-home mom is totally awesome because I don’t enjoy anything so my family can enjoy so much. LOOK AT ME AREN’T I SO AMAZING. I become this martyr of motherhood, wearing my sacrifice like a badge. This is the more obvious pride. I’m just flat-out unashamedly making it all about me.

Sisters, we need to encourage each other when what we do is difficult or challenging, or let’s face it, downright boring. But I fear that we sometimes elevate our season of life to the detriment of our faith. We begin to define ourselves by what we’re doing. What do I do? I am a stay-at-home wife and mom. This is what I do. But this is not my identity. I am a daughter of God, a sister of Jesus Christ, a new creation, called out of darkness, into His glorious light. I am the recipient of abundant grace that gives all sufficiency to abound in good works. I’m set apart, made clean, an unworthy heir of eternal life. I want to let this beautiful identity intersect with and inform my season of life, and not the other way around.

I think of those 72 disciples, sent out by Jesus, returning to Him and rejoicing about all of those things they’re doing in His name. “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” He says yes, I’ve given you authority, you have power over the enemy. Yes, I know that what you’re doing is meaningful and good. Yes, all that you’re able to do through Me is thrilling and joyful. BUT, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

See, I do believe that God means for us to enjoy what we do. I know that wives and moms are meant to love serving their husbands and caring for their children. I have complete hope and faith that I can have joy in the mundane tasks of daily life. But the joy can not find it’s root in the deeds, in the accomplishments. It just won’t work. I’m not even fighting demons in His name! I’m just trying to keep a bit of peace in a house of chaos. So if those disciples are called to think not of their deeds but of their salvation, I’m pretty confident I ought to do the same. It is the forward facing hope, that someday when all of this is done I will stand before a saving God and see that He has written my name in heaven, that sustains and brings joy. All other sources of joy will fail you.

How do we seek this sustaining joy? How do we keep our eyes on heaven, on the kingdom of God, on His grace and His sufficiency? What I love about the Bible is that in spite of its depths, that can never be fully fathomed in this life, it’s messages are often so clear and simple. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to his teaching. Her sister grows irritated, thinking only of all that needs to be done. And the Lord says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.”

The sense of satisfaction that comes from finding self-worth in what you do can and will be taken from you. There are things that cannot be taken: the Word of God, the salvation of His son, the presence of His Spirit. So if you find yourself, like me, completely immersed in this young wife and mom season of life, I implore you, trust Jesus at His word. Do not find your worth in what you do. Fill your heart and your mind with His words and find joy in the thing that cannot be taken from you.



1 comment

  1. Brynn

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