19 Sep Working for the Lord and not for Success
Since I was young I’ve heard the joke about stay-at-home moms sitting on the couch, watching Soaps and eating bonbons all day. I just Googled it and received over 17,000 results, so apparently the saying is still floating around.
And even though I never saw my own mother eating chocolates and watching TV, she made the stay-at-home-mom job look easy. Somehow I didn’t realize how much hard work it would take until I was in the thick of it myself. I knew my kids would have the occasional bad attitude, but I never knew I would have to use the word “consequence” 55,000 times (and counting) in the process of training them.
I knew having a family would be messy, but I never knew I would have to actually teach my children that my minivan isn’t a trash can where you can discard your sticky lollipop sticks, gum wrappers, and empty tubes of Go-Gurt. I knew I would be busy, but I never thought I would be completely overwhelmed with hard-to-reach cobwebs, sticky floors, birthday parties, mountains of laundry, third-grade homework; all the while, asking myself, “Why is this so hard???”
It’s hard is because we live in a fallen world. If you haven’t already, go back and listen to Bill White’s teaching from Grace’s Work Series (Work in a Fallen World). In short, we experience the curse of pain and frustration in our daily walk after the entrance of sin into this world (Genesis 3). This applies to the simple, small things like the recurrence of dust (seriously, either there will be no dust in Heaven, or it will somehow bring glory to God, and we will think it’s great), to the complex, excruciating things like watching our children make bad decision after bad decision.
It can be challenging to balance so many impermanent interferences such as dust, cobwebs, laundry, clutter, etc., with the mission of utmost importance and permanence – training our children and shepherding their hearts. Both are necessary and require hard work.
It can be challenging to balance dust, cobwebs, laundry, clutter, etc., with the mission of utmost importance and permanence – training our children and shepherding their hearts.
While balancing these two types of work, I find myself looking for a measure of success. In parenting, there’s no boss to report to or sales numbers to review. Our children aren’t projects we can finish up, or rough drafts we can submit to an editor. Wouldn’t that be nice? “Just fix this and this and you’ll be golden! He will be a Jesus-loving adult after you correct the red mark-ups.”
Success can vary significantly from mom to mom, yet we continually compare ourselves to one another. For one mom, success may come in the form of a fresh loaf of homemade bread, but for another mom, success may be a loaf of bread purchased on sale (and with coupons) for twenty-five cents. And then, there’s me, who considers remembering to buy bread in the first place a success.
The real measure of our “success” comes down to one question – who am I working for? Scripture says, “Whatever you do, work whole heartedly, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23). “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Ephesians 5:6-7).
If I am working for the Lord, what does that mean? I have to embrace the responsibility God has given me in this season. I have to get to the heart behind my children’s behavior and not simply get them to stop their incorrect behavior. In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp says that parents are,
“God’s agents who are in charge of knowing and helping their children understand God’s standard for behavior, teaching them that they are sinners by nature, and pointing them to the mercy and grace of God.”
Let that sink in. It’s a high calling. Before I had kids or even when they were babies, I would have read that and felt empowered to go out and change the world, starting with my children first. I may have thought, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Ted Tripp! My kids are going to hear the Truth from us, see their need for Jesus, and be transformed when they’re two year olds!!”
Well, let me tell you how that worked out. When our oldest was three and having a meltdown over not getting dessert, I prayed with her, asking God to help her have self-control. She became so enraged that she literally shook her tiny fist in the air and shouted through sobs, “God! Do NOT answer mommy’s prayer!!!” So much for Plan A.
Now that the kids are eight, seven, and almost five, my response to my charge as a parent is more like, “Please Jesus have mercy on their souls, and give me the energy and love to show them what’s right and pure and good, because I am about to lose my mind and surrender to the television.”
I have to trust that He loves my children and that His plan to redeem them is far greater than mine.
But like Bill said in his teaching, I can’t freak out. (I was literally sitting in my seat freaking out when he said that.) I have to rest in the truth that although this world is tremendously broken, it is also tremendously redeemed by a God who loves me. I have to trust that He loves my children and that His plan to redeem them is far greater than mine.
My energy must be spent on doing what He has called me to do to the best of my ability. I cannot waste time by comparing myself to others or by feeling defeated over not meeting my own standards. In Week One of the Work series, Matt explains that the cultivation of something has value even with no people to see it or benefit from it.
I can devote my energy to glorifying Him without fearing my children’s future or losing heart over the current condition of my home. In all things, He brings me hope.
In cultivating these things, we are bringing out the potential of God’s creation. This, not what people think of me, must be my motivation, or I will waste substantial time and energy working for the wrong reasons.
I must strive to wake up every day eager to honor Jesus. I must keep the Gospel in clear view so my children can see how our hearts have strayed, but how, in His grace and mercy, He has freed us from our sin! And because of that freedom, I can devote my energy to glorifying Him without fearing my children’s future or losing heart over the current condition of my home. In all things, He brings me hope.
Mary Beth Spann
Mary Beth is a 30-something wife and mother who loves the outdoors, football, and any excuse to eat good food. She and her husband have a passion for loving on younger generations both locally and abroad. Mary Beth attends our Pelham campus.