It was the end of a long day, and I was (to put it mildly) out of patience. Gregg had come home only minutes before, after working late, so I was trying to get the kids ready for bed. Both of them were running around, instead of doing what I asked them to do, and I lost my temper. A little while later, my husband came upstairs and asked my six-year-old why “Mommy had to yell”. Immediately, I felt remorse. I didn’t have to yell. Sure, I was feeling frustrated and stressed out that they weren’t listening (AGAIN), but I could have given myself a time out to pray and take a few deep breaths before attempting to manage the chaos unfolding around me. My husband had asked my son to give an account for his behavior, but suddenly I felt the need to give one for mine.
Quite honestly, I was just tired of being needed. Of giving and going non-stop all day, with absolutely no guarantee that anything I am doing will actually give me a return on my investment. I found myself struggling to keep from being weary in doing good. It can be difficult to find joy, peace and blessing in the midst of fulfilling the responsibilities that God has given us as mothers. Constant reminders to “speak kindly”, “use your words”, and “hold Mommy’s hand in the parking lot” go unheeded. I get discouraged easily by bad attitudes and disrespectful speech, and exasperated upon walking into the living room and finding toys littered all over it after I just cleaned them all up! I really wonder sometimes if it’s all worth it.
It takes a lot of time, thought and energy to lead and teach children, and often I feel like I am using all my energy just to keep the kids from killing each other and destroying the house. How can I possibly fulfill any higher purpose than that? It is easy to forget our unique ministry opportunities while raising small children when we get bogged down with all of the routine, and also seemingly mundane, tasks of motherhood. These menial tasks don’t appear at first glance to be anything holy. But each are all different ways that we serve “the least of these.” Being with our children, day in and day out, presents us with multiple chances to share Christ with them and with others as well. A sibling squabble or a fight between one of our kids and his/her friends can be opportunities to teach our children about grace, forgiveness, and handling conflict in a godly way. Disrespectful attitudes and rude speech can be used to tell them about how Jesus wants us to treat others.
The reality is that our children are only this young for such a short time, and we only have a little while in the long scheme of things to impress our values and faith upon them. They are bombarded daily with a worldview that is diametrically opposed to the Word of God through two main pipelines, secular entertainment and secular education. As their parents, we are also their first line of defense against ideologies that distort God’s truth. By availing ourselves to them now, however inconvenient it might seem, we can provide them with a solid biblical foundation which they will need when they encounter ideas that conflict with their faith.
Not surprisingly, Jesus educated His disciples and those around Him in the pattern and method set forth in Deuteronomy 6 and other Old Testament passages. Jesus taught and instructed as He walked by the way, as He ate, as He drank, as He lived. He engaged people in discussion and conversation. He was available to answer questions. He developed relationships and used every opportunity and every circumstance to point people toward His Father, to challenge them and encourage them to more faithful, godly living. The way that God commands parents to educate their children is to talk with them and be available when their children have questions. Parents should be instructing their children throughout the day, during their daily activities and in all the circumstances of life.
So how do I move beyond just being available and actually reach my children’s hearts? For any ministry to be fruitful, we must abide in the true vine, Jesus. I will become weary in doing good if my eyes are focused on only what I can see in the here and now, instead of on Him. I can’t bring enough on my own. I will never have enough time, energy, patience or love for my kids. Trying harder is not the answer; surrender is. That night I lost my temper with my kids over their disobedience, I was operating out of self-reliance, seeking self-indulgence, and motivated by selfishness. And that much self is just too much. When I draw from His wisdom and strength, I am able to sacrificially give to my children, knowing that I may not even see any true results for years to come. Galatians 6:9 says “For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."I love this quote from Andy Stanley: “The greatest thing you accomplish for the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” As a mother, this may very well be true about me. My emphasis should be on faithfulness in service, however, not perfection. Faithfulness is being willing to show up to do our work for His glory, day after day (after day). When I strive to please Him, my perspective also changes. I start to realize that the monumental happens in the minutia, in all of the nitty, gritty details of raising children with demanding physical and emotional needs. Not that I suddenly begin to love every minute of it, but I then trust God with my resources and energy believing that He will use and bless what I offer.