One of the things I love about the Underground is the high-commitment culture. After each microchurch meeting and each Crucible gathering, I leave wanting to do something radical for the Kingdom.
But there are days where that feeling drives me to frustration rather than a joyful place of serving Jesus. Much of this is related to the fact that I am a mom, which takes a majority of my time and energy. I don’t say this to complain at all – I am thankful for my family and I am confident in my place as a mother and wife. It’s just that the inspiration of a Crucible message or an amazing Bible study in the gospels is often met by the reality of little people needing to be fed, bathrooms needing to be cleaned, clutter to be battled and a dozen little things that don’t feel like Kingdom work. I start to feel a creeping guilt that I’m not living radically or faithfully enough.
So when I add to that a call to pour out more of my life, give more up for Jesus and take bigger steps of faith, the dissonance between what I perceive the call Jesus makes and the reality of my life can feel frustrating. I don’t lead a microchurch with a cool name. I don’t have stories of adventure to relay beyond the broken washing machine this week. I feel accomplished when I remember the names of my new neighbors to pray for them, much less be having great Bible studies with the unreached. I haven’t been out of the country in 8 years. All this makes me question my dedication to God and commitment to His purposes. It’s easy to look back a pre-family years and long for that flexibility to take crazy risks and pour myself for people all the time.
But there are three truths I so easily forget – first mothering young children is one of many seasons in life. When our kids are little, especially infants and toddlers, it’s easy to feel up to your elbows in diapers, spit up and wipes. It may seem like it will last forever. As they grow and require more relational time and discipleship, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility to help them form good character and love God. Yet neither of those seasons lasts. I constantly need to remind myself that I only get these sweet ones in my home for a fraction of my lifetime and then they will be gone. Not only will I miss them, but I will still have years to live radically. I recently attended the dedication of some homes that were part of an organization my grandmother started that enables the working poor to use sweat equity as a down payment and own a home. Over 500 homes have been built through this organization. It was her retirement project. Just because I can’t do something now doesn’t mean I never will.
Second, while what I am doing doesn’t seem important the reality is that it is of great importance on many levels. Working on having a clean and healthy home, a strong marriage and kids that have a good foundation in loving God and others is radical these days. We certainly don’t have a perfect family, but it could be a light and nurturing example in our neighborhood full of people from broken homes looking for a family. This is kingdom work. It doesn’t seem as glamorous as other things. Honestly, it takes just as much prayer, work and vision as leading a microchurch.
And in reality, my kids too are the little ones. If I was off doing something “more radical” than laying my life down for them, the Kingdom would be lessened. Another load of laundry might not feel like it, but this is all part of a bigger tapestry God is weaving. He has purposes for these children I may never see. While I take risks in the ways I am able and God leads, the Kingdom will be built.
I remember an Intervarsity chapter meeting I attended while Dave was still on staff and I recently had our second child. During worship, someone said something about experiencing God’s grace. I had often experienced God’s grace in ministry – praying with a student, counseling, sharing the gospel, travelling overseas, uninterrupted worship and prayer. I actually said in my heart to God that I didn’t know if I could experience that grace now that I was so busy with the kids. I felt His answer back to me that it was precisely through my kids, because of their role in my life, that I would experience God’s grace. Not despite their distractions, but because of the ways He would use them in my life and in the lives of others.
This, perhaps, is the greatest gift motherhood has given - the freedom from having to achieve for God and to be able to see His grace in my failings as a parent and my limited time and energy. And when I face Him and account for my life, he isn’t going to ask what nonprofit I started or how many Bible studies I led, but what I did to share His grace with the little ones he gave me – within my own family as well as out in the lost world. I long to hear that “well done”.