When I was young, my mother read stories. She read stories at naptime and stories at bedtime and stories any time she didn’t know what else to do. She filled hours and hours of rainy days with books. Together, we looked in the windows of a little house in the middle of big woods, chased a very fat rabbit through an English garden, and hoped to anything that a spider could find a way to save a pig.
Sometimes she read missionary biographies, and our living room became the densest of jungles. We held our breath through cannibal country and the dangerous back-allies of the Orient. We watched the Moravian missionaries seal their belongings into caskets and send them off to Africa, where they would surely die.
It was fabulously romantic and terribly heroic to a seven-year-old with an overactive imagination and a particular aptitude for martyrdom. I could take up a cross like that and carry it to glory.
But it is God who orders the sacrifice, and it is God who cuts the cross. To my surprise, I was not made for being a martyr, but a mother.
The sacrifices of motherhood are not glorious like I desired. They rarely draw the attention of the crowd. Motherhood carries the simple, ordinary cross of ordinary days. It is the cross of daily self-denial in the mundane circumstances when no one is watching.
It is not particularly notable, and hardly ever acknowledged. It is lonely and monotonous and altogether mindless, sometimes.
And that’s the rub. It is all so ordinary. The dailyness of this cross cuts against my flesh. I have other gifts to offer, other talents to showcase, but here I am, doing nothing more than making lunches and wiping noses day after day after day. That’s hardly the stuff that changes the world, I think.
I begin to feel a bit like Cain, who found the sacrifices of God to be unbearable, not because he could not give them, but because he could not give what he wanted. He was a man with a garden, but the sacrifice was meat. That kind of sacrifice didn’t make him look good at all. It didn’t showcase his natural talents or abilities. It was the standard one-size-fits all model, and he wanted a custom fit.
Dissatisfaction settles in where pride has left an open door. It settled in to Cain, and human blood was spilled onto trembling earth. Some days, it settles in to me, and I begin to feel the hardship of my position under a cross that isn’t glorious at all. Pride tells me I am losing my life—my self—for nothing.
That is a lie that keeps me crippled under the weight of a burden that is supposed to be easy. It is a lie that steals the joy of motherhood and the joy of giving to God the very thing He has asked of me.
In those moments, when I am feeling so small, so devoid of anything good to give to God, I must embrace the words of truth. There is no greater love than this, than to lay down my life for another. To give my life for my children is the most profound and powerful way I can serve Him. It is the simplest and most irrefutable way I can proclaim Him. Motherhood is the gospel in action.
When I embrace the dailyness of motherhood, I am embracing the daily giving of one life for another. It is a picture of the gospel that all the world longs to see. It is a sacrifice that touches the hearts of my children and secures a godly remnant for a future generation. And that is just the thing that can change the world.
If my seven-year-old self could see me now, she might be disappointed, at first. But the beauty of the cross is this: when I give God the sacrifices He desires in the way He requires, I find joy. It is awfully daily, awfully ordinary, and far more glorious than anything I could have imagined.
Please join us tomorrow for Day 5: Forgiveness
For further thought
1) Read Psalm 51:17. What are the sacrifices God requires of you?
2) Micah 6:8 is a well-known passage. Think about it in light of motherhood. How can you please God in your daily calling?
3) Do you sometimes feel like Cain? What are the sacrifices you would like to bring to God? Consider this in against the writing of the apostle Paul, who had reason to boast about his sacrifices for God. What brought Paul the greatest joy in serving God (see Philippians 3:7-11). How does Paul’s perspective change the way you view the mundane aspects of parenting?