Investing Motherhood for Eternity

We’ve all heard the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). A master gives three servants various sums of money (“talents”) and goes on a journey. When the master returns, he demands an accounting of his resources. Two servants have invested and doubled the original sum. One has buried it and returned the original amount. The two are richly rewarded. The one is chastised for being slothful and cast “into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30, English Standard Version)

That can’t be good. 

I’ve often felt haunted by this parable. It fills me with a deep sense of foreboding – fear that I’m not doing enough, not giving enough money, not investing enough time in being the best mom or wife or friend or parishioner or neighbor, not evangelizing enough, not reading enough books, not pouring enough of myself out (and out and out). How can I possibly say I’m truly invested if I don’t yet feel like a sucked dry juice box? Only then can I say I’ve really tried! 

The weight of responsibility and the pressure to make something of my life can often feel like too much to bear. It doesn’t help that this passage is often preached with a bit of fire and brimstone, a reminder to redeem the time! You only live once! Carpe diem! (Translated to mom speak… “Your children won’t be small forever so enjoy every minute of the little years!” Yeah. That one haunts me too.) I know theoretically and theologically why it’s wrong to feel this way. But my heart still fears. My heart would break to hear my Lord tell me I’ve been wicked and slothful. I long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

The good news is, most of us aren’t the servant who was given five talents or even two. Most of us were just given the one.  In an objective evaluation of our lives, we will find we’ve been gifted with a pretty basic set of responsibilities – spouses, children, extended families, neighbors, jobs, homes, cars. Most of us will not be billionaire philanthropists. Most of us will not have spiritual charge over hundreds, thousands, or millions of people. Most of us will not be CEOs of large companies. 

So, let that take a little pressure off. 

We know from this parable not to bury our one talent. The question is, what do we do with it? How do we know we’re doing enough? There are three principles which guide the answer to that question – gratitude, stewardship, and rest. 

The first posture of any receiver is gratitude for what they’ve been given. From that gratitude will flow a desire to steward your gifts well. To steward something is to provide responsible management for the “talents” God has entrusted to your care. We don’t know much about the first two servants, but we do know they received their “talents” and responsibly invested them. Investing is done with the hope of benefiting all parties since you give to one who needs and receive more in return than you initially started with. By contrast, the third servant receives his “talent” with fear and buries it – benefiting no one, least of all himself. 

As you consider how to steward your gifts, remember God offers you abundant grace in addition to the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t bury your God-given gifts out of fear – hoarding and shielding them – but rather approach them with gratitude, willing to share them, cultivate them, accept God’s mercy in giving them to you and extend those mercies to others. This can be as simple as being actively present with your children or volunteering your time for a Sunday service a couple times a year. God is not the hard master of the parable, but a loving father who sees and aids your efforts to love Him well by caring for His gifts.  

Finally, remember that one of the most valuable gifts God calls you to steward is yourself, and you were created to need rest. Rest is a key part of Biblical stewardship as established in first chapters of Genesis. God does not ask us to work seven days a week, but commands us to set aside a day of rest and calls this day “holy” (Genesis 2:3, ESV).

If your strivings are exhausting and motivated by fear of failing God, it’s probable that you’re burying yourself rather than investing yourself. 

Remind yourself that God desires to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” as much as you long to hear it. So as you work to be a faithful steward, obeying your master’s commands (including resting in Him), take comfort that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

If you suffer from chronic doing and/or fear of not doing enough, here are a couple of ways to practice faithfulness instead of fear:

  1. Mediate on and then rewrite Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 about specific seasons of your life. Remember that God does not call us to do all things in all seasons. 
  2. Make a list of your gifts – many of them will be quite “ordinary” (but no less precious!). These include your families, your friends, your home, your neighborhood, your opportunities. Pray over these gifts and how to care for them. Also be sure to read the Babylon Bee’s Father of 3 Wonders When He’ll Get Chance to Influence Others for Christ. 
  3. In the moments you fear you’re not doing enough or not getting it right, remember that Satan guilts in generalities while the Holy Spirit convicts in specifics. In these moments, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if there are specific failings and to protect you from the attacks of the enemy. 
  4. Ask God to make you aware of the small ways he calls you to faithfulness in your daily life – perhaps pausing to ask a neighbor how she’s doing, putting down your phone to enjoy play-dough with your toddler, or inviting a friend over for coffee.

 

 

Danielle Hitchen is the founder of Catechesis Books and the author of the Baby Believer board books – a set of concept books designed to introduce very young children to the core tenets of the Christian faith. She desires to create beautiful books to help parents have better faith conversations with their children.

Her professional background includes communications consulting, radio production, event planning, and non-profit and church administration. Danielle is a graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University where she earned her B.A. in Humanities. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband and two (soon to be three!) children. You can find learn more about her books at www.babybeliever.com and follower her on Instagram and Facebook @catechesisbooks. 

Finding Your Way Home

When Dory’s parents realized the challenges she would face as a fish with short-term memory loss, they devised a plan to help keep her safe. They taught her little jingles to help her avoid the undertow. They made her practice introducing herself with the words “I suffer from short-term memory loss” so other fish would know she needed help. But most importantly, they played cheerful games of hide-and-seek, cleverly training her to follow the purple shells that would lead her home.

Towards the end of her movie-long quest to find her parents, Dory finds one purple shell. In an ocean full of shells, it seems too good to be true that she could have actually stumbled onto a trail left just for her. But the purple shells keep appearing, one after another, until she enters a valley in the ocean floor where the whole trail is laid out before her. Watching this movie as a parent, I felt a swell of joy when I realized her parents had made not just one, but dozens of trails stretching out like spokes from the central hub of their home. When her parents return with their fins full of shells, I just I knew that this was what they had been doing every day since their daughter left. Because that’s what I would do.

Probably the scariest part of parenting is the fear of sending our kids into the unknown. We know our time with them is short and that eventually they will strike out alone. We want to prepare them for everything but we simply don’t know what they will have to face or how they will face it. I know too many parents of adult children who’ve wrestled with their disappointment and grief over children they raised to love the Lord who have “gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). I try to hold my hopes for my children in one hand, but hold this possibility in the other. It reminds me how important it is to make the most of these early years.

Just like Dory’s parents trained her with games and repetition to avoid the dangers of the ocean, my husband and I use a combination of fun and persistence to try to prepare our children for the challenges to come. We read their children’s Bibles over and over. We send them to Sunday school where they make crafts and eat snacks that reinforce the lessons from the Bible stories. Mostly we try to answer their questions. In doing so, we hope to provide them with a larger theology–a systematic understanding of God–that addresses the questions they are asking already and the ones they haven’t thought to ask yet.

C.S. Lewis compared theology to a map that is drawn “based on the experience of hundreds of people who…were in touch with God.” Theology is not meant to be formal or esoteric, it is intended to be practical guidance. Therefore, theology is as much for children as it is for anyone. When I teach my children theology, I’m giving them a map that shows them the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), but I am also giving them a map for how to get back on the ancient paths (Jeremiah 9:16) should they ever lose their way. I want to train them now how to avoid danger, but also to know that if they get into trouble, love is always waiting at home for them. Always.

The underwater family reunion at the end of Finding Dory feels like a parable for parents who never want to lose their children but are wise enough to prepare for the possibility anyway.

 

 

This is a guest post by Laura Lundgren. 

 

​Laura Lundgren is a lifelong reader, former English teacher, current homemaker, and aspiring writer. She makes her home in Wisconsin with her husband, who is also her pastor, and her four young kids.

 

She reviews books and serves as the Women’s Editor at servantsofgrace.org. You can find more of her writing at her blog littlehouseinthesuburb.wordpress.com.

 

My Kids Teach Me that Worship Isn’t About Me | by Courtney Reissig

For as long as I’ve been a believer, I have prided myself in the fact that I don’t view the corporate gathering of God’s people as an entertainment service. In college, when many made the distinction between preaching and “worship” (the singing), I stood firm that it was God’s word preached that was the focal point of the worship gathering. We worship through singing. We worship through prayer. We worship through liturgy. We worship through the preached word. I simply didn’t think I had a problem with thinking church was about my preferences—about me.

Until a couple of months ago.

The twins turned five in February, and as a result aged out of the childcare at our church. We were excited to have them join us in the service. They were excited. They were ready. We all were ready.

But as the weeks have gone on, I’ve noticed something simmering in my own heart. I may have never verbalized that I thought the worship gathering was all about me, but having my five year old boys sit with me every Sunday has made me realize that I thought it was more about me than I had the humility to admit.

Now I can’t close my eyes when I sing, because I’m keeping one eye on a kid, making sure he is also engaged in what is happening (and mostly making sure he doesn’t try to run off or distract other people). Now I can’t take notes as easily, because I’m helping one of the twins get an activity out of his bag. Now I can’t prepare my heart for the Lord’s Supper because I’m answering questions about why I take the bread and they don’t get to. For my entire adult life I’ve been able to focus on the Sunday morning service, now my focus is divided.

This isn’t a commentary on keeping kids in the service. I’ve been greatly served by the childcare these last five years. In many ways, it’s been a lifeline for me to be able to sit and take in God’s word with God’s people in the midst of exhausting little kid years. I think it’s too complex to make it a rule, and I simply don’t see it in scripture as mandated. But it is a conviction to my own heart that while I may have thought I was above the whole “church is an emotional experience thing”, having my kids sitting next to me every Sunday now has shown me that I viewed the Sunday morning gathering as more about me than I wanted to admit.

Our worship of God is never in isolation. As the Psalms (and all of scripture) show us, our deliverance, our worship, our proclamations about the Lord are always so others may hear and say: “God is great.” It’s always so a “people yet to be born may praise the Lord” (Ps. 22:31, 102:18). Our modern conveniences (like childcare, comfortable chairs, air conditioning, etc.) can make us forget that this is always what it’s been about. We worship corporately for the body. We get fed by the word, for sure, but we also are taking in the word with other believers (and those who have yet to call him Lord).

The childcare that I’ve had during the service these last five years has been a gift. I’m glad I had it. I’m glad the twins had time with their friends and had age-appropriate lessons. But I’m also learning to be thankful for the time in the service with them, interrupted as it is. When I hear them singing, it’s a reminder to pray to ask God to make the words they are singing true in their own lives. When they ask questions, it forces me to articulate what I believe to them. And it models worship to them. It’s a reminder that worship isn’t about me. It’s about the body, one I pray they will join themselves to one day.

 

This is a guest post from Courtney Reissig.

Courtney is a wife, mother, writer, and speaker. Born in California, raised in Texas, all with a couple stints in Michigan before finally graduating from Northwestern College (MN). After doing some graduate study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, she met her husband Daniel and fell in love. They now make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are the parents of four boys; Luke and Zach (who are twins), Seth, and Ben. They are also members of Midtown Baptist Church, where her husband serves as an elder.

You can read more from her on her blog, or follow her on Twitter

Parents, You Can Do Hard Things

“It’s just not for me, I guess,” she said, shaking her head with resignation. The words fell from her mouth with a splat; they were deflated and her heart was fit to match. Between us sat an open Bible, a well-worn dictionary, two pens, and plenty of scratch paper. We were working through the Text verse-by-verse, learning our way to effective interpretation through a mess of underlining, highlighting, and circling. The past hour had proven difficult to be sure, and as we hit yet another word that required the dictionary, she was waiving her white flag.

This conversation was not unique. Over at The Rooted Home we have recently started an exegetical Bible study through the book of Jonah, and we’re starting our study by doing a Book Overview (looking into the cultural setting, historical context, author, date of the writing, etc.). And this group of Bible students is working hard, and I couldn’t be more proud. But when others hear what we’re doing, they’re often surprised; when I ask them to join, the response has become common:

I can’t do it. I guess I’m just a devotional kind of person.

I don’t have the time to learn how to do this. Are there any good studies you’d recommend instead?

This is a lot harder than I expected; I just don’t know if I’m smart enough.

The refrain has become common and even unsurprising. And here is what I want to say to each and every Christian who has said, felt, admitted, confessed, or thought these things (including myself): you can do hard things.

I’m not saying that Bible study is easy. I’m not saying that it doesn’t require a learning curve or a good amount of time and effort. I don’t believe that it comes easily to most, and my personal experience says that it takes a lot of persistence and practice. Studying the Bible is not necessarily and easy task, but … you can do hard things.

Yes, a pre-packaged Bible study is easier, but on its own it is not your daily bread. Others can do the work of studying and re-framing the truths of God’s Word for you, but you’ll then miss the rich and rewarding work of spending time in the Word for yourself. I know there are a plethora of blogs and Instagram accounts that make the Word of God seem like a quick pick-me-up, and a short fix. Yes, that would be much easier. But, you can do hard things.

Will it require early mornings? Maybe. Will it require you to focus during nap time while there’s a little quiet? Probably. It will take your time – your sparse, limited, free time.  And you will have to push back other intruding demands on your time, and this will take hard and persistent work. And, you can do hard things.

I find this mindset is much more prevalent among women. It is easy for women in our Pinterest culture to conceive that Biblical womanhood is solely about cultivating a trendy home and finding the quickest and cheapest slow cooker recipe. But when we only look around us for examples of Biblical womanhood, we fail to look back – back to the women of the Bible who did hard things and blazed a trail for us to follow.

1 Samuel 25 – Abigail, the wife of a wicked husband, saved her family from the fury of the nation’s leader, David, by extending biblical hospitality that her husband neglected. 

2 Kings 22 – Huldah studied and interpreted the Word of God before the leaders of the nations. When the kings had failed to remember God’s words – having lost the Scriptures themselves – Huldah taught them the ways of God again.

Judges 4 -Deborah led the nation of Israel, exercising her discernment and wisdom and leadership over the people of God. She led the nation into battle as God led, and she spoke as a prophet to the people on behalf of God Himself. 

Esther 1 – Esther, the orphaned daughter of Jewish parents, exercised courage and wisdom as she outsmarted an enemy of her people, and saved her people from national destruction. 

Luke 2 – Mary, a teen, virgin girl, believed the words of the Lord when it was told her that she would mother the Messiah. With great courage she birthed the Son of God among stable animals, and placed Him in a feeding trough.

Matthew 27:56 – Mary Madeline followed Jesus as a disciple. Defying the cultural mandates on women in her day she learned from Jesus and followed Him throughout His earthly ministry.  

We will all need help, we will all need others to teach us along the way, but each and every one of us can do it. We are in good company with the women of faith in our spiritual lineages – those who did not turn back at the first sign of difficulty, but pressed into the challenge to the glory of God.

Like them, our God has graciously equipped us with sharp minds, teachable hearts, and the will power to form our loves around His Word. It might seem like a resolution that will fade away in the coming weeks, but you and I can do the hard work of pressing through, pressing on, and persistently coming to God’s Word as His students.

As you start this new year, don’t be more easily convinced by convenience. You – yes, you – can.

So, will you? Will you join me? Will you make 2018 the year that we dig into God’s Word together? By God’s grace, embrace this truth: we can, and we will.