Sometimes I feel like my purpose for the entire day is just to keep my head above water…to keep my kids from injuring themselves, keep myself from yelling at them constantly, keep the house from being destroyed or set on fire, keep the electricity on by remembering to pay the bills, and keep food in everybody’s stomachs.
Most days, this is a major challenge in itself. If I accomplish this, I feel like I’ve done pretty well at fulfilling my purpose for that day. Avoiding disasters in this crazy house deserves a merit badge, in my humble opinion.
I wipe down the countertops, take a shower, and jump in bed for the night, feeling pleased that my day was relatively productive.
And then I read passages in the Bible like this:
“Pure religion that God our father accepts is this: To care for the widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -James 1:27
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” -Matthew 25:34-40
I close my Bible, feeling like my aim of “keeping my head above water” is no longer good enough. Obviously, God has called us to way more than just feeling like we’ve made it through another day with everyone alive and relatively well.
He has called us to take care of the needy in this world and to be a light to those around us.
But how exactly does that look when you’re trying to take care of your own family? When I don’t even feel like I can keep my head above water most days???
I have been wrestling with this for the last several weeks, especially as I’ve been working through the Beth Moore’s new Bible study on James. James, the half-brother of Jesus, is a no-nonsense, no excuses type of person. Or at least it certainly seems like when you read his book! Take this passage for example…
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” -James 2:14-17
I can’t really hop on a plane and go and take care of orphans in Africa…I have a God-given purpose right here in my own family that I must fulfill first and foremost (and that I LOVE). Motherhood is a ministry in itself, after all! But that doesn’t mean that I am off the hook for other good deeds either.
But how in the world do we find a balance between taking care of our own families and serving others who are less-fortunate?
I certainly don’t have the answers, but here are two ideas I’m hoping to implement:
1) Start small. I keep waiting on God to call me to do something really BIG. But what I don’t realize is that, the little things can often matter even more than the big things. As Mother Teresa said, “No one can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” That’s what I’m aiming for these days. Taking meals, visiting the elderly, and writing a card are just a few examples that come to mind. To be honest, sometimes even these “little” things seem more than I can handle on most days…which is probably why God hasn’t yet called me to something really big because he knows that I couldn’t handle it just yet. :)
2) Involve your children. We just got home from a parenting seminar where the speaker told a story of when he was five-years old. His dad had taken him with a group from his church to paint someone’s house (at the age of five, mind you). His dad gave him a small ladder, a paint brush, and a small bucket with instructions to “paint this board right here.” Not only was his dad including him in an act of service, he was also affirming to his son that he knew he could do it.
It is so easy for me to brush my children aside while trying to “serve”. But what I really need to be doing is including them in whatever it is I am trying to do. My husband is much better at this than I am, so I am quietly embracing and learning from his leadership. Yes, making cookies for the neighbors will be much messier and time-consuming with two clumsy boys helping…but part of our purpose as parents is teaching them how to serve, both through our example and by including them in the process, even if it takes twice as long!
When we feel like we can barely keep our heads above water…maybe what God is really calling us to is to reach over and prop up the person next to us. Perhaps we can’t throw them a lifeline, but maybe it will be just what that person needs to keep pressing on.
(Isn’t the picture at the top of the post amazing? My dad took this photo of a hippopotamus on his last trip to Zimbabwe.)