We’ve had a challenging week around here. We’ve been having to help one of our girls in particular work through some big feelings and behavioral issues, and Atticus has had an ear infection, the primary symptom of which is that he has been awake for multiple hours in the middle of the night for something like 4 of the last 6 nights – I’ve lost count! In short, we’re pretty exhausted.
And in that exhaustion, I can be tempted to let discouragement creep in. I want to feel like what I do matters. And yet, since dropping down to (very) part-time work after Miranda was born, I am no longer central to the workings of my company. Since Matt stepped down from being an elder at our church as we brought Madeleine CaiQun home, I am not a key part of women’s ministry or really any other ministry at our church. As the girls became school-aged and Atticus joined our family, I am no longer as involved on campus or in our local art community or really with other relationships in general. I’m not really in any leadership role anywhere. There are no awards coming in. There is not a flurry of recognition of my great accomplishments. And that can be discouraging.
However, I’ve had a significant amount of time for contemplation as I’ve rocked my baby boy through those middle of the night wakeful hours this past week. And as I sat praying one night, I was reminded of Philippians 2:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I so quickly forget what really matters. I have a tendency to see truly important ministry as that which stands in front of a crowd of people and is widely recognized. I forget that Jesus is the God-man who turns all measures of success on their heads. It was not the rulers and authorities of Jesus’s day with whom He spent most of His time – it was simple fishermen. In His sermon on the mount, He lauds not the self-important but the meek and tells us to hunger and thirst, not for power and success and recognition, but for righteousness.
God lays out a path for each of us, and the path to which He has currently called me includes a fair amount of time focused around menial tasks – dishes, laundry, and diapers. It includes many middle of the night hours spent focusing not on my own comfort but on just rocking, slowly moving back and forth, back and forth, comforting my sick baby and gradually lulling him back to sleep. It includes the relentless pursuit of precious children who don’t always act kindly or appropriately. There’s not much recognition in that – and yet it’s good.
I serve a God who did not focus on the position to which He was entitled as Lord of the universe but instead chose to humble Himself in becoming human – and in so doing, to offer redemption to all of humanity. If He can humble Himself in that way, surely I can humble myself in sacrificing some sleep to comfort a baby who needs his mama and in sometimes looking foolish as I parent children who, from time to time, disobey my directions.
I’ll probably continue not to receive great recognition or honor for any of this. And yet, as one of my favorite musicians, Sara Groves, writes, “I live and I breathe for an audience of One.” If I’m spending my time doing the work God has placed before me, humble though it may be, I want to see that as success.