Years ago my father served as a Chaplin in a maximum-security prison. At that time he told me that greeting card companies donated dated holiday cards for the prisoners’ use. What kind of card was most requested? No, not Valentine’s Day cards! Mother’s Day cards! The world knows how important mothers are even when it doesn’t always show gratitude the way it should. Mother’s Day is a feeble attempt to recognize a mother’s value, but even criminals love their mammas!
The problem is that often and especially for mothers with young children, her children don’t “rise up and call her blessed.” They take for granted the great love their mother has for them and how she demonstrates that love day in and day out. The chaos of life and the deceitfulness of selfish hearts blind eyes to the truth—especially in ministry families.
In my own origin story this blindness is certainly true. My parents divorced when I was 16 and I ran headlong into some seriously rebellious teenage and college years. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mom never gave up on me. When I graduated from college she bought me a Bible and along with several others she faithfully prayed for me to be saved. In the midst of her own pain and loss she never gave up on God’s grace for me even when I wanted nothing to do with Him or her. It took that grace for me to recognize how much she sacrificed in order to take care of me.
I’ve watched my sisters walk through different seasons and circumstances yet continue to love their children with God’s extravagant love. One sister continues to patiently love her boys through their teenage years and into young adulthood. Another sister is doing the best she can as a single mom with health challenges and a spirited little girl. It is easy for the kids to forget how much their mamma loves them and does for them.
During 19 years of service overseas I witnessed hundreds of mothers with our organization serve and love extraordinarily well in anything but easy circumstances:
Through the challenges of hunting and gathering basic food and supplies in cross-cultural situations.
Creatively taking what they found and making meals their kids would eat even when that meant eating out more (or less!) often than she or other family members would like.
Playing family doctor and nurse when a little one suffered physically.
Playing counselor when their children struggled to fit in.
Planning and teaching home school to multiple ages and stages of children at the same time.
Making concrete shells (or in some cases probably tents and huts) semi-comfortable havens of rest for their families.
Packing up life and moving (again)!?!
Serving with their husbands as “prophet and priest” for her children—speaking the words of God to them and on her face before God on their behalf.
Learning how to parent on team situations where other parents might have different values and styles than she does.
Learning how to parent when their kids were back in their passport countries without them.
And oh yeah, then there’s ministry to the watching world around her:
Teaching and modeling parenting to those she is trying to reach
Responding with grace as those she was seeking to reach criticized her parenting
Sometimes juggling organizational or visa responsibilities
Proclaiming life in word and deed
Mothers, and yet you dare believe that you aren’t valuable?
I do not have the space to write about all the ways my wife Lisa has loved and served my children and so many others down through our years of service. No time was more difficult than when Lisa “held the fort” in our city with a 5, 3, and 1 year old and without teammates for more than a year while I traveled for our organization. By God’s grace we survived because this young mother held on, but more importantly God held on to her.
Moms, you are valuable, even when you don’t hear it from the rest of the world very much. You are valuable even when you look around and are tempted to believe the lie that you have nothing to contribute to the “real ministry” happening around you. Being a mother IS full time ministry!
As I’ve said before and will repeat until I die, no matter your role or stage of life, when you wonder about your value you need to look to only one place: the cross. At the cross the creator of this universe sacrificed His only Son because He values you. Your value comes not from what you do, but who you ARE in Him because of what He already did. He also highly values your role as a mother. He thought so much of His own mother that even while hanging from the cross He took care of her by entrusting her to His friend’s care. Remember His great love and how He values you and take heart! Do not grow weary in your labor of “mom-ing.” Harvest time is coming as Jesus bears fruit through you.
Do you find yourself embracing or disbelieving your value as a mother? How will you plan to start at the cross this week to remind yourself of your inestimable worth?