Scrubbing dishes. Picking up toys. Washing clothes. Folding clothes. Putting clothes away. Making meals. Preparing snacks. Grocery shopping. Fixing broken toys. Playing with children and still-broken toys. Vacuuming. Bath time. Bed time. Early mornings (Lord have mercy…). Potty training. Changing diapers. Buckling and unbuckling car seats. Settling arguments. Disciplining. Putting on clothes, jackets, hats, shoes. Cleaning up messes. Wiping noses. Mopping up vomit. Plunging toilets. Training kids to do things themselves. Taking out the garbage. Holding a wailing infant. Feeding wailing infant. Putting wailing infant to sleep. Making coffee. Making SO MUCH COFFEE. Gazing longingly through dirty windows at a road that leads anywhere but here while doing any of the aforementioned tasks…
The list could fill a library. All the little things add up, don’t they? In and of themselves they seem completely insignificant. I regularly find myself thinking back over the previous twenty-four hours wondering what I actually did that mattered that day. Too often the guilt of what I didn’t do overshadows what I did. I didn’t play with the kids enough. I didn’t organize that mess. I didn’t scrub out that stain. I didn’t make dinner. I didn’t speak kindly. I didn’t hug enough. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t save the world. Gah. I dig myself a nice large hole and lay down in it right next to Self-pity and Shame.
Who is this person? I barely recognize myself at times. The problem that I’m discovering, though, is that I keep comparing my current self with kids to my former life before kids. But an irreversible transformation has already carved new lines and edges into my skin, heart, and mind. My time spent drawing comparisons and daydreaming about old freedoms is simply wasted effort and squandered opportunity. Because all these new responsibilities that are now required of me since becoming a parent mean something. Yes, they really do. They are reshaping my life’s purpose.
That seems like kind of a big deal.
My purpose is no longer me finding my own way, on my own time. My purpose has become leading, guiding, sheltering, releasing, giving, sustaining, embracing, teaching and loving so far beyond myself. I have come to understand a new definition of perseverance through the menial tasks and rote chores of daily life as a stay-at-home mom. God must become greater. I must become less.
“Jesus specialized in menial tasks that everyone else tried to avoid: washing feet, helping children, fixing breakfast, and serving lepers. Nothing was beneath him, because he came to serve.” (Rick Warren)
Jesus didn’t do all the little things because he had to. He did them to show us how life was meant to be lived and shared; a better way to be and love and do life with others. Can you imagine what this world would look like if we were all willing to serve others more than ourselves?
43 …Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
Living a life of service doesn’t mean being a doormat for others to walk all over. It means paying attention to what can be done to show love and doing it. I love my family, so that’s why I’m learning to embrace doing the little things instead of always complaining about them. I’m not going to make my sick children clean up their own puke, or force them to eat off dirty plates, or sleep in urine soaked pajamas. The things my husband and I do to make our life work and keep the wheels spinning, we do out of love for each other and our children. It’s exhausting and can be incredibly frustrating at times but we are growing and stretching outside of ourselves, strengthening weaknesses and retracing character flaws to create someone better, someone stronger, someone wiser. As our children grow we train them to do things for themselves, to not become dependent in areas that they are capable of being independent. It’s a long, time-consuming, life-consuming process. But all the little things are part of that process.
I chose to marry my husband. I am here to serve. I chose this life with children. I am here to serve. I chose to stay at home and walk with my babes through their early formative years. I am here to serve. My life is not, and has never been, my own. When I became a follower of Jesus, I was committing myself to a life of service. That is His way, therefore it must become mine, too.
All the little things we do are a service to someone, whether that person recognizes it as such or not. But their recognition of our service is never the point. It’s the race that we are running, the endurance we are building, the will to persevere that we are strengthening. It’s the love in our hearts for those that we are serving as we do the thing. A transformation is taking place, slowly, carefully… one task at a time.
My oldest son loves puzzles. I thoroughly admire his quiet thoughtfulness as he takes his time hunting for right pieces and fitting them together to create the larger picture. He’s always so proud of himself when he’s done, even if he’s done that same puzzle a dozen times already. But I notice that each time he starts the puzzle over again, he begins in a new spot. He doesn’t have one particular method, like fitting all the edge pieces together first. He simply picks out a piece from the pile and then searches for another that fits with it, and continues this way until the image begins to take shape.
Every bit of our days is a tiny piece of our much larger life puzzle. The struggle that we face, however, is that the final image has not yet been revealed to us. It frustrates us to have to inch along in the process, unable to control the building sequence. If we could, I’d be willing to bet that most of us would start with the perfectly lined edges and build in. It’s much cleaner, more ordered, and faster that way. Life doesn’t flow that way, though. I know I’ve spent more than a few moments petitioning God, “Why this thing, Lord? Why now?” But still the days progress at their own pace; and as each task is completed, the pieces connect. At times, everything we do can feel so random and inconsequential… until all those tiny details begin to fit together and form the bigger picture of our life story, day after day after day.
Video games provide another logical understanding of this. “Leveling up” in life doesn’t mean finally getting past all the hard and boring parts; it means that you have been prepared to face far greater challenges that require more skills, knowledge, perseverance, and patience. You haven’t beaten the game when you complete a level, much the same as you don’t win at life when you’ve finally reached the end of a particular phase or season. You simply move into the next with its own set of challenges and obstacles.
The things we do today and every day are a training ground for skills that need developing, hearts that need reshaping, attitudes that need adjusting, and wills that need fortifying in order to be ready to enter into the next season and face new opposition.
So while you’re chore-ing through your day, consider the tasks opportunities for growth, time for reflection, moments to declutter your mind, a chance to silently pray for clearer vision and strength to move beyond yourself and see a bit more of the larger picture. Because God’s designs never disappoint when viewed through a freshly cleaned lens.
Peace & Love, Amy