I’m scrubbing dishes and the toddler is screaming at me down the hall and I wonder how this makes any difference in a world that is burning up, where children are drowning trying to escape hell bearing down on them, families live on pennies a day and young women are caught in an endless cycle of exploitation.
Me? I’m just home trying to juggle naps and teach First-Girl to use a potty.
When the Carpenter said to pick up your cross and follow Him, I envisioned something sexier. Perhaps public persecution because my outspoken beliefs ran counter-culture, or something akin to the dying of the martyrs in the Middle East.
But here the daily dying is in the laying down of self, the pouring out of body for littles that clamor for endless attention, round the clock feedings, and laundry that never seems to diminish.
I read in Mom Enough that this raising of children is really raising of souls and I underline that and highlight it, hoping that in marking the page it will mark the message on my mind. And yet how quickly I turn from my quiet moments in the morning to a frenetic, try to keep up, let’s just make it to bedtime mom.
It’s a struggle to see this as holy when it just feels hard. And not very important.
Not when I’m scrolling through friends’ picture feeds during one of those round the clock feedings, wondering, okay, envying, at all the dreams coming to pass, the milestones being hit and the excitement of it all. Sure, there’s filters and photo crops and staging that can hide a thousand messes with a few good angles. I know this in my head and yet the thief of comparison is cackling in the corner as he’s stealing my joy.
Like every woman, every person, I have dreams. Dreams that go beyond the daily routine and speak of greatness, of adventure, making my heart thrill at the sheer impossibility of them all. Dreams that will push back the darkness, set captives free and pave a way of light for generations to follow.
That’s the important work, I tell myself. The speaking to thousands, the shifting of cultural currents, shaping of political institutions. Someday I’ll get there, when all these dirty clothes and dishes and bills are being handled by someone else so that I can do the real work, the important work.
Then Baby-Girl grabs my finger and refuses to let go, and a thought whispers: What if the most important work I’ll ever do is right now?
What if in waiting for what I think will be the big deal of my life, I miss my greatest legacy?
What if I speak to thousands and miss out on the every-day moments with my girls, my neighbors, my husband, my friends?
What if the people entrusted to me to love, to nurture, to encourage, to mold and shape turn out the worse for having known me? Or rather, not knowing me because I couldn’t be bothered while waiting for what I thought was the important work?
Jesus didn’t give a one size fits all description for what qualifies as the cross we’re to pick up. He just said to pick it up and follow. Because your cross and my cross might look very different. But they’ll have this one thing in common, they’ll resemble His cross. The dying to self, the suffering, the death that leads to resurrection. And that’s the only thing that matters.
It can happen on the blood-soaked shores of Libya and in the crowded apartments of Los Angeles.
If the most important work we do with our lives is what we’re doing today, would we be able to recognize it? Or do we risk missing it because we’re convinced that there must be something more, something greater than what fills our hours and weeks? When we measure our significance by the yardstick of the world, we come up short. Not enough followers, likes, hearts and people paying to hear what we say.
But measure by Heaven and who can say who is doing the really important work? It might be the mother raising five babes from two countries, the single man daily fighting the battle against pornography and objectifying women, or the old woman who sits at her window and prays for family thousands of miles away.
Today, I’m not facing crowds or crucifixion. I’m struggling through the mundane, trying to remember that the ordinary has meaning. My cross consists less of loud pronouncements and more in quiet surrendering to serving. Serving without recognition, without glamour, without epic drama.
It’s giving my everything to the ones set before me, paying attention when a pair of eyes are searching mine for an answer and letting go of the far off someday to be fully here in the very real today. It means the death of expectations and what should be in order to make room for the unexpected and the right now.
Tomorrow the cross might look different, the work have a different focus. But today, will I let go of what I think I want for what I need? Because what I need is to be made holy before I’m made happy, to find the worth of my work in the One who did the most holy, the most terrifying work the world has ever seen.
It’s this Work that gives meaning to all my days. He redeemed me and I’m to now go bear witness to that. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.