Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Serving the Lord through motherhood

"If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider 'not spiritual work' I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and the exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love".
-Amy Carmichael

I was talking with a man about how difficult it was for him to decide to get married and have children. He took very much to heart the passage from 1 Corinthians 7:

32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;

33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,

34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

He also strongly identified with the verse found earlier in the same chapter, "But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." In many respects, he viewed getting married as having interfered with his ability to serve the Lord fully, and he viewed it as the "lesser choice", a compromise made from weakness, something that a truly strong and godly man, in better control of his passions, probably would not have chosen.

This man is not alone in thinking this. I know another man who married because he believed strongly that he and his wife could serve the Lord more effectively together, as a team. Yet, when he mentioned this to others, they would point him to the above passage and warn him that marriage would be a distraction from complete service to God.

For the most part, however, I feel that it is women who feel this most strongly. Indeed, the passage emphasizes the woman, and I believe this is very telling. The truth is that, in most marriages, a husband can do more to hinder his wife's ministry than the other way around.

But we are missing something here. Yes, a single person has far less concerns and can focus more narrowly on pleasing God. However, those of us who are married and who have children need to view our current state as being that in which God has placed us --- and we need to recognize that this is our ministry, our mission field, our way of serving God. We may be sidelined from some types of ministry, at least for a season, but we are not being prevented from serving God in powerful ways.

I felt sorry for the father who viewed his wife and children as impediments to serving God. How sad that he had not caught a vision of serving God as a husband and a father. When I read the quote by Amy Carmichael that is at the top of this entry, it suddenly dawned on me why so many Christians are frustrated by their families "getting in the way of ministry". What they really want is the interesting and exciting and, often, the more public "spiritual work". Very few of us really would prefer to serve God by wiping vomit and changing diapers, without anyone ever showing us any appreciation for such mundane, even demeaning, work.

I really needed the beautiful reminder of this that I read in the post The Reluctant Mother. This is a "must read" for all mothers, and it's one of the best Mother's Day themed things I've read in a long time. How I appreciated this excerpt especially:

The Tamil had a saying—"Children tie the mother's feet." Amy could see how true this could be in her own situation. Might Jesus be asking her to give up teaching His Gospel as an itinerate missionary to settle down to the menial labor of caring for this child? Like many women today, Amy was forced to choose between her planned career and full-time motherhood. Amy prayed for clear direction.

Within three months, four more homeless children had found their way to Amy's bungalow. She had her answer. The one who had given up motherhood for the cause of Christ was now required to embrace it for that same cause. Her feet would be tied "for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed."

1 comment:

  1. Hi -

    I wander by here often, but just haven't commented in a long time. But I read with interest all you have to say. I agreed with you on the father-daughter ball stuff that sounds really ridiculous to me, too.

    And I've just been reading the New Orleans' minister's blog you linked from your N.O. posts. Interesting.

    As for marriage and motherhood and fatherhood, for that matter, being a ministry as worth as any in this world, let me point out that we are given detailed qualifications in the New Testament for churches' leaders, whether we call them elders, or as my leaders do, shepherds, pastors, etc, one of the qualifications is that they must be married, husband of one wife and father of children who are obedient.

    In other words - God wants men to lead his congregations who have shown through their own personal lives that they are capable of leading their own families in ways that exemplify all that is best in a Christian family.

    If a man cannot demonstrate he can and does lead his own family well, how can he lead and be a shepherd to God's children? He can't.

    It's clear and plain what the qualities are that church elders (a/k/a shepherds a/k/a pastors) must possess and being married and having children in a successful Christian family is one of them.

    In what greater capacity could a man or woman serve spiritually. The elders are told to "feed the flock" and it is through what they themselves have learned by feeding their own families, both physically and spiritually.

    For what it's worth . . .