28 Apr 2016

When You Worry Your Life Is Too “Small” to Qualify for “Big” Ministry

I’ve heard the whispers.

The rumblings.

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The women who pull me aside to share with shy and embarrassed eyes this worry that what you do doesn’t count because you do it at 2am when no one is looking except the baby who’s throwing up. Again.

Or because what you do doesn’t require a passport.

Or because you think you need a pulpit for your voice to matter or make a difference.

Sister, don’t tell me you don’t make a difference. Don’t tell me that your life is small; that the sun sets and rises on the same day in and day out and that you don’t make a difference.

I don’t want to hear that.

Don’t tell me that pulpits are only found in churches and speeches only come from stages. Don’t tell me that microphones are necessary to be heard.

Don’t for a second succumb to the bald-faced lie whispered sneaky sneaky sometimes only inside of our own heads that ministry begins and ends with serious theology instead of Cheerios-encrusted carpets.

Don’t tell me that Cheerios, diapers, laundry, and dishes aren’t serious theology.

Don’t tell me that Gospel doesn’t sound like a working mother who rises while it is still dark to provide for her family.

I don’t believe that we are playing make-believe when we dress-up our daughters in all the courage and conviction to last a lifetime of love stories found first, middle, and last in the pages of the only good book that ever mattered.

Don’t tell me that all the hours sown into sons between soccer practice and football matches, between trouble-makers and nay-sayers, doubters, pouters and bullies isn’t wild obedience; heartbreaking missions.

Don’t tell me that you aren’t in ministry.

Don’t for a single second think it somehow takes a passport to save lives.

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Don’t tell me that holy dirt beneath the fingernails doesn’t look like blog posts, carpool, science projects, teaching Sunday school. Don’t put a box around my calling, my audience, my seven days a week of holy Sundays breaking the bread and spilling the bloody sweat of serving out the determination to like my kids and not just love them right there in the discount aisle of my local grocery store.

To mother them and not just to maintain them.

To offer my life, my foolishness, my lessons learned and failed –so many broken bits and pieces of sustenance for my sisters who do this daily holy collecting of manna waking up every Monday to ask God all over again what is it?

What is it that makes sense of my sleepless nights and my long days?

What is it that keeps me getting up again and again and again for that one last glass of water that never ends over and over year and year in and out again?

What is it that makes me think I can make it through another baby, another round of awkward questions from strangers, another daycare drop off, another night of feeling like I left half of the day undone?

Don’t tell me I need a platform to be seen when there are three sets of eyes looking back at me.

Don’t measure my meaning in stats; don’t count my contribution with your calculator.

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Because God has already credited our faith as righteousness. Me in the bathrobe at midnight with the undone dishes and raging fiery passion to encourage mothers who are too often, too terribly, too embarrassedly convinced that they don’t count.

You with the patience and the paste that keeps gluing your family back together again.

Don’t tell me we can’t leave the back door open for that misunderstood word, “ministry,” to come quietly in.

Along with the neighbor’s kids.

All the dirt in the back yard.

And Jesus.

Comments

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  1. 1

    I just wanted to thank you so much for this post. I am a first-time mother with a 7-month-old daughter at home and another on the way in 4 months. I quit my engineering job before my daughter was born because I felt called by God to stay home with her. I have hit a point of almost complete rock-bottom questioning that decision that was once so clear. I see my church friends (who don’t have kids) involved in major ministries and my just married friends with bright careers who seem to have a wall full of achievement plaques and have felt pretty worthless. I’ve been praying so much about how to move forward and asking God to take away the insecurities and jealousy that I feel. Your post on ministry at home was honestly a Word from God meant for me today. Thank you for using your passion for Christ to promote motherhood and ministry at home. You made this momma’s day :)

    • 2
      Elizabeth Ankeny says:

      Bless you, a seven month old and another on the way! I’m going to be praying for you, that those nagging voices that cause us to compare our lives to the mamas around us, that causes us to doubt what we know to be best for our family during this season of our lives, that they will be silenced and they you will be strengthened and encouraged. Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

  2. 3
    A Pastor's Wife says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote. Raising my children is a ministry, and it is one of the most important things I am called to do with my life. Motherhood has stretched and challenged me in my walk with God in ways I never expected. However, while motherhood is a holy calling and a ministry, I also think it is important not to diminish the fact that God calls some moms to traditional ministry as well.

    I’ve known since I was a little girl that I would someday be a pastor’s wife, and now I am, and I find myself trying to balance never-ending church needs and leading worship and a bi-vocational husband and a congregation’s sometimes-but-not-always unrealistic expectations of what a pastor’s family should look like with the needs and demands of a four-year-old and one-year-old. (And yes, the very long, run-on sentence is intentional. That’s what life often feels like.)

    I have a platform and a microphone (figuratively and literally) in a small church, and I also have the spilled Cheerios and this morning’s epic preschooler meltdown in the middle of Home Depot, which means I am often reduced to tears at my own inadequacies and limitations. Parenting is hard, and ministry is hard. Both are ministries. It’s not a matter of which is more holy; it’s not a matter of what is seen and what is unseen. It’s about being faithful in what God has called you to do, whether on the church platform in front of many eyes, or scrubbing an explosion of baby puke off the bedroom rug with only God and your children as your witnesses—or both.

  3. 4
    Cristina says:

    I literally had a kid up at 2am this morning throwing up. Again. Thank you for this post. It was just what I needed to hear.

  4. 5

    To not just love my kids, but to like them; to mother them, not just maintain them.
    Amen, and amen!

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