A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon honoring distinguished alumni of our local high school. From educators to athletes to businessmen, fifteen alumni who had achieved distinction in their particular field were honored with a place in the newly chartered Wall of Fame. It was fascinating, to say the least, to learn of each receipient’s various successes and accomplishments. Fascinating and exciting and inspiring.
I couldn’t help but think of my own life and, quite frankly, how it pales in comparison. Should someone compose a list of my achievements it would be a short one indeed. And quite boring: She graduated from college in 1990. After two semesters of graduate school, she gladly forfeited her advanced degree and decided to marry a wonderful, godly man who she still loves dearly after all these years. She received her Post-Baccalaureate Teacher’s Certification just in time to move to Alabama where she gave birth to her first child, with three more to follow within less than six years. From then on, for the last seventeen and a half years, her greatest accomplishments include raising her four sons without (yet) losing her mind and having a working knowledge of the offsides penalty in soccer. Other noteworthy feats include seventeen years’ worth of washing limitless loads of laundry, packing innumerable lunch boxes and maintaining a (somewhat) sanitary home. Under her care, no son has played a sporting event in a dirty uniform more than once (or perhaps not more than twice). All children entrusted to her have yet to starve to death.
I’m being silly and I know it. I do realize that what I do is important. Sometimes, though, I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing my life in micro segments that stepping back and grasping the macro view tends to overwhelm me just a little. I’m okay with thinking in terms of what must be accomplished today and maybe tomorrow: laundry, dishes, car line, football practice, grocery shopping. But when I see all of those today’s lined up, nearly eighteen years’ worth, and they are virtually identical in their struggles and frustrations and responsibilities…well, sometimes, and only some times, I think to myself: this is not the life I always dreamed of.
Indeed, who would dream of seventeen (plus) years of cooking supper and washing dishes and cleaning up all sorts of unmentionable gross-ness? Surely my twenty year old self whose greatest aspirations, though not clearly defined, included among other things a power suit and the Wall Street Journal, she would not have guessed that at 43 hers would be a life of the sort of mundane ordinariness that has not and will not accomplish anything the world will value. She could not. She still sometimes cannot.
I hear women, usually women who have achieved some sort of success–however you may define it–encourage me to dream and do. That if I do not follow my vision, reach for the stars, maximize my potential, dare to risk–well, then, I will somehow miss out. One may infer, from their admonishment, that God is merely waiting on my acquiescence to grant my wish, answer my longing, fulfill all my dreams.
I once had such a dream, what I thought was the Lord’s unmistakable call on my life, and, interestingly enough, in this dream I knew all sorts of success and accolades, not to mention the admiration of many. Reality has proved to be quite different. Obscurity, not fame. Work, boring, mundane work, not recognition and acclaim. Yes, I can–and seek to–do all things for the glory of Christ and that in itself is the highest and best calling but, still, cleaning the bathroom is cleaning the bathroom. I know that the Lord, in His gracious providence, has granted a measure of success and influence to some and I am grateful for the ministry of many such women. It is not so for most of us. Most of us are cleaning the bathroom.
Yesterday the bagger at the grocery store asked me if I worked. “Nope; I’m just a mom,” I said and I was glad for it. I’m just a mom, a very ordinary and flawed mom. I’m a wife, also ordinary and flawed. I know that my accomplishments, such as they are, will never be lauded at a luncheon nor will my picture adorn a wall of fame. Though I sometimes wince at that realization, ultimately I know that my calling is not about achievement. Quite the opposite. It is the call to die to myself. Living to Christ. Loving Him with all my heart, soul and mind and others as myself. Serving in selfless humility. Doing all in the name of Jesus and for His glory. Giving thanks to God the Father. Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead. Confessing and repenting of my sins. Joyfully proclaiming the gospel. Suffering the reproach of Christ. Eagerly awaiting His appearing.