Monday, August 24, 2009

Servant of All

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

- Mark 9:33-37 ESV

When I became a stay-at-home mom, someone said about me, "Look at her. She's a nothing, a nobody."

I can remember, after our first son was born, going to parties and business meetings with my husband and being unable to adjust to the sudden change in the way people responded to me. No longer was I a woman of intrigue with an interesting future.

The first question people asked was, "What do you do?"

"I'm a mom at home, " was my reply. Then I'd watch them delicately extract themselves from our conversation and wander off to more interesting options. I couldn't blame them. I knew I had lost my ability to be interesting, to talk intelligently, about other topics. I was often too tired to think of much to say.

Women with careers could be worse than men. They sometimes deliberately snubbed me, drawing a clear line in the ground between us, and then accused me of thinking myself greater. I thought no such thing, of course. I just wanted to be a friend.

But here's the rub. It affected me. I felt that I was nothing, a nobody. I internalized the response of my social circles. I believed it must be true. Being home with a baby confirmed it. I acted like hired help, but without the salary. I cleaned up the mess. I changed the diapers. I cooked the meals. I gave up my sleep when our son cried in the wee hours. After all, I did not have a real job to drive to in the morning. Soon, depression set in.

With homeschooling, the dividing line between me and my past esteem grew wider. Two decades ago, homeschooling was not well understood. No one I knew was in favor of it. Most people responded to the idea with uncomfortable silence.

Friends would pull me aside to ask, "Is it legal?" They hoped I would come to my senses and join mainstream education. Former college professors expressed their disappointment with the way I was neglecting my potential. Even my grandmother, bless her dear soul, told me was I making a grave mistake. I endured distances, animosities, lectures, yelling. I learned to be generous with people who did not share my views. My esteem sank to a new low.

Since those early days, things have changed. I now enjoy the admiration of a large number of friends and family members. Our success has brought with it a certain panache. Not everyone is completely comfortable with what we did, but we have earned their respect in almost any setting. Not only this, but I am considered -- of all things -- wise because of our learning adventures.

I am sure that I have been asssisted by recent improvements in the attitude towards full-time parenting. Many professional women are learning that juggling career and baby does not fulfill, and they are coming home. Even in Hollywood, mothering is popular. Stars take off from movie-making to raise families, and the public applauds. People are fascinated by someone who has "made a career of it" (so I've been told) for at least two minutes before they move on to other topics.

For those two minutes of interest, I served years in a lonely, hard, and thankless role. I hesitate to admit this aspect of mothering, but honesty compels me. Sometimes, I thought I would lose myself in it and never come back. I loved my children more than my own life and was fully committed to them, but I found parenting so difficult that I despaired of doing any part of it well. I was not a good servant. I had to, gradually, peel back the surface layers of my responses to mothering to understand why.

In spite of this, as we struggled together, I grew. Homeschooling brought to me the character that I could not offer in the beginning. I had made my choice -- to leap into the great abyss of nothingness -- and over time, my choice made me. After a long night, I found my morning. I built a life that would not have been possible had I not taken the path that re-fashioned me to my core. This, rather than the change in my social status, was my saving grace.

Being the servant of everyone was arduous. It was an agony. I say this to my shame. But in humbling myself, in losing my old life, I found one that was far better. Riches, mined from our growing together, surround me. There is more here than I have days to savor.

The offering I made at my altar has become food for my soul and life for many. It's amazing what God can do with the smallest, the weakest, the least. I am one of these, and that has been my secret, hidden even from me. Once the truth was out, I could recover and become what I was meant to be. His servant, his child, his disciple.

It has been worth the effort, every minute.


  1. I feel as though you've been living at my house recently, watching me - you're writing about so much of my own experience!

  2. Beautiful post. Thank you. It was a gift for me today.

  3. It is still the case with women these days as well, if someone is a stay at home mother, they think she is lazy. But if someone comes to my house to watch my kids and thats it, earns an income, then she is working and not lazy. It really makes me mad sometimes to think how unfair it all is. It is such a rare gift to stay home and raise your kids yourself, wow... thats an amazing opportunity and an awesome commitment!

  4. Being a stay at home and homeschooling mom has been Christ working in me. I agree with what you wrote. Thank you for the encouragement


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