I used to get up early. Once a month, I would rise before the sun and drive along the quiet city roads to the flower markets: a bustling hive shrouded in darkness and the cool of morning. There I would buy bunches of roses to be handed out at our monthly strip club outreach.
I recalled these early morning trips when we drove past the flower markets on a recent visit to Sydney. I remembered nestling the bunches of roses into the bucket of water I had carefully prepared, then driving back along Parramatta Road with the first dribble of peak hour traffic. I would talk to God and thank him for the wonderful ministry opportunity he had provided, while taking in dazzlingly beautiful sunrises. I'd arrive home with time to snuggle back into bed with my husband before he got up for work.
It was tiring getting up early one day and then staying out late the next night as we walked around Kings Cross, sharing roses and gospel hope with the many ladies who worked there. Yes, it was tiring, but I knew it was important work I was doing.
In those days, people would ask me what I did and I would answer, “I run a strip club outreach – we give out roses and talk to the girls about Jesus.”
“Wow, what a great ministry,” they would say. I knew what I was doing mattered.
Ministering to our children
I still get up early, though it is now most days, not just once a month. And I am no stranger to the late hours of the night either. Just last week, there was a night I saw every hour on the clock, bar one.
But these days I’m not up early buying roses or out late sharing the gospel, I am safely at home, nursing a little one or giving water and cuddles to a slighter bigger one. I no longer get praise and admiration for the wonderful ministry work I am doing. And I don't feel important either, I'm just changing another nappy, making another meal or kissing another sore knee.
But the other day when I was putting my daughter down for her nap, something happened that completely changed my perspective. I had just changed her and then asked if she wanted to read a book before her nap.
“Pray”, she said, and lowered her eyes. Without looking up, her little hand reached out for mine.
So I prayed with my daughter – that her Poppy would get better, that God would help her to obey mum and dad, that she would have a good nap – kneeling on her bedroom floor. Then I tucked her in and went on with my day.
The moment continued to play on my mind throughout the day, reminding me of the importance of what I now do. Motherhood, I have come to realise, is not simply performing a series of physical tasks and then repeating them the next day. It feels that way with little children because much of the work is physical. However, it is much more than that – motherhood is ministry.
The Bible tells us that parents are responsible for telling our children about God’s laws and deeds (Deuteronomy 11:19), training them (Proverbs 22:6) and disciplining them (Proverbs 29:17). We are the first people to tell them about Jesus and our actions show them how to follow Him.
We know all this. So why do we often fail to take our ministry role as parents seriously? Perhaps it is the repetition of mundane tasks that makes life feel so normal. We get into a pattern of simply going about our lives, meeting physical needs but lacking an eternal perspective.
A message for other Christian parents
Some encouragements for my fellow mums (and dads) in ministry:
- God is watching us and sees our hard work, even when no one else does. In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us three times that our Father in heaven “sees what is done in secret” and will reward us. If we become discouraged for lack of public recognition, let us remember that God’s perspective is the one that counts, and he sees all we do.
- Jesus said that when we provide physical care for “the least of these”, we are caring for Him (Matthew 25:40). Certainly, in our society, children are among “the least of these” – they are dependent on us for their needs and are often considered little more than annoyances in public space. Take heart – our physical labour in caring for these little ones is as valuable as caring for Jesus himself!
- Lastly, it pays to fix our eyes on the eternal goal of our ministry as mums. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”. I am not yet at the point of reaping a harvest, but as I work this (sometimes stubborn) soil, day after day, I am believing God’s promise that it will pay off in the lives of my children.
For more articles from Growing Faith, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.
To hear about the latest books and resources from Youthworks Media, subscribe here.