“I almost resent my children. I used to be able to serve God in so many ways before having them!” I often hear this statement in one form or another from new moms. In the western world, where church is all about programs and attendance, the life of a new mom can often seem anticlimactic where “service to God” is concerned. I think this is a Western Church misconception. Raising a family is a very holy season in one’s life, and making changes in your outward ministry will often be necessary and healthy.
There are seasons in life. Serving God in that season is what our Father requires. This idea is found many times in scripture, but probably most famously in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
The season you are in determines to a degree your ability to engage. For instance, as a young single person, you may have more time to volunteer for anything and everything that comes up at church. Youth has privileges, and energy and time are two of the most precious. However, along comes marriage and then a couple of kids and the time to spend at will becomes smaller and smaller. The temptation comes to miss our previous seasons of busyness in the church, or even worse, to think that we are no longer effective workers for the kingdom of God.
But nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that this is exactly what our enemy would like us to think. The ministry of training up the next generation in the faith has significant importance. The famous poem by William Ross Wallace states that, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World." His poem was a praise for the transformative power that mothering plays in our world.
Different seasons often necessitate a shift in our ministry roles. Sometimes that can mean cutting back on the visible workings of the church you attend and strengthening the church of your home.
The Church is not a place, but a people. You will never have a more captive audience to disciple than your own children! Of course, I am not suggesting that you make a habit out of skipping worship on a regular basis because you are too tired as a new mom. Nor choosing to make playing sports and extracurricular involvement your new sanctuary. Getting together with other believers is an important discipline for your family to experience. Gathering with God’s people is an important command to follow as your family follows after Christ.
What I am suggesting is that when we grieve over the loss of time available to perform duties in the church, we are in danger of two different erroneous thoughts. The first is that we please God by what we accomplish. We are warned against this thinking in several places in scripture. In Hebrews 11:6 we are told, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” It takes faith to move from a season of the outward ministry of the church to the private ministry of the home. It also takes humility. After all, serving through a ministry of the church is much more public, and has the opportunity for public accolades. Family service often is for the audience of one, that being God.
In fact, the second danger we face in our grieving of the loss of ministry in times past, is that perhaps this grief reveals an impure motive in our service. We may have been serving more for how the service made us feel than what Christ was asking us to do. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we are told, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We may have never boasted out loud to others, that would be too obvious, but perhaps in our own minds we were proud of all that we have done for church and for God.
Jesus was a servant leader. He took care of those closest to him above all others. In fact, the King of kings, God in the flesh, wrapped a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his disciples. And these disciples reciprocated by turning the world upside down for the kingdom of God. Your service to your family though faith and in the private world of your own home will do more for the kingdom of God than all of the good works you could do elsewhere!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra