A friend from my “old life” e-mailed me yesterday. This has happened about a dozen times since I disappeared from my old career. Periodically, someone must think of me in some fashion, go looking for me, discover I’m no longer doing that old thing, and drop me a note of curiosity, encouragement, what-have-you. Every time it happens, the old wound re-opens. I do not say this to complain about these people–it’s flattering and heart-warming to know that I am thought of, even if it’s only occasionally. I say this because these events cause me to, once again, miss work, wonder if I did the right thing, wish I could figure out a way to balance work and home, contemplate my skill as a wife and mother, and consider the possibility that I “missed my calling.”
Let’s face it: parenting is not a career one undertakes for the instant gratification or unconditional praise.
I often wonder if this is all there is. Certainly parenting is important–it’s arguably the second most important job I could ever do, the Great Commission being perhaps the first. And of course, if I’m doing both jobs together, the hope is that my four young charges will end up securely ensconced in the Kingdom and actively going forth to perform the Great Commission themselves. But as a career of personal reward, parenting is pretty far down on my list. I love and adore my children, but the everyday tasks and challenges of parenting are repetitive, exhausting, and at times downright painful. Oddly, when I look down the road at that moment when my youngest will be out of the house, I think of how empty my days will be, and I can’t decide whether to smile or cry.
Being a mother is not for the faint of heart. Sadly, my heart is very faint much of the time.
Kevin DeYoung posted his thoughts about waiting on God this morning. Mr. DeYoung never fails to offer something thought-provoking, and I confess that after my brief contact with that old friend yesterday, this post hit home. DeYoung says:
Can you believe that God has something good in store for you? Will you trust that someday when you see your beginning and middle with the ending in view that it will all make sense? Can you hope against hope that God has not forgotten you, that his promises are true, and that he is up to something? He was for Abraham and Joseph and Moses. Why not you too?
I am not very good at the whole “listening to God’s voice” thing. I do not believe that God micromanages us. I think that most Evangelicals get the whole “God’s will” thing wrong. They do themselves a disservice by sitting and waiting for God’s voice when they could be up doing something productive. I tend to follow the Augustinian idea: “Love God, and do what you like.” I believe that if you do truly love God, you will operate from your salvation, and those things you like will be within God’s will. And let’s face it–if God does have specific revelation or direction for your life, do you not believe that He is completely capable of speaking to you in such a way that the message is unmistakable?
Yet here I am at this strange place in life where most of my energy is directed toward raising children, and to be honest, this is not what I want to do forever. But having decided that I will not return to my old career, that waiting a decade or more to start again will ruin my chances of success in that career, what will I do when these children are gone?
Like Abraham, I find myself waiting on God. Like Joseph, I find my talents wasting while I am in a sometimes-unrewarding place. Like Moses, I find myself wandering from task to task while I attempt to keep small humans on some kind of course toward productive adulthood.
Do I believe that God has something good in store for me? In an eternal sense, absolutely. But in an earthly or material sense?
I have to confess: No. I don’t.
A hard confession.
Perhaps I am not looking at this parenting thing the right way. Certainly it’s fun when I laugh with my kids–and we do laugh and enjoy each others’ company. I do puff up in maternal pride fairly often; I may become downright unbearable when my eldest achieves his Eagle Scout rank. I am pleased and relieved when people compliment my children. (By the way, grandparents–those times when you go out of your way to compliment a child’s behavior to a young mother are pure liquid gold to that mother’s soul.)
But this is not The Thing. This is not what I have before me forever. This is a seasonal job–a long season, granted, but a season.
What comes next? How do I pray? Does God have something for me, or is He just hoping I’ll just go do something?
I do not know these answers.
Perhaps my prayer should be for love, for faith, for belief, for trust, for hope. Those are not unbiblical prayers, are they? Perhaps in the midst of those prayers, I will find what I am waiting for. Perhaps in the midst of those prayers, I will realize that what I was waiting for was here all along.
Till next we meet . . .