Every once in a while, when we come across some really good blogging, we will share it with you on our own blog. This morning, in my time in God’s Word before the kiddo’s woke up, I looked at this verse: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
So today I want to honor you ,Mary McCulloch, a friend and sister from our years spent in Louisville, Kentucky. Mary and her husband attended the same wonderful church we were members of, and she and her family are worthy examples of actively sharing the Gospel and living with mission and simplicity. She has a sweet little girl, Katie and will be welcoming baby Caroline into the world in just a few weeks. Enjoy this blog entry which includes some good words about mercy and motherhood.
It’s a tricky balance, however, because I do think that in our American context, Christian women are often tempted to live lives of self-absorption and comfort in the name of “family ministry.” It’s far too easy to justify not sacrificing time and energy for evangelism, discipleship, and mercy ministry in the name of “putting our family first.”
We can find some assistance in looking at the life of the oft-despised “Proverbs 31 Woman.” In Proverbs 31:10-31, we find a woman who was completely devoted to the well-being of her family and yet whose life was also marked by tremendous influence for good outside the realm of her home: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hand to the needy” (31:20). We can glean from her life that the balance between domestic responsibilities and service to the world is not an “either/or” decision. But yet, I still regularly struggle with what this balance looks like in the context of my life.
The Lord shed some light on this for me a couple weeks ago when I was watching a Beth Moore DVD. She was speaking on the topic of good works in the Christian life and was highlighting the beautiful truth of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” As she put it, this verse reminds us that “we have a divine to-do list, written in God’s handwriting.” This was a huge encouragement to me in my marriage and mothering. For right now, God has written “Care for Adam, Katie, and Caroline” at the very top of His to-do list for me. The tasks associated with caring for my family are the good works that God has prepared beforehand for me that I should walk in them, and they are no less sacred or important as other good works such as visiting the widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27).
But what she began to teach on next was where the real surprise came. She had us turn to Isaiah 58, which for me is the classic text that challenges me to pursue social justice and mercy ministry. I have often held up this passage as the ideal Christian life and that I could have assurance that I was really following Christ if I were spending myself on behalf of the poor and hungry and loosing literal chains of bondage and injustice. To be sure, this passage does describe and exhort us to these kinds of ministry, and there is something wrong if there is nothing in our lives that supports these kinds of endeavors. However, as I read the chapter that evening, I couldn’t help but see the tasks of motherhood also written in those lines:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7
Every day as a mother I am feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and providing shelter and safety. These hungry, naked, and homeless ones are not strangers but rather my own children. Were it not for my labors, however, they would be hungry, naked, and homeless! Likewise, my children are bound and oppressed by the bonds of their own sin, and I have been charged with the grave task of holding out to them the good news of God’s liberation in Jesus Christ. As these thoughts came to me as I read the verses, I was a bit skeptical about applying Isaiah 58 to motherhood until I read the final line of verse 7—“and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.” Yes, God is reminding us that all humans are our own flesh and blood, and we are commanded to extend mercy and justice to all as if they were our own family. But surely these verses also include caring for those under our own roof?
To begin to view motherhood as mercy ministry was extremely encouraging for me, and I hope it will be for many other Christian mothers as well, especially those who (like me) often feel that they must get through the childhood years in order to get back to the “real” work of the Kingdom. There will come a day when our children are grown, and we will have more time to pursue the kinds of ministries that we feel passionate about—but do not be deceived. If you are a Christian mother, you have a very real and powerful ministry going on in your own home every day. You have a ministry of feeding and clothing the weak and helpless, and, as one godly woman once said to me, “What more intense discipleship relationship can you imagine besides the one you can have with your children? Talk about life-on-life discipleship!” May Isaiah 58 remind us not to neglect the poor and needy—even the ones that live within the walls of our home.