It was the Fall of 2013. I was visiting a local park with my 4-year-old and 2-year-old in tow, when I saw a woman with a baby and felt sudden and overwhelming relief that it wasn’t me. To be honest, I felt disgust for the whole baby phase. Earlier that summer, I had come to an emphatic decision that we would not have any more children. Little did I know, I would become pregnant within the month.
To say I cried about my pregnancy is an understatement. It took months of processing with friends to even come around to the idea that this could possibly be a good thing. It sounded like work. Terrible work. And though it might obviously seem like this was God’s calling—it wasn’t a calling I wanted.
I began counting down the days, months and years until I would again achieve “normalcy.” And when little Rosie was born, I was relieved at the thought that I was only 2 years away from potty training. Little did I know the next two years would be the hardest of my life.
In those two years, I started homeschooling and caring full time for three kids ages five and under. And as I had feared, it was work. A lot of work. Work I wasn’t interested in. How could God be calling me to this? After cleaning up after my 5-year-old, 3-year-old and baby I often thought, “The only purpose of my life is picking things up and putting them down over and over and over again.”
My life felt pointless and hopeless. I would often wander all over the house and say over and over again, “I hate my life, I hate my life.” Sometimes spiraling down further thinking, “I hate me.” My mind was full of regret for all my decisions up to this point. I fantasized daily about running away and starting a different life.
So I clawed after anything that promised what I was craving: worth, significance, meaning and purpose. I threw myself into homeschooling classes, curriculums and coops. I revived my doula business. I planned ministry events. But as I attempted to busy myself, my body started shutting down.
A trip to the doctor to address the fatigue ruled out major illness, but hinted at depression. It was a wake up call. I finally submitted to my husband and stopped homeschooling (after the 100th time he asked “Why are you doing this?”) I took a break from some responsibilities and my body slowly healed. My kids started school. I got some free time. I made some new friends and visited some old ones. But my questions lingered: “Why did that happen? What is my life for? What is my calling?”
During this time, I read a very helpful article by Winston Smith of CCEF that started to give me a picture of what God might be up to.
Time and again, God calls his people to himself by leading them out of the familiar and into a wilderness. In this wilderness, the urgent needs of survival require a radical assessment of their identity and what their life is really about… In every case God brings his people to a point in which they have to reckon with their identity as his children. They can live for their own agendas, wants and needs, or choose to trust in their Heavenly Father.
-Winston Smith ‘The Hunger Games: Appetite and Identity’
God was leading me through a wilderness. It was not of my choosing. It was full of difficulty, long hours, service and mundane repetition. I didn’t feel like I was surviving; in fact, I felt like my life was ending. But God had brought me very deliberately to this point to reckon with my identity and my agenda. Instead of trusting my Heavenly Father, I tried simply accepted my fate and plowing through. That didn’t work. I fought God. I rebuked him for bringing me on this path—being a wife, being a mom, being… anything I was. I fought and clawed for a new identity—one in which I was successful, recognized, thanked and in control.
Suffering was compounded by sin. And in the wilderness I so often chose escapism, depression, anger, self-pity, regret, selfishness, indulgence, sensuality, sulking, isolation and fear. Living as a daughter of the Heavenly Father, there must be a better way than demanding my own agenda, living for my wants or needs of recognition, success, or escape.
An Encounter With Jesus
In May of this year, I had a dream. In the dream I was taking my 2-year-old Rosie into our shower. She had poop in her diaper and on her fingers and she had smeared it all over her face. I was frustrated: ”How could you? Why did you do this? You know better. Ugh!” Then suddenly, Jesus was there to my right, in a white robe on the threshold of the shower. I was aware it was Jesus but didn’t dare look at his face and just stared at the ground, frozen.
Then he spoke to me with clear, authoritative, and kind words. I was so mesmerized and giddy about the fact Jesus was there that I didn’t even remember exactly what he said! He was speaking words of truth over me about who I was in Him—a beloved daughter. He spoke to me about my identity. He was so kind, and his words so true. His presence was full of intensity and wonder and joy. And I was filled with so much love for him. Not just love, but adoration and worship. My heart melted, and in a puddle of tears and love, I blurted out “I will clean up poop for the rest of my life if you want me to do that, I’ll do it for you.” It seemed to be the only natural response to give him anything he’d ask. Then I woke up.
This encounter with Jesus was richly layered with meaning. Jesus Christ is present in every moment. He sees me and no detail escapes Him. He prays over me. He speaks truth to me. He is beautiful and wonderful and worship songs don’t go far enough to describe Him! He is in absolute authority and it is a good authority. But it took me days to realize that in this dream was the answer to what my soul had been calling out for all along—What is my purpose? Will I get recognition? Is my life meaningful at all?
In the midst of a poop and frustration-filled scene, Jesus’ presence changed the “why” of it all. His presence transformed a dirty task into a complete joy because I knew it was the King of the Universe who was asking me to do it. And this King of the Universe was so full of glory and radiance that to be asked by Him to have a job on this earth was a complete privilege and not a frustration.
Now, imagine if the King of the Universe came to you and personally asked you to do the earthly work you are currently doing. Because he has. In God’s complete control, he has appointed your earthly tasks, work and relationships. It isn’t just appointed in some impersonal or vague way, but Jesus asks you, “Will you do this, for me?”
Remember Paul’s words to the Colossians:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
So much in the previous two years—the homeschooling, the fantasizing, and jobs and dare I say, the ministry events—was a confused scramble for identity and purpose. What God had given me, a baby, was an opportunity to work and serve not just a helpless infant, but Jesus Christ himself! The job didn’t give me money or worldly glamour, it didn’t require my “skills” or talents, but it was a gateway to joy and purpose in serving Jesus. And Jesus isn’t asking us to serve when he hasn’t. This King of the Universe, our master, is the ultimate servant.
Jesus Himself went to the wilderness. He was tempted. But he was keenly aware of the Father’s will and calling for him. While he was physically run down, Jesus returned Satan’s lies with truth. You know, Jesus had such potential! He could have had money, become famous, made into an earthly king with a plush life and a house full of servants. But his Father’s will and calling was his food—his sustenance — and he didn’t forget it in the wilderness or afterward. For the joy set before him, he served and served you and I until the dust of humiliation and execution on a cross for our benefit!
For the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve. And to give his life as a ransom for many.
So I encourage you to not forget to whom and for whom you are doing your mundane work. Whom you do it for makes the difference between joyful contentment and utter despair. The joy of Jesus’s presence and countenance will give you the strength to endure difficulty, suffering, to work and to serve your boss, family, church and community. He has purpose in the wilderness, and it is more of him.