Confession: staying at home everyday with my children, aka “motherhood,” is difficult for me. Oh, my — did I really just type that for everyone to read?
Truth is, my OCD nature clashes with an unstructured, que sera, sera lifestyle, which varies daily, based on the needs and demands of the small humans in my charge. In a former life, I actually instructed others on the art of of squeezing productivity into every second of the day. However, one item I never neglected to schedule was ME time. You know, time for deluxe mani/pedis, four-hour workout sessions, dinners at my most preferred places, and binge watching my favorite programs in bed. It now seems like a million years ago since I enjoyed such luxuries because after marriage, a lot changed, and after children came along — BAM — it’s like someone spilled red wine on white carpet, the contrast that sharp.
Sure, I realized that marriage would mean giving up some freedom, knowing in my heart of hearts that I would not only need to make my husband aware of my plans but also necessitated including him in my plans. Wait. There’s more. “What was that?” I asked one day while humming along to Destiny Child’s All the women who are independent, throw your hands up in the air. Did he just tell me that he also wanted me to “check in” with him about my plans? He did. My sacred ME time was about to be seriously compromised. Nevertheless, I eventually learned how to navigate my independence as an individual while developing unity as a couple, which is an integral part of marriage, and then . . . our first child arrived.
Some say that marriage alone is enough to reveal just how selfish we really are deep down. Maybe, but if marriage doesn’t do it, having children will, for sure. Going back to work just for freedom to go to the bathroom in privacy has crossed my mind more than once. Sounds a bit extreme, but not for someone who values independence and is usually fine with her own company. Sometimes I glance longingly at the women who sit reading their books at the pool while their kids swim on the opposite side. A vacation that involves having to catch poop that the swim diaper does not hold or endure hypothermia from a cold baby pool is a far stretch from any beach paradise “get-away” I ever dreamed about.
I have a friend who is one of seven children. Seven! When she told me how many siblings she had, the first question out of my mouth was, “Did your mom ever have a moment to herself?” Laughing, she replied, “My mom is the most selfless woman I know.” She then went on to share memories about all the ways her mom prioritized her family over herself, adding that her mother now keeps a calendar that she fills up each month with visiting and helping her different children and grandchildren. This friend, whom I find to be pretty selfless herself, explained that her mother truly had a heart for others and always put their needs first.
So, later I started thinking . . . of all the words that my family and friends might use to describe me, would “selfless” be one of them? Probably not. Okay, absolutely not. I consider terms like “hard working, dependable,” and “driven” to be very positive, characteristics I have always admired in others and strived to be myself. I can honestly say that until recently, being described as “selfless” has never crossed my mind. As I continued to ponder this, The Holy Spirit convicted me — the characteristics I wanted to embody were all about ME, not about others. Ouch.
The Bible is filled with countless examples of selflessness. Perhaps you recall God sacrificing His only son to die for sinners, for starters. Goodness, I hesitate to give money to a vagrant on the street because I automatically assume that he’s probably responsible for his dire situation and deserves it. Yet, I forget how undeserving I am to receive God’s gift of eternal life, that the best me merits nothing but eternal separation from the Lord of Heaven and Earth. In Philippians the apostle Paul tell us to interact with others with the mindset of Christ. Talk about selflessness — Jesus had the ultimate servant’s heart. Imagine how different the world would be if we all had the mind of Christ.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Philippians 2: 5-8
We are selfish, sinful people who naturally put ourselves before others. Sure, at times we can be rather generous with our time and money, lending a helping hand here, writing a check for some worthy cause there. But how altruistic are we really, deep down, when we know that our selfless acts will never be made known unless we make them known? In truth, how often do we feel slighted because someone else received the praise for something we did? Closer to home, how frequently do we feel frustrated because our husbands don’t seem to appreciate the work we do for our family? Do you ever lose your temper with your children because you feel you cannot give them another ounce of yourself and wonder what difference it would make if you could? Never, right? Neither do I — seriously — totally guilty!
Developing a servant’s heart takes consistent practice and devotion. It requires reading God’s Word daily and communicating with God in prayer continually so the Holy Spirit will convict and cleanse our selfish, sinful nature. The Lord commands us to demonstrate unconditional love without expecting anything in return, to love others as we love ourselves, and admit it — no one loves us more than we love ourselves. No one. This glorifies God, but oh, it is SO VERY difficult for self-centred me!
Why is it easier to show this sort love to strangers rather than to those in my family? Answer: strangers appear to appreciate our sacrifice and service more. Or do they? Is that just something the Father of Lies wants us to believe? Satan wants nothing more than to break up our marriages and tear our families apart. If he convinces us that those in these relationships owe us something, then resentment will take root in our hearts and homes when we believe we aren’t receiving our due. Anger and bitterness will grow and eventually destroy the very relationships God specifically intended to exempify to the world His relationship with His redeemed.
I aim to put others first, including those I deem “undeserving,” with no expectations, no exceptions. Even when I’m tired and feel that I am pulling more weight than others or just lack any desire to act, I truly want to form the habit of demonstrating selflessness like that of our Heavenly Father. Allowing God to rule our lives, looking at each new day through the lens of eternity, changes our mindset and our hearts. Many of us may never directly experience leading a person to Christ; however, our words and deeds can serve as powerful testimonies that point a lost world to the cross. In a sinful, selfish world, putting others before ourselves may be the only means by which those who are lost and perishing witness the love of Christ and grace of God.
It would bring me great joy to know that one day my children will say that their mother is the most selfless person they know, which isn’t true of me now. Nonetheless, it is never too late for me to make changes that will most definitely require more work and personal sacrifice, and through the strength of Christ, I intend to do so and challenge you to consider the same.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.