Updated: Oct 19, 2018
Holed up in a church nursery again. Excommunicated. Exiled. Unsure of when I would be able to rejoin the worshipful throng.
I glared at my fussy baby daughter, who shot me back a colicky glare of her own from behind her fuzzy pink blankie. The lack of heating in the nursery, along with the concrete walls and single, tiny window, made it feel like an icy prison cell. I could feel my lips turning purple as my teeth chattered like castanets. Obviously insulation wasn't around when this small country church was built. I wished I could at least hear my husband preach, but the speakers in the nursery didn't work. Seeming as it was just God, baby and me in there, I decided it time for a good rant. It went something like this:
Why am I even here! What am I doing for you Lord? You know how I love to serve you— now here I am, stuck in here with a cranky baby and absolutely useless to anyone else!
(winge, whine, mope)
I want to be out there! I want to be among people again! Why won't this kid cooperate and fall asleep like the others babies in church?
(whine, mope, winge)
I wish I could say that in the middle of my self-piteous tirade a light shone through the window and a voice from above gave me a rhema revelation. But the revelation would come slowly, over time— and many rants later. I also wish I could tell you that the revelation "my-children-are-my-first-ministry" changed everything, as many well-meaning people told me. But it didn't— I still felt frustrated. Along with that frustration came a generous load of mummy-guilt, especially when I heard the phrase, "being a mother is the highest calling."
Then somewhere along the line, a light bulb flickered on. I realized that although being a mother IS a high calling, it's not the only one. You see, too often mummies, we can take the "first-ministry" truth and think that it means we are only called to be mothers. While it is good to put our families first, it's also okay to have multifaceted callings, even as we are multifaceted people. Even Ruth Graham, who is famous for caring for her five children when Billy Graham travelled (which was often), had other gifts and talents. She wrote many poems, for example, full of a deep revelation and wisdom that continues to touch people today.
More than anything, my understanding of what it means to be a mother in ministry was helped by the concept of seasons. I was used to going full throttle— over the first six months of our marriage, Alejandro and I were on a plane 2-3 times a week, save for 2 week-long stretches ministering in the one place. When I found out we were expecting our first child, some well-intentioned friends implied that our ministry would be over, especially for me. That made me all the more determined to keep travelling and ministering, even after having a child. The baby was going to slot into our lives, not the other way around. What we didn't bargain on, however, was having a child capable of staying awake for an entire 14-hour trans-pacific flight!
Spokes of a Wheel
I would have completely worn myself out, were it not for a message that stopped me in my tracks. "Too often," the speaker said, "we women think of life in terms of balance— 'I've got to get my work/ministry/family balance right.' But this is virtually impossible to do and leaves us feeling constantly frustrated. We vacillate between feeling like we are on top of things and feeling like we are a failure.
Life is more like the spokes of a wheel. You take the pressure to maintain balance off yourself when you think of each aspect of life as a spoke. At any given time, you are on a spoke.
You are helping the kids with their homework— the children spoke. You are at work— the work spoke. Date night? The husband spoke. You simply move between spokes."
It made sense. We move between spokes on a daily basis, but there are also drawn out seasons when we major on certain spokes. We don't neglect the other ones, we just devote more time to one in certain seasons. A pastor once shared with us how, when his teenage son rebelled, he immediately put ministry on hold to focus on his child. He understood the concept of priorities and seasons.
With this newfound knowledge under my belt, I eventually learnt to relax when I was on the "children spoke" for what felt like most of the first year of our daughter's lives. In time, the
"ministry spoke" would eventually roll around again. And it would be right in God's timing. You can't relax when you are longing to be in another season. As a mother, it's good to embrace the one you are in, no matter how challenging.
To that woman in ministry, trying to adjust to the new demands of being a mother, I want to encourage you and remind you that your gifts and calling are without the repentance of God (Romans 11:29). You were called before having children and you are still called today. Your wings haven't been clipped, they've just been upgraded to a larger set, ones that can cover little ones. Maybe ministry might look different to what it did before, but try and be gentle and gracious with yourself— God certainly does. He promises to "gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:11).