Last month, in studying Zechariah, I was struck by 4:10, “whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice,” referring to the less-ostentatious temple that the returned exiles were building to replace Solomon’s temple. We’re told that the old men cried at how underwhelming it seemed compared to the first one, but God reminded His people that He was the source of glory in a temple of any size. I think 21st century mothers are just as likely as the ancient Jews to forget that God doesn’t care about the size or prestige of the task he sets us to do–and that He gives joy in little tasks as well as big ones.
What “small things” are we tempted despise today? Children, first of all, in their maddening, needy, life-changing array. Having four children in a short time has forced me to die to myself, daily. Since breaking my foot this summer, I’ve developed an aversion to having small children crawling all over me. Naturally, my two youngest girl’s cuddle needs have gone through the roof this fall. I’d gotten used to accepting the broken plates, the perpetually messy living room, the early morning wake-ups, and wiping vomit out of carseats. They went with the territory of parenthood. Now I’m having to make the conscious decision, dozens of times a day, not to shove away wiggly little girls whose fight for the best spot on my lap may indeed end up with someone crashing into my still-tender foot. I didn’t realize I had an anger problem until I had children, and I didn’t realize how often I yelled until I’ve had contractors working in my house for hours every day, overhearing everything I say to my children and the tone of voice I use to say it. While I am a “kid person” who nannied and taught grade school before having my own, I can understand how even ones’ own precious children can irritate you. This fall and winter, two friends have spent long, tough times in the hospital with children–one for major, years-long health reasons, and the other as the result of a vicious dog attack that may leave her paralyzed. There’s nothing like praying constantly for these little girls to remind me to be grateful for the health and safety and existence of mine! If you find yourself despising your children, spend some time talking to or praying for a parent with sick or hurting kiddos. It will put everything into perspective.
What else do we despise? The simple acts of childcare–diaper changing, reading aloud with a couple children on my lap and a couple more leaning over to see the pictures, fixing sandwiches to order (I do not cater to my kids’ every whim, but I do let them pick their lunch from the available options), being there to praise the artist’s new picture, to redress the dolly, to brush out the doll’s or toddler’s hair for the dozenth time in a day, listening to a little girl’s glee over the game she was playing with her big sister, finding the right station on Pandora so my aspiring ballerina can put on an unrehearsed and monotonous show, kissing the preschooler’s hand after the neighbor boy accidentally hit it with his light saber and assuring her that she’s not really a bad guy, wiping up runny noses, pulling the two year old out of the living room melee to make her sit and try to use the potty, helping the big kids learn the next verse to the song they liked so much at church, deciphering what they’re trying to tell me as I brush their teeth, finding the ever-important blankies in their upstairs hiding place so that everyone downstairs can go to sleep comfortably–they filled my day, and yet I told my husband when he came in from work that “I had gotten nothing done today.” Sure, lots is still unpacked, and I haven’t hung any pictures on the walls, but to say that I accomplished nothing today is to despise the extremely worthwhile work of mothering I did all day. My pastor preached yesterday on how joy is something we have to resolve to fight for. I resolve to take joy in caring for my children this year.
Of course, we can often feel oppressed from outside sources, too. I’m the only SAHM in our new neighborhood, and it feels that my vocation of motherhood is more insignificant and despised than ever. Two new moms with whom I’m very close have decided to leave their babies behind while they continue on with not-financially-necessary careers. When friends I thought were like-minded reject my positions on childhood and motherhood, it’s demoralizing. If you, too, are feeling worn down and discouraged, you are not the only one. I found great encouragement last week in a phone date with an old friend. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, email me your info, and I’ll call you! I hope that you, dear readers, who share our commitment to being everything to the little someones God put in our lives, will know that Anna and Bethany and I are rooting for you. You are not alone, and while the rest of us may not see your work, remember that God does, and whatever you are doing to the least of these you are doing to Him.
May your 2016 be filled with joy in the precious “small things” of your life.