Raising a family is the one of the most obvious ways to serve Christ. There they are, right in front of you. No having to look for opportunities to be a do-gooder. Opportunities abound. Yet everyone takes it for granted.
I think, “Gee, I haven’t volunteered at the Red Cross in four years,” and feel bad that I haven’t done any service work. But taking care of sick children, preparing meals, changing diapers, folding laundry, teaching and playing is all work I volunteered to do in service of the family I helped create. Because it is everyday, commonplace work, somehow I don’t see it as an opportunity to serve Christ. I don’t normally see it as loving my neighbor (in the next room) and serving the least of my brothers, in this case my children. But it does count. My infant son would not live if I did not feed him. Every morsel of food he gets must be fed to him. As dependent as he is, he certainly qualifies as the “least.”
Like many women, I struggle with being a stay-at-home mom. I don’t like all the chores and housework, and I miss time alone without someone depending on me for something. Often I cling to my telephone for adult conversations.
Being a parent can also be one of the hardest of lifestyles. The job doesn’t get left at the office. The constancy of care is overwhelming at times, particularly if someone gets sick. No one tells you how hard it is to be a mother. People always say, “You’d never believe it anyway.” Well, that may be true. However, our culture makes people feel as if being a mother is right up there with sainthood. Seldom is the reality of childcare and formation fully explained. And once you find out about that reality, please don’t complain, or it ruins the whole saintly image thing.
Rearing children is undervalued in many ways. One way is through plain lack of recognition. Why is community service valued more than service for your family? And why is working for pay for some soulless entity valued more than working for your family? This attitude causes some to overlook the significance of some of the most important acts of love and service available: those related to family.
Mother Teresa didn’t see only the face of the poor she was serving. She saw in them the face of Jesus. Yesterday I saw Jesus in my son’s eyes. A song about serving Christ was playing, one I used to sing wholeheartedly, understanding little about how one day soon I would be in the motherhood “trenches” serving Him. I was feeding Dominic in the kitchen. As he smiled at me, I saw Jesus smiling at me through his eyes. The moment was charged with holiness. A simple moment, feeding a baby, suddenly became so much more. It became a connection with Christ. It was one of those moments that you always read about monks having but never have any idea how to make it happen to you. I always wanted to know how they made cooking soup or cleaning dishes or gardening transcendent. I could never figure out how to do it.
Now I know I was approaching it from the wrong angle. I am not the one who does it—Jesus is. I just have to be aware. And by His grace, I was aware at that moment. Maybe if I tune into the fact that I am serving Christ, staying at home will be less of a struggle. Maybe more awareness of our divine connections is the path to contentment in our everyday life and struggles. It was for me that day.
Missy Fillion is a native of Charleston, South Carolina currently living in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two beautiful children. Though she has an MBA, it was not her educational background that brought her to the door of her work, but rather her family, first as wife, then mother. Her most positive spiritual moments have come through her children or growth opportunities that family life provides. Her day to day life includes chores, reading to the kids, playing clue, going to the library and parkdays, listening, learning, making parenting mistakes, castigating herself, swearing, then praying, seeing Jesus in her children’s eyes, starting again, more humble this time, over and over. All of this is the soil for her writing. Daily she picks up what she often thinks is her cross, and over and over again, she finds it is her salvation. Missy has recently published her debut novel, Retreat to Folly, which is available on Amazon. Her facebook page is www.facebook.com/MissyFillion
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