One of the saddest things is when a hardworking mother or father or teacher (or artist or other good workman,) already in danger of burning out, is made to feel that he or she has failed to serve God (or failed to mature as a Christian) because he or she has not become involved in this or that church project or organized mission trip.
A proposition Dorothy Sayers (yes, that would be Lord Peter Wimsey’s author) makes in her essay, “Why Work?” is that (regarding work) “it is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred.”
Remember that the word “vocation” has the idea of “calling” embedded in it (Latin–vocare, to call), and it is a deeply Christian idea to recognize that it is God who “calls” by giving gifts and talents to people.
“…when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work….It is not right for [the Church] to acquiesce in the notion that a man’s life is divided into the time he spends on work and the time he spends in serving God. He must be able to serve God in his work, and the work itself must be accepted and respected as the medium of divine creation.”
“…and conversely: when you find a man who is a Christian praising God by the excellence of his work–do not distract him and take him away from his proper vocation to address religious meetings and open church bazaars. Let him serve God in the way to which God has called him. If you take him away from that, he will exhaust himself in an alien technique and lose his capacity to do his dedicated work….It is your business, you churchmen, to get what good you can from observing his work–not to take him away from it, so that he may do ecclesiastical work for you….He is not there to serve you; he is there to serve God by serving his work.”
I have rarely seen anyone give more freely, lovingly, and with as little thought for return as a mother working with her children all day. More than most people, she is serving God. The job has little enough recognition and few thanks from anyone. Mostly you labor at it, wracked with guilt that you’re not doing enough, while also feeling like you’re about to snap from the constant demands of the work.
The typical answer from the pulpit for that level of strain is the doctrine of the “weekly date night” or something of that nature. See Ed Young, (Pastor of mega Fellowship-Church, proprietor of EdYoung.com and EdYoungblog.com and CreativePastors.com (“but enough about me, how do you like my ‘Ed Young resources’?”) for one example among many, many others. If it sounds shallow and narcissistic, maybe that’s because it is. But I digress.
It would be refreshing if the answer from the pulpit was,
“thank you for serving God in this important way. I know it is a constant matter of drilling down into reserves of patience and strength you probably never knew you had before you had children, as well as staring down levels of fatigue and confronting levels of selfishness and anger you never knew you were capable of before you had children.
You’re as devoted as any missionary you ever read about in a book. You are a shining example of the love of Christ, and in fact, throughout Scripture, the love of a father and the devotion of a mother is provided as well-known phenomena from daily life to help us grasp the idea that God’s faithfulness is even greater. So you know it’s worth staying with it, even though it is hard.
Probably you parents have a much fuller insight into the magnitude of what the Apostle Paul was trying to get across when he wrote that Christ did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking upon himself the role of a servant than you did before you took on this role. And though you have times of discouragement and times when you’ve not lived up to the way you wanted to do things, and though you must recognize your limits and find time to rest, your work is beautiful to God and it really matters.”
For pastors who are encouraging the parents, teachers and other tireless laborers that their work matters and its excellence should be pursued, keep up the good work!