Life is complicated. Families are complicated. Nothing runs on autopilot – not us, not meals, not laundry, not housework, not schoolwork. Someone has to be responsible, managing all the moving parts so that an unlikely entity – a family – hums into life.
Each of us as mothers focuses on our particular assignment: our particular family. We learn what we must learn to help our particular people thrive and grow. In the process, we, too, thrive and grow.
Service is a good anchor word to meditate on, using it as a personal prompt or litmus test to determine why we are focused on what we’re focusing on.
Service-minded goals for moms
If you set goals for the new year, what was it that determined what made it onto the goal list?
All of us have all the things that we would love to be doing, or that we think we should be doing. There are so many potential goals, so many potential tasks. How do we decide what makes the cut?
Service is the mindset that can help us properly filter our goals and responsibilities — if we approach it correctly.
Clearly, motherhood is service and requires a servant mindset. We’re managers of a bustling team. We’re building up our people for their good and for the growth of God’s kingdom in the world.
Yet, if we’re to be effective servants, we have to understand what service really means as well as whose servants we truly are.
We do not serve our homes
Our housework is service work, yes, but our homes are not the master.
The laundry is not important for laundry’s sake. The clean floors are not good for their own sake. We don’t clean the bathrooms because the bathrooms themselves deserve it.
We aren’t serving our homes. Our homes are serving us. Our homes are tools that we are using in the service of a greater good. Unless we have a greater good our efforts are pointing to, however, it’s no wonder we feel aimless and frustrated and unfulfilled.
If we’re treating our home as the master, determining whether or not we’re meeting our goals, the feedback of how our home looks is the primary indicator of whether or not we’re doing all right, whether or not we’re doing the right things, whether or not we’re doing enough. Such a standard means we’re serving our inanimate home.
That’s not a proper motivation. That’s not properly ordered. Serving the wrong master will never result in increasing maturity or responsibility or enjoyment or competency because it’s out of line with reality.
If your housework feels awkward and futile and impossible, it might be because your goals or your purposes are misaligned with reality.
Whose servants are we?
We have been given a mission. We have a King Whom we serve, so that’s the primary orientation that we are to have. All our work, every action, is in service to our King, our Creator, our Savior – including laundry and meals and bathroom cleaning.
Our God has asked us to serve Him by serving other people. Therefore, our home and the meals and all the work we do are tools in that service.
Because we’re in service to God, we don’t determine our own standards, we don’t decide who we are, and we also don’t have to please ourselves with our work. We have a better Person to please, whose pleasure is actually satisfying – unlike our own.
Because we’re in service to God, we’re not bound to please others. While God asks us to work for the good of others, He is the one Who determines what that good is. Our job isn’t to make anyone else happy, but to obey God. Those in fellowship with God will be made happy by such efforts, but they will also often disquiet and displease those who are not.
Being in service of the Lord of all gives us confidence and stability in a shaky world and in a houseful of needy children. He gives us comfort and direction.
Service is a key biblical purpose we are given, enabling us to ambitiously desire improvement while staying humble. When we feel the need for more or better motivation, we’ll find it as we focus on gratitude to God for our salvation, letting that gratitude guide our actions into greater obedience.
We should not be serving ourselves
It’s easy to slip into looking at our homes as our pet projects and the work we do as being done for ourselves. Although we do benefit from our homes and from our work, just as our family does, we make bad masters for ourselves.
When we approach cleaning or organizing or decorating as a personal alter to our own taste, style, and ability, we’ll be constantly displeased and unfulfilled, even while working so hard toward pleasure and fulfillment.
When we pour our attention and energy into setting up elaborate systems or having things just so, we’re usually self-focused, working to make our own lives easier and more beautiful.
It’s even possible to use our family – our husband and our children and even our church – as props for our grand self-designed life. We can be using them to create the setting that we desire where we are the mom who has a happy family – and it’s all about projecting the right image rather than living faithfully before our God.
When our family and our home are simply serving as props in the lifestyle we’re trying to construct for ourselves, we aren’t really serving our family. We definitely aren’t serving our Lord. We’re trying to arrange things and control people to get the outcome we desire – we’re acting as our own god. Such a plan will never work out well.
We do – and do not – serve our children
Another temptation we can have as moms is to serve our family for the family’s sake. After all, we know that we’re supposed to be servants. We know we’re supposed to serve others. We want to be serving our family first, so we pour ourselves out for our family.
However, if we serve as if they are the end point in themselves, the place where all of our service stops, we’re actually turning them into our god, into our ultimate purpose. Just as we do, they also make bad gods.
Each person can be a great servant, but we all make bad gods. Often we experience burnout and frustration when we pour and pour to the point of depletion for the wrong god.
There isn’t a sense of satisfaction or joy in the service when the service is not properly directed. We keep pouring and pouring, waiting to get something a false god can’t give. Neither ourselves, nor our husband, nor the kids are in and of ourselves the point.
No created person is the be all end all that all of our efforts land and stay there the reality, the truth.
Understanding who we serve changes how we mother. We are not servants to our children in the sense of giving them whatever they want. We work for their long-term good, not their short-term pleasure, not for momentary peace but rather eternal peace.
Yes, our efforts are directed at them, generously nurturing and building them up. We serve them because we are servants of the living God, executing a role assigned to us with a job description, a position, and an authority. Being a servant of the Living God is freeing.
Service is our motivation
A servant-mindset, when directed to God, reminds us of our purpose. We need to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing because how and why we do a thing matters just as much, if not more, than the action itself.
For instance, we can clean the kitchen with bitterness and resentment or with cheerfulness, and both options result in a clean kitchen. However, our internal narrative and motivation behind the work matter more than the action itself.
Sometimes it’s easy to hear that our attitude matters more than our actions, and conclude that our actions don’t matter. But there’s always a ditch on both sides of faithfulness.
We shouldn’t fall into the ditch of busyness, where we stress ourselves out and miss the point of our work, serving with a desire for quantity only or for our own ambitious ends. On the other hand, we shouldn’t dismiss the importance of our God-given work entirely, calling bad and demeaning and meaningless what God has called good service to His glory.
God has prepared good work for us to walk in that honors Him. He not only wants us to do those good works, He wants us to do it all with rejoicing, with happy and grateful hearts. Living in service to God allows us to maintain ambition while remaining humble.
Living as servant-minded women
We should always occasionally step back and ask, who are we serving? Is some of my discouragement, some of my sense of failure, some of my practical or relational issues revealing that my orientation is off? Are they revealing that I have my service mindset out of whack?
I have to get my heart in order before the order can expand beyond my heart into my home and family.
As Christian women, we share a common calling and a unifying purpose – to build homes for the glory of God. We find satisfaction, joy, and dignity in fulfilling our calling, even in seemingly mundane tasks, because it is our grateful response of praise to God. Our reasonable service is one of joy and purpose, aligning with God’s design for us.
We’re always telling ourselves a story about our lives…
Make sure it’s a true story.
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