“I am among you as one who serves,” said Jesus in Luke 22:27. In seminary, as a single woman, I chose this as my missional verse. It was ironic and a bit too optimistic because I was never a particularly good servant. Until I became a mother.
The verse perfectly sums up many experiences of motherhood.
- The “I am” part. I used to say my mission was incarnational, about Christ-in-me living in the world. That was at least sometimes true. But as a mom, I have had to become the most like Jesus that I have ever been,
- because I am “among you.” We mothers do work outside the home, and we go on business trips. But just as often, we are present, at least most of the time,
- “as one who serves.” Jesus was saying here “I’m God and even I show up with a towel” to wipe feet or dry tears. Fully embodied, present service is exactly what mothering is.
I realize now I wasn’t as much the Christ-like, present, servant-type person I thought I was or could be in seminary. But that was soon to be my mission in a far less exciting way than I’d have liked.
Before I became one, I didn’t respect mothers all that much, not the stay at home variety anyway, not the really Christ-like ones who embody that verse. I’ve since discovered a lot of feminists have that problem, painting stay-at-home moms with invisibility.
I remember when Marshall was little, I had a stay-at-home mom-friend who felt incensed with a feminist, childless colleague of her husband’s who was moving out of the state. They’d been friends, at least friendly, and she emailed the woman to get together. Her email was disregarded, but the colleague asked my friend’s husband to take her to the airport.
The invisible part of all this was not just that her email was ignored, but that the feminist colleague didn’t realize that by asking my friend’s husband to take her to the airport, she was also asking my friend to give up her Saturday morning. But she’s the mother, right? She’ll just do it, just be there, with or without a thank you.
That’s when I realized fully that I’d had the same prejudice against stay-at-home moms in the past. It seemed like they’d checked out of the race, opted out of a life fully lived, and were doing nothing of immediate value. Leaning back, not leaning in. I would never have said that, but when I look back and analyze my attitudes, I can see it.
But ultimately, that’s a God thing, a Christ-in-the-world phenomenon, to just be there, all the time, with or without acknowledgement.
My guess is She gets tired of not being thanked for endless service and presence. Jesus sure indicated that might be true, when he praised the tenth leper, the Samaritan, for coming back to him to give thanks (Luke 17:11-19). Most of us are the Other Nine, most of the time.
Unless She shows up in a fiery furnace and we don’t get barbecued, after all. Then the Psalmists’ lullabies come back to us and we say, “Though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”
Thank you, Mother God, that you are among us as one who serves, enabling us to serve, too.