A neighbor’s pine tree looms tall behind the fence in our backyard. Every day it generously sheds its needles onto our side of the fence, and every day we need to sweep them. It’s a task you can’t overachieve on one day so you can shirk it the next. It’s an unavoidable daily chore.
This season seems to be full of unavoidable daily chores and mundane responsibilities. Laundry, packing school lunches, drop-offs and pick-ups, dinner prep, feeding the family, homework. The alarm rings at 6 the next morning, and it starts all over again. I never dreamt of being a stay-at-home mom, and though the privilege of this season is not lost on me, I often long for a life that feels more purposeful, one where I’m fully using the gifts and talents I’ve been given that I feel are becoming dull and wasted.
Life before kids seems glorious in hindsight with the freedom to do all the things at all the hours. I look back and wonder where the source of all my energy came from and how I could magically access it now to get me through the afternoon. I couldn’t see it then how motherhood would change the speed at which I could work, the capacity of what I could do, the way through which I would usher in God’s kingdom. I had limited vision to see how God could work in my life and through my life. Motherhood shrank my world to the two little ones in front of me, but it was in the smallness that I began to understand purpose in a new way.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul writes, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands…” (NLT) He reminds the believers in Thessalonica to keep living life in a way that pleases God by being holy, by loving others. He’s talking about the character and integrity of their faith shown in their lives and likewise in ours. How do we build our character and practice integrity? It is worked out in the quiet life, the small life, the daily working of our hands. The hard heart work happens in the dark where no one can see.
There are about eighteen years of darkness or nothingness in Jesus’s life that we don’t read anything about. Between his time teaching at the temple at 12 years old and his baptism and the beginning of his ministry at 30 years old, we only have one verse to tell us what happened in those eighteen years. Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” (NLT) As any other child during those times, Jesus grew. He was a son, a brother. He lived a normal life, learned his father’s trade. I imagine before Joseph gave him greater responsibility that he made Jesus do small things like sweeping the sawdust and wood shavings off the floor. Jesus lived a small, quiet life, maturing in his hidden years, being faithful in the mundane.
Mundane doesn’t mean your life has no purpose outside of your little ones and loved ones. Small and quiet are not death sentences to your dreams and passions. Instead, those words are simply a different framework in which God is doing His work. He is still being faithful to the work He’s always been doing- to make Himself known to mankind and reconcile us to Himself. This hidden season is fertile ground for him to strip away what taints our character, to heal our wounds and brokenness, and most importantly, to tell us again and again that our purpose, our worth, our identity isn’t found in accomplishments in life or ministry. Our worth is found in our belovedness, our identity is grounded in Christ, and our purpose is to follow Him.
While the kids nap and quiet has been restored in the house, I slip my feet into my sandals and grab the broom. The pine needles need to be swept. With each swish of the broom, I remind myself: this is my character being built, this is my identity being solidified, this is my purposeful, holy work.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
- How does the Christmas story reveal God's power to work through the mundane and ordinary?
- Which tasks and routines make you feel most purposeless? Reflect on how God might be inviting you to be aware of His presence through them.
- God has not forgotten you in this hidden, lonely, and often frustrating season. In what ways do you see evidence that He sees you, He knows you, and He loves you?
- Remember that faithfulness is built through the daily unavoidable chores. How could you change your disdain of those chores into praise for His faithfulness to you?
Grace P. Cho is a writer, wife, and mama to two littles. She writes and is the managing editor for The Mudroom and GraceTable as well as a contributor for Inheritance Magazine and A Moment to Breathe. Her favorites include walking alongside others via mentoring and editing, speaking truth through story, sharing meals and lives at the table, coffee of any kind, and desert landscapes. You can follow her on her blog at www.gracepcho.com and on Instagram.