I dream of living a life of great sacrifice.
I dream of fulfilling my calling as a wife and mother in myriad heroic ways.
But it never happens like I expect.
I envision waking early and scurrying about in happy service from the holy overflow of quiet moments at Jesus’ feet.
I imagine cooking and baking and delighting my family with fresh, warm treats.
I dream up happy moments of play as I lay aside finished tasks (because I got up early to do them) to spend quality moments with my children.
I think about delightful meals together with our entire family conversing around the table.
In reality, however, I’m too exhausted most mornings to heft my body out of bed. Disrupted sleep (whether from a little one, or a stuffy head, or a dead battery in the smoke detector) has drained me again. I’m losing before I even start.
On the mornings I do manage to get up early, my quiet moments are usually interrupted by other early risers needing something from me before I’m ready to give it.
My prayers are often disrupted by the cries of a meltdown over socks or cereal. My meditations are halted by the screams of an argument over whose seat it is or the color of a cup. (Nothing makes me angrier than having to break up a fight when I’m trying to focus on God!)
Instead of floating along in happy service, I grumble along at how life keeps interrupting my plans of sacrifice for the good of my family.
Don’t they understand I’m doing this for them?
My selfless tasks go half-finished because the baby needs to nurse and one son needs my presence to keep him on task and another son needs sensory input to slow his engine down, and it all depends on me.
Then my tired husband calls saying he’ll be home late from work because another printer malfunctioned, so I’m on my own for dinner with four small kids again.
I stand in the kitchen with the baby on my hip and eat a cold chicken nugget off one of the boys’ plates as they fight their way upstairs and find fifteen ways to avoid putting on pajamas.
Feelings of guilt, shame, and failure swirl with the anger that lies just below the surface. I totter between imploding and exploding. The happy momma who blesses her family is nowhere to be found.
Where did it all go wrong?
After a bit of soul-searching, it all goes back to what my idea of sacrifice is.
What I had envisioned, though good, was a kind of life. What I want is a life of peace, order, control, and intentional giving.
But the Spirit is calling me to death.
Death to self.
Death to well-made plans.
Death to expectations.
Death to ideals.
They will either be slaughtered by inconveniences (that death by a thousand cuts) or sacrificed willingly upon an altar in love. Else I can fight to keep them alive, but the relationships with my family will suffer a slow death instead.
In truth, the Spirit is calling me to death of my plans for God and an embracing of God’s plans for me.
Jesus reminds me that in order to “go the second mile,” I have to walk the first inconvenient mile when a Roman soldier–or my toddler–compels me.
Jesus recounts the story of how a man who fell among robbers was an inconvenience to the priest and the Levite. They were too busy about their holy plans to stop and help him. We call only the Samaritan “good” because he alone allowed his path to be interrupted by the helpless person’s immediate needs.
Jesus repeats to me his invitation to come and die.
Everything within me fights and rages against this death until I reach the end of myself once more. Herein lies the gospel: I cannot do this on my own.
I cry out to God not in piety, but in desperate need.
And what do I find?
Ample grace. Lovely grace. Free, deep outpourings of grace. Beautifully sufficient, overflowingly bountiful grace.
Grace for the best-laid plans that must be set aside.
Grace for interrupted thoughts and unfinished prayers.
Grace to sit (or stand) with my children in their inconvenient moments of need.
Grace to die once more.
And in the dying, to find the life I was seeking all long.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
–Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:24-25