I am so blessed that the lovely, wise Nikki is able to share with us again today. Prepare yourself for some moving, challenging, beautiful words ahead…
My mom passed away when I was seven years old. Yes, it was a hard time – from the little I can remember. But mostly I try to wrack my brain for simple memories. I am told that she threw me birthday parties. I am told that we went on family vacations. I am told that she cherished and adored me. But truthfully, there are only two things I can remember clearly about her: When she drove me to church to rehearse for my very first solo in the Christmas pageant, and when she walked me to the bathroom in the middle of the night and stood in the doorway in her nightgown. That’s mostly it. I hadn’t really thought much about this until now – until the hours and hours of being with my own daughter. How hard this mothering work is. How deep I love my girl in my guts. How many private moments we have just the two of us every day. And as I thought about those things, sadness swept over me. I realized that I’ll never know the extent of my own mother’s sacrifice, or what songs she sung to me, or what the hardest part was about raising a little girl. There was no one to thank her, and no one to celebrate her. I felt enraged at this injustice.
We are conditioned as humans for some kind of praise. We need external affirmation, and thumbs up to feel encouraged and spurred on. From smarties (for pooping in the potty, obviously) to job bonuses. Gold stars to thank you cards. Regrams to award ceremonies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against praise – we need to build each other up! And who doesn’t like to be thanked, recognized, or made to feel like their work has not gone unnoticed!? (ps. if you’re reading, please like this article on Facebook – thanks).
But there are some things in this life that you will – and should – do that may never get acknowledged. In fact, no one may even know that they ever happened, and you should still do them. Motherhood is already the hardest work that I have done maybe in my whole life, and though I feel like I should get a parade most days just for getting groceries and surviving another sleepless night, this lack of praise has done wonders for exposing my heart and purifying my soul.
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who is always working in secret, helps you out” (Matt 6:1-4 MSG).
Recently we made the family decision not to really post much, if anything, of our daughter on social media for a myriad of reasons, mostly to do with my husband’s concern for her safety and personal rights. And while I can make up some noble statement of how I was concerned with the same thing, do you know what I was actually thinking about? If we don’t post publicly, how will people know how much fun I have with her? How will they know how much I am #obsessed with her perfect face and delicious rolls and delightful personality? How will they know how happy of a mom I am? How will they know how outrageously adorable she is in her baby fashion-forward outfits? How will they know how hard I work? How will they know how much I love her? How will they know!??
Then that soft, still voice spoke: “They won’t. You’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for me. You’re doing it for her. And most of what you’ll be doing will be in secret – no one will praise you for it. But I will see you.”
The point is not whether or not you decide to post photos of your kids on social media (because seriously, who has time in the day to worry about other people’s family decisions but their own!?). The point is that some of the hardest, most self-sacrificing years of our lives with our children – when we pour ourselves out, and teach them basic life skills, like how to eat with a spoon, or wipe their own bums – is less about appreciation, and more about worship. We have the opportunity to do intense, all-consuming good without ever getting recognized. To do this good for the only audience that will see you do it. The only audience that will actually remember: God.
Most likely all that my daughter will recall from these young years may be a strange and specific thing that at the time I will think is nothing terribly important (like waking up in the middle of the night to stand in the doorway in silence while she pees, for example). Maybe she’ll later piece together glimpses of that Pinterest-worthy third birthday party I’m already planning for her. Or maybe she’ll smile when she thinks about those little day-to-day things we do over the years. Maybe. But even if she doesn’t, I am still invited to love and serve and celebrate her as an act of beautiful worship – in the secret. I want her to know that the empty praise of other people will fade away. That character is built and Jesus is honoured when we do unflashy, concentrated, deep goodness for another person without any public celebration or recognition – that is, after all, how God pours Himself out for us. 31 years later, my mom has exemplified this to me in a way that has changed me. And today, I can start modelling the same for my own daughter by bicycling her legs to get her farts out. Today I can quietly and unobtrusively give of myself in simple ways the world will never know about. Today, that is my act of worship.