I was so delighted when Rhonda Devine agreed to guest post here on the blog! She always has a great amount of wisdom to share, and this article uplifted and encouraged me as I read it. I hope you are blessed by it as well!
I am awake at 5:30 most mornings, but not to feed the baby. That season of life has passed. Now the mornings find me waking early so I can prepare breakfast and enjoy some quiet time with my husband over a cup of coffee. We talk about life in general and spiritual lessons we are learning in God’s Word. We have spent the last several years training to become biblical counselors and we enjoy conversing about counsel we are offering to others, bouncing principles off each other. This is now a new season in my life, but I cherish that past season too and want to focus this post on those years.
I began motherhood at a young age (in today’s culture)–our first son was born when I was 21. I had prayed and studied the scriptures for several years before I said, “I do.” I really wanted to be a good wife and mother, and knew God already had a blueprint in His Word I needed to follow. He is the master builder after all, and didn’t leave His children without direction for our lives. As a new mother who lived far away from my own mother, there were lots of unknowns and new adventures awaiting me. Even so, I embraced motherhood, loving the chance to raise a new little human being that would know and love God. I enjoyed rocking my son, singing made-up songs in his ear–there is nothing like soft baby skin!
I was exposed to the gospel at a young age and really solidified my relationship with the Lord in my early teen years. Being an active part of our church was a normal part of my Christianity as well as my husband’s. We enjoyed being in a singing group together that traveled and were involved in many ministry projects. It comes so easily and naturally when you are single and have no one else to care for. We also helped with a church plant about an hour from our home after we were first married. After we had our first son, we thought life would go on as usual and stayed quite involved in church life. However, I began experiencing some real doubts about how all this was working, especially as our son began to get sick quite often. My schedule was crazy…I would nurse him before church, travel an hour, rush up to play piano for the service, nurse him again, and finish just in time to go up and play the invitation. It didn’t take long before we realized we couldn’t keep this pace with a newborn. So we backed out of the church plant and attended the 5,000 member main location, but our ministry load seemed to actually increase.
I was “needed” at church 3 to 4 times a week for choir practice, Sunday school teaching, visitation, and ladies bible study. Our son was in the nursery quite a bit and I really struggled with guilt. I wanted to be a good mom and also wanted to be a good Christian, but it seemed they were at odds with each other. Our son seemed to catch everything that was going around in the nursery, so I took a couple weeks break from church activities and kept him home so he could get healthy again. It didn’t take long for one of the older women in the church to approach me and ask where I’d been. After explaining my situation to her, she promptly told me Satan could be using my son to keep me out of church. Now, as a new mom, that sent me reeling. This was a lady I respected who was a leader in our ladies group. My heart was so conflicted. As a Christian, I had always been taught that church ministry reflected my dedication to God. This lady’s counsel seemed to affirm that as well. I thought children were a blessing. Thank God for the next gal He brought into my life! Becky was a missionary’s daughter, raised in Japan. Her husband and mine worked together, so we hit it off as couples. One day, I shared with her my inward struggle and what I had been told. God used her and her counsel from His Word to set my heart straight. From that day forward, I embraced God’s priorities and began to strive to live them out. As an older mom, my heart grieves when I see young mothers who struggle with the same kind of misguided guilt I experienced as a new mom.
Titus 2 is so clear about what younger women need to learn from older women. Now as an older woman, verse 4 tells me that I should be encouraging young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, and kind, to be workers at managing their homes, and living in submission to their husbands. And God gives a very big reason for doing so: that the Word of God would not be dishonored or blasphemed in the culture. Did you notice what is not in that verse? Many of the things we feel pressured to do in our society, and yes, sometimes, even in our Christian circles and churches. It was very freeing when I realized that God was pleased with my ministry to my family. It was acceptable to Him when I took care of our home and lived in a way to help my husband and raise Godly children. This was ministry! To view your ministry at home as lesser or not as spiritual as church ministry, is not supported in God’s Word.
As I embraced the teaching of the scriptures, and God gave us three more children quite close in age, our lives began to look differently. We no longer could function as single people; we were parents entrusted with little souls to raise for the kingdom. Apart from meeting my husband’s needs, training my children became my foremost ministry. And I can tell you now, 35 years later, I don’t regret my choices. I have four children who fear the Lord and want to honor Him in their lives. Jesus has called us to make disciples, and with His help, that is what we set out to do. As III John verse 4 says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear my children walk in the truth.”
Did ministry end when we became parents? No, not at all. We found very creative ways to still minister without sacrificing our marital companionship or the training of our children. The use of hospitality, which we are commanded to do in scripture, is a perfect way to minister to others and involve your children. They can help you get the home clean and organized and learn to serve others. They can also do age appropriate tasks of preparing food, dish washing, etc. We do not want to raise children who are self absorbed and think life only happens to make them happy. So while home is the focus of your main ministry, it does not have to be your only ministry. They can be blended very well. I found that managing my home really contributed to the ability to use it as a tool to serve others. You want to serve others, but the way you do that may look totally different from the way a single person or older woman is able to do so. Minister as you are able at the season God has you in. Your children are not a hindrance, or a commodity, to be laid aside for the sake of the kingdom. Rather they are responsibilities that God has entrusted to you to steward and shepherd. The way I love God is by keeping His commandments– and the scriptures are clear, that making my family and home a priority, is something He has asked me to do.
Not only did ministry not end, it actually blossomed, as our children grew older. Before, just Herb and I were able to minister to others, but now, we had four children who could minister as well. Combining our strengths and gifts gave a whole new dynamic to ministry. It is amazing what can be accomplished when a whole family is pulling in the same direction. Though much of our time was given to running our family business and home educating, we were still able to help two church plants as our children grew older, and we ministered from our home on a weekly basis. There really is a whole array of blessing others that can involve your children– you just have to think outside the box. Teach them to make cards for those who are hurting, thank you notes for veterans, and making meals for widows and new moms. Take them with you to clean Grandma’s house. Let them walk alongside you as you reach out to the needy–this is how Jesus taught His disciples. Don’t underestimate the power of their smiles to encourage those who are older and lonely. This is ministry in action.Let me leave you with a practical application of living out Titus 2 that I have personally found helpful. Type out a copy of that verse and put it where you will see it daily. Every time you are faced with a decision, or asked to do some activity or ministry, run it through the grid of Titus 2:4. Will the decision or time you will be giving away help you love your husband and children better? Will it help, or take away from, managing your home? Will it help you develop Godly character? Is it helping someone who is truly in need? There are different seasons in a woman’s life and maybe as a young mom, your time would be better spent in intense training of your children, rather than leading a Bible study. Maybe an older woman who has more free time to give, is better suited to carry out that ministry.
As Ecclesiastes states, there is a time for every season. One day, your children will be grown. One day, Lord willing, you and your husband will be embracing your children’s children. Your time will be spent differently. The life you have lived can be an example for younger women. There will be countless opportunities to minister away from home…at a different season…when you have fulfilled your first task…that of raising the next generation. Embrace your role, Moms, for it passes all too quickly–take it from an older mom, and if you’ll pardon the expression, one who’s been there and done that.