One of the goals I have when I look at my home and office is that I would one day become completely organized, down to the last item. (I know myself well enough to realize that this goal is unlikely, but a girl can dream.) I have visions of walking into a room where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, and every single container has that wonderful finishing touch: the label.
It’s hard to understand why labels have such an attraction, but I imagine it has something to do with the desire to group items into categories. We like to know exactly what we are dealing with. To see a row of boxes and immediately know that there is a place in the world specifically for plastic bags or furniture polish can give us a surprising sense of security.
The same tendency comes with people. We like to label one another, and in many ways this is a good thing. We all have roles to play in the world, and we have proper and common nouns to give us that sense of connection and understanding — it’s one reason we will ask the question “What do you do?” to one another.
This is a mom. This is a dad. This is a fireman. This is the mayor or the governor or the president. We like to know whom we are dealing with, and even more we like to know exactly who we are.
There is something right in that, as those nouns and titles help us to understand ourselves and one another, and they point to very real and important roles in society and the family. But we also tend to add to the labels, and to start seeking for identity in words that describe. We allow adjectives to group us into even smaller boxes — like the box that contains only red Legos. But when we do this, we miss out on the breadth that comes from celebrating multiple qualities as well as the joy of locking arms with a diverse group of brothers and sisters.
Our search for identity can never stray too far from the truth that we were created in God’s image.
My role as a mom has been a constant since 2004, and I love it. I recently reflected on how motherhood and vocation have met in my life through the years. And there is more of a common thread than I expected.
I’m 39 years old. My children are twelve and ten. I spend most days in my office and most evenings in my house helping with homework or at the pool as a swim mom. Last week — like many of them — was pretty hectic. I found myself prepping for some important meetings, participating in a few conference calls, working on projects and conducting several marathon email clean-outs. I also incorporated carpool trips, a child’s dentist appointment, grocery stops, church gatherings and time in my own kitchen. Some moments I felt like I lived in the car. I went from dawn to dusk with a few breaks, some highs and lows and the occasional sleep interruption.
It’s easy to look and say, I’m a working mom. I might say it with an amount of pride, or I might say it with an amount of insecurity. And some people might say, “I don’t know how you do it.”
Around ten years ago, things looked a little different on the surface. I was 29 years old. My children were two and less than one. My daughter was in the throes of a chronic health condition that required two hours of intensive treatments each day. We lived in a small town 90 minutes away from her doctors, and we had a regular rotation of appointments. My husband was a pastor with a limited staff and great ministry responsibilities. On any given day I would find myself changing diapers, cleaning up messes, reading books, administering wet wrap therapy or on the road to the doctor’s office. I also incorporated several ministry responsibilities in my church, a book club at the town library, a few contract hours as a transcriptionist and time in my own kitchen. Some moments I felt like I lived in the car. I went from dawn to dusk with a few breaks, some highs and lows, and the (perhaps more than) occasional sleep interruption.
It’s easy to look and say, I was a full-time mom. I might say it with an amount of pride, or I might say it with an amount of insecurity. And some people might have said, “I don’t know how you do it.”
The truth is, ten years ago I was working. And I was a mom all the time. Last week I was working. And I was a mom all the time.
God has called us to be workers — all of us.
Our search for identity can never stray too far from the truth that we were created in God’s image, and we were all created to be workers. Even after that relationship was broken, He sent His Son to restore it and to make us new creatures sent on a mission that He established.
When we bear His image, we don’t have to look at each other or in the mirror and say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Because we know the answer. He has given us all a mission and has given us each a unique calling. He has called us to be workers — all of us — at home, in the marketplace, in churches and ministries, in the dentist’s office and in the carpool line. We all look different but we fit into one box with one label: Sinners saved by grace and sent to do His work.