“You have a bachelor’s degree? You shouldn’t waste that by staying at home…”
These were the words of our financial advisor to me a few years ago as we sat and reviewed our financial situation in the new year. I’m sure he was trying to helpful in offering advice (I mean, his title says it all…), but his words still left me feeling a little sour.
A two year stint at a part-time job and two babies later, and they still do. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why his insinuation that staying at home is not a worthy endeavor cut straight to my core. Is it because part of me isn’t quite sure this is worth it? Is it because deep down I wonder if he might be right?
Motherhood is a low accolade job. It’s dirty, is exhausting, and the pay is pretty meager. I love, I crave recognition. The spotlight. I love excelling and being noticed for my excellence. You can guess what kind of student I was in high school…
So what am I doing here, wasting away my time and talents on two little brown eyed babes?
The answer is still being formed in me, but here is a little nugget of wisdom that dropped in to my spirit one particularly long day.
“The dishes you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”
Recognize these words? They were originally spoken by Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11).
Jesus was speaking to a crowd indignant at the fact that he was allowing a woman to lavish- to completely waste– a huge sum of money in the form of perfume poured over his head. Some were whispering, “Wouldn’t it have been better for her to sell her perfume and give to the poor?”
“The poor you will always have with you…”
Though Jesus had spoken before of his impending death, his followers were notoriously slow to get the message. But this woman- she got it. In an act of service to Jesus she chose to “waste” something of great value to her in order to bless him in his time of need. She was, whether intentionally or not, stepping into the role of a prophet or a forerunner and foreshadowing what was yet to come. Far from a waste- Jesus said this story would be remembered throughout time and eternity.
So as I read this story, I’ve been contemplating the connections and implications of it to my role as a mother. A role in which daily I must lay down what is seemingly of great value (by earthly standards, at any rate), oftentimes when it does not make sense either to me or to others, and continue to choose to serve. Continue to put in the time and energy to be able to anticipate the road my children may one day travel and prepare them for it accordingly. To be for my children a prophet who foretells not with words and grand acts, but with gentle service and wisdom.
Yes, the dishes I will always have with me. And the vacuuming and the cooking and the dusting- I like keeping my home neat! I will also always have that piece of paper with my degree inked in black. I will always have opportunities before me to do something else.
But my children? They are growing. They are here for the moment, and will be gone tomorrow.
I imagine that the woman who anointed Jesus must have been quite a faithful follower and listener. To have “gotten” the message that Jesus was destined for burial when his twelve closest friends still didn’t believe he would die. She had to have spent time with him, learning his ways and his words in order to understand and respond to him in such a bold and extravagant way. You don’t just waste a year’s worth of wages on a “hunch.” She was sure of who he was.
Likewise, I want to be sure of who my children are. I want to be a student of their hearts, their needs, their futures. I want to be able to respond to them from a deep place of knowing. That takes intentionality and time. It takes effort. It takes sacrifice. Being a student of the heart is not a high value job in the world we live.
On a large scale, making the sacrifice to be a student of my children’s hearts means staying at home with them and forgoing a career for the present day. On a smaller scale, it means letting the dishes sit an hour longer when there is a child to cuddle or read to or help build a fort with. It means stopping in the middle of a project to look a child right in the eye and hear their words with a compassionate, listening ear. It means being available emotionally, not just physically.
And as a side note- I’ve known wonderful mothers who have completely captured their children’s hearts while also maintaining a career. We are all called to live lives of sacrifice, but we are not all called to sacrifice the same thing. This is just my story and experience. Whatever it is you are called to sacrifice, I hope that you find the boldness and strength to say yes to it, one hundred percent.
So to the financial advisor… you’re right, it doesn’t make sense to waste my degree by staying at home if all we are counting are dollars in the bank and trophies on my shelf. But I’m not just a degree. I’m a mother, and as a mother I’m also a forerunner, and I can foresee a day when my children are not still young but grown and you know what is going to matter to them then?
That I wasted my life in pursuit of them.
Kinda the way Jesus wasted his life in pursuit of me…