By Miriam Rossow
This morning I took my two oldest to school. It is the first day of their junior and freshman years. My husband drove the youngest two to school for their second week of fifth and first grade and then off to a day of work. And so now I sit in my house; my very quiet house. The laundry is going and the fish tank is bubbling. I can hear the typing of my keyboard and the hum of the computer and nothing else. It is silent; amazingly quiet.
This is a new quiet for me. This is the first year in my 16 1/2 years as a mother that I have had all my children in school and not had a formal, outside of the house job. And so as I sit in the quiet I am pondering what I am doing. I am pondering my purpose, my ‘work’, my value, my identity.
I am pondering my purpose, my ‘work’, my value, my identity.
Yesterday was Labor Day, a day to celebrate and honor the dignity of work. It is a day to rest from our work and a day to thank God for the work He has given us. And as I sit here the day after Labor Day, I wonder what the work is that God has given me. And I wonder how that work relates to who I am and how I identify myself.
I have been reminded of a program that I listened to on NPR a few weeks ago, ‘A ‘working vacation’; for Americans, is there any other kind?’. They were talking about how most Americans do not take all of their vacation time and asking why. There were many different ideas about why people do not take vacation. We might not take vacation because we feel it is too much work before and after vacation to make the time off worth it. Vacation may get put off because either we think we are the only one that can do the job or we are worried there are other people that can do the job better. Vacation can be expensive for the worker who is paid hourly and vacation can have too much pressure to have fun. One guest talked about how our view of value has changed. Not too long ago in our history, those who did little work were the ones of higher stature with more money and importance and those who worked all day had little and were not as important. Being busy is what makes us important in our society.
We don’t take vacation for many reasons and I think most of them boil down to the fact that our identity is so wrapped up in what we do. In the book Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen he says, ‘We have become human “doings” rather than human “beings”.’ The “what we do” has become how we identify ourselves and how we view our importance.
This summer, I was asked on a podcast that I was a guest on to tell about myself. As I fumbled with the answer to that question I realized I didn’t really have an answer. I am a teacher by education and I am no longer teaching. I am a mother and at least during the school day I am not in the act of mothering. I don’t have any little ones at home that need me to get them lunch or read to them or change their diapers or put them down for nap. I am a wife and during the day my husband is working and just like my motherhood doesn’t go away during the day it doesn’t look the same either. And so who or what am I and then, out of that, what do I do? From where does my importance come?
This is the question I sit and ponder this morning in my quiet house. This is the question that has been in the back of my head since I decided it was time for me not to teach. This is the question that comes back again and again as I talk with my friends who are stay-at-home mothers, home-schoolers, empty nesters, and full time working outside of the home mothers and fathers. Who am I? What do I do? How do I identify myself? What makes me important?
Who am I? What do I do? How do I identify myself? What makes me important?
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27
What is the image of God?
“He, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15
“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” John 14: 7 & 10
If I have been created in the image of God and that image is Jesus than what am I to do? What did Jesus do? Who was He, Jesus, the image I was created after?
Who was He, Jesus, the image I was created after?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:12-13
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I am created in the image of God and that image is Jesus and Jesus is love. Jesus’ love is so great that He laid down His life for me. He sacrificed everything for me. If this is what I believe than I will also do the works that Jesus does. I will find my identity and image in Him. And that image is love. So what does that look like in my quiet house, in my new normal of not having a formal job? How do identify myself? How do I find my value?
I will find my identity and image in Him. And that image is love.
I am going to trust that it means that my worth is not wrapped up in what I do but rather wrapped up in what Jesus did for me. As I sit in my quiet house and as you sit in your house full of kids and noise, or your workplace with piles of work, remember that my identity, your identity is not in my doing or your doing. My identity is in Jesus. Your identity is as a child of God.
As a child of God, when my identity is that of Jesus, I do as He does and love those around me. For me that love includes laundry, preparing dinner, and driving kids to and from activities without complaint. That love includes being available to my neighbors and friends in times of need. That love might look like a cup of coffee with my Bible and it might look like a conversation with a friend.
As a child of God, when my identity is that of Jesus, I do as He does and love those around me.
This is why I wanted to have a quiet house. I wanted to have the time to love the people Jesus puts in front of me and so I will remember today and be reminded tomorrow that my identity and purpose is found in Jesus. I know that no matter what I do it is a gift from Jesus. My work flows out of who I am in Him and knowing that, allows me to do the work He puts in front of me no matter what it looks like. Today that is a quiet house with ‘mundane’ work. In the days to come it might be a ‘job’ outside of the home. Either way the person whose image I was created after does not change.
Either way the person whose image I was created after does not change.
No matter if you are under employed or over employed, CEO or secretary, teacher or janitor, stay at home mom or work outside of the home mom, your value does not change! My value does not change!