I've been doing this round the clock job for more than five and a half years.
You know what it is.
I'm a mother.
I'm a life-grower, love-giver, boo-boo healer, meal maker, taxi driver, house cleaner, butt wiper, fort fixer, puzzle doer, wrestling referee-er, mama to three little boys. I dole out hugs and kisses and snacks by the hundreds. I lift up prayers for grace, mercy, and strength by the thousands.
I'm a mother.
And it won't surprise you the slightest when I tell you I don't get paid for it at all.
It won't shock you a smidge when I tell you it's the best and hardest and most important job I've ever done.
You'll knowingly nod when I suggest that it's the most rewarding, fulfilling, heart-wrenching, joy-giving job that perhaps the good Lord ever made.
And while I think I would become the most popular woman on the planet if I could figure out how to give every mom a fair wage for the blood, sweat, and tears she pours out over a lifetime of raising her children, I think I can also speak for mothers the world over when I say that it is our privilege to do this job for free.
Yes, I've reconciled to the fact that not all meaningful, necessary work is paid. I don't bemoan not getting a monthly check for my motherly service. God has called us to work for Him and not for man. I'm at peace with the reassurance that my reward waits for me in heaven.
Or am I?
Because money is not the only way of getting paid. I'm fine to work without the hope of dollars, but am I content without the payment of praise?
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men," Colossians 3:23 says.
And that's where the "working for free" rub comes in for me.
If I'm really honest with myself, I struggle with working without expecting affirmation in return. Without wanting kudos for my days and nights of service.
The endless dishes, diaper changes, and grocery shopping. The countless questions answered for the world's most curious three year old. The way I fashioned blankets and couch cushions into a monstrous monster-truck ramp for the racing delight of three miniature drivers. I want recognition for it all.
I want someone to see. See the effort and patience. See the way I die to self every day for the sake of loving someone else.
Even as I write these words I know. I know that someone sees. I know that the One who's opinion matters sees. I know deep that God's approval is the only one I really need.
But there's the flesh in me that fights.
The part of me that wants to download on my husband when he walks through the door about every parenting struggle, triumph, and completed chore he missed while at work. I want to post witty Facebook updates about the awesome or appalling mom-moment I faced to receive one (or better yet twenty) virtual pats on the back for surviving this mom job another day.
Is sharing with my husband wrong? Of course not.
Is building community and exchanging motherhood stories bad? Not at all.
But my motives need to be kept in check.
I find the same is true for my writing.
It is my joy to write. It makes me come alive. I see the world through literary descriptions. I soak in my surroundings with similes streaming through my mind. Writing brings me clarity and understanding. It's how I learn the lessons, how I see God move.
So I write for me. I write for the gift God gave.
Sure, it'd be nice if one day my writing led to a financial blessing for my family. But I work at it for free because it's my calling.
Yet there are days I do it as if for men. Days I write what God has stirred in me but then wait for words that man approves of me.
I know this isn't how God intended me to work.
I'm reading Jennifer Dukes Lee's book Love Idol. Her words hug my heart with whispers of understanding and invitations of freer living. She writes,
"When you and I no longer rely on praise or approval for our performance, we find new freedom: We can enjoy affirmation without craving it. Because it has lost its grip on us."It's a process and slowly I am growing.
Day by day I remind myself of God's unchanging love and approval of me. I remind myself that he delights in the silly made up songs I sing to my boys and is proud of the way I patiently disciplined a particular disobedience. God smiles when I give words to the heart stirrings, the struggles, and the wonder.
He sees me when I mother. He sees me when I write.
I'm learning to let His seeing of my work be not just payment enough, but approval abundant.
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I'm linking up with The High Calling this week as we wrestle with and rejoice over what "working for free" really means.