“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”
If you had asked me ten years ago what I’d be doing with my life in 2010, the last thing I would have answered would have been homeschooling my children. I was graduating from residency in family medicine after a long and grueling education, with all the hopes and dreams of building a successful practice. During those years, I already had two children and somehow survived the schedule—mostly on big dreams and very little sleep. I learned some things about myself—that I was strong and smart and determined. I was decidedly self-sufficient. I was sure about everything back then, even the strength of my own faith.
Life seemed to me a fairly predictable equation: I had ‘put in my time’ and was ready to reap the benefits. And there were so many benefits to being a professional in a field that is generally highly respected. For several years after graduation, I worked to establish a name for myself. I enjoyed the interaction with my patients and my colleagues and loved the way my life was unfolding. I made a nice salary, dressed in the latest fashions, got my nails done regularly, attended trips and meetings that I could easily justify as ‘necessary’ to my career. Often these things took me away from my family, but I didn’t bat an eye. Stevie, my podiatrist husband, worked across the hall—so I got to be his work wife and his home wife.
It was all kinda Mcdreamy.
He was the hottie in green scrubs and I was his hard-working wife—his equal in nearly every way. He looked at me different back then. Sometimes, in the monotony of stay-at-home mothering, I wish I could be her again.
All the things that happened to me as a result of being a doctor served to ‘polish the vessel’, so to speak. The vessel was shiny and perfect on the outside.
But the treasure was hidden away.
Little did I know then that God is in the business of shattering vessels, so that His treasure—Christ—can be poured out on others.
My perfect shiny life would soon come crashing to the ground. The perfectly polished professional woman has been long since crucified. The process has shaken my very foundation.
Fast forward three years and here are some of things I’ve learned about myself while homeschooling my children.
I am impatient. I don’t have the fortitude to stick with tasks like I should. I am weak and undisciplined and lack the courage of my convictions. I talk about self-control but don’t have very much. I teach my girls to treat people with kindness but then I lack compassion with my own family. I am a hypocrite and a real honest to goodness sinner. I struggle with contentment and then get angry with them for their discontent. I see in them my own sins and failures and then withhold mercy when they need it most.
This task of teaching my children has broken me.
They see through all my charades.
I can’t hide myself from them.
And this intimacy has exposed every frail part of me. The selfishness. The lies. All my broken dreams. Even the weakness of my faith.
They don’t see a shiny perfect vessel. They see the real me—the shattered pieces of a life undone.
Self-sufficiency is being put to death in my life. I must learn to lean on Another.
Miraculously, they love me unconditionally. They applaud at my meager attempts to be a ‘joyous mother of children’. They forgive me so easily and still say that I’m their best mom. Despite my faults, they somehow see through to the Treasure. They glimpse the beauty of a life broken and spilled out for another. It’s as if they see me through the light of His cross. In a million unspoken words, they know. They know and are thankful, that in my frailty—He is strong.
So when we confess our sins together at His altar every Sunday morning, it is no small thing.
We say with surety and conviction and sometimes with tears, ‘We have not loved God with our whole heart and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.”
Oh the sting of truth. I hear their small voices echo with mine. The voices of my very dearest neighbors. The neighbors against whom my gravest sins are committed.
She holds my hand and we know.
We wait eagerly for the absolution. Those precious words of life that reconcile husband to wife. Mother to child. God to man.
“God in His mercy has sent His son to die for you and therefore forgives you all your sin, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
It’s the assurance of these words, and not my own clever life and career, that I’ve come to depend on.
It was always supposed to be this way. And perhaps this is what it means to be ‘saved through childbearing’.
Maybe my ‘schooling’ has only just begun.
Post-Edit: This story is my own. I don’t pretend to know the ways and means that God uses to work repentance in all His other children. We are given tremendous freedom in Christ to choose our paths and I am not writing this to incite debate on working mothers vs. at home mothers, traditional schooling vs homeschooling. Whatever he uses to crush our self-sufficiency and self-righteousness is good for us. The tools he uses may be different for you. The path is worn and the process is painful no matter the means. But take heart. If you are drowning in what seems like the mundane, remember that God is using you to serve your neighbor. And it is a divine, high calling.
I thank the faithful Lutheran pastors who have helped me see the beauty of the doctrine of vocation.
I’m joining Emily at Tuesdays Unwrapped.