I have three kids and a dog who sheds hair daily like an elm tree drops leaves in autumn. A day doesn’t go by without some sort of word or phrase mumbled under my breath as I pick up after them.
A pair of shoes, backpacks weighed down with text books, or a piece of Lego...those (mumbles incoherently) Legos!...litter the ground like land mines. Luckily when I trip and fall there is a nice soft pillow of dog fur to land on (mumbles something else).
And let’s not even talk about the dishes that get stacked on the counter top right above an open and empty dishwasher. This is an exhaustive list. And I suspect we each have one of our own.
Like life itself, parenting is an everyday job. We knew that going in. But like most jobs – ministry excluded – most people get a paycheck at the end of the week. Parents only get bills and the rather too frequent open hand needing money for some school event. It might not be the most politically correct way to state this but parenting is not to far from indentured servitude. Then again, so is life.
Sweep. Wipe. Clean. Pick up. Mumble. Trip. Put Away. Wash. Fold. Make. Clean. Plate. Wipe. Sweep (again). Mumble. Repeat.
This is our life. It is one we purposely chose. And in doing so, we know that it will come with certain acknowledged difficulties, and repetitive exercises in patience.
Sometimes I feel my spiritual practices during Lent are no different. Try. Fail. Pray. Repeat. Jesus never said it was going to be easy. At least (I guess) none of us are spending 40 days and nights fasting in a read wilderness, surrounded by real animals, and sleeping on the hard uneven ground; although both the struggles of life and parenting often feel like it.
In a set of old notes I found this quote written down, “Nothing you do in the service of Jesus is wasted.” Whether we are actually serving others in our homes or workplaces, or serving ourselves the spiritual food we need to get us through our Lenten journey, none of it is wasted.
Jesus says, ‘Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing’ (Matthew 10:42, MSG).
And so I tell myself (or mumble to myself) each act of giving or serving, each sweep of the broom and every shoe brought back upstairs, each kiss, prayer, smile, listening ear and compassionate heart, every word and each incoherent mumble are the small acts of kindness or what I like to call “Christness,” that I can do.
As you struggle or sail through your Lent, take some time to acknowledge the big and little things you do for others and yourself. Then offer it up to God as a small gift of gratitude that you are living and able to do this thing because of the gift of life and ability that God has given you.
And as your head rests on a small pile of dog hair or your foot is bandaged up from stepping on another random Lego, try to remember God has been serving you repeatedly as well.
Fun Fact: We are halfway through this journey!
Lord, help me to embrace sacrifice. Help me to be willing to take up my cross and follow you. Help me to be willing to be identified with you and not ashamed to acknowledge you whatever the circumstances. Today I offer you my body as a living sacrifice.