Child of God (Galatians 3:26). Sister in Christ (Matthew 12:50). Heir of God (Romans 8:17). Co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). Servant of God (2 Corinthians 6:4). Slave of God (Romans 6:22).
Each identity has indescribable value, honor and equal importance and prestige.
Those are some of the names I go by since the Lord saved me 7 years ago. The list of names I’ve been called has only grown since then. Other names I’m especially fond of being called these past years have been that of bride, wife, mother, mama, mommy, and ‘Moommmmm!’ (for when my 2-year old daughter impatiently tries to get my attention).
All these names and identities make my heart swell with joy and thankfulness, but I would be dishonest if I said this was true 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Before I write any further, please allow me to provide a disclosure that I am no fountain of wisdom. Having only been in the mission field on foreign soil less than a year, I have struggled more than I have strived. I have failed in my attitude of heart and obedience to Christ more times than I can count in all areas, parenting no exception.
Despite all that I’ve been taught and all that I’ve learned, transition and adjustment in a foreign country and culture had been difficult for me. I spent my first couple of months initially blaming the external factors in my life for the struggles I was facing.
Praise be to God, our merciful Father and Savior, did not see it fitting to allow me to remain in such blatant ignorance and sin. He mercifully opened my eyes, and drew my heart to truth and repentance.
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-25 NKJV
And that has been an echoing theme in my journey of motherhood and all aspects of my life. Going over and over before the throne in neediness and repentance over my sinful heart and attitude about being a wife, a mother, a sister, and an employer now in a third-world country no less.
Raising a child in a different culture, environment and even climate has been challenging and sacrificial to say the least. Challenging because there is a lack of conveniences here that are so readily available in the United States. There is little to no support system at first, no friends, no family to help. Life is also unpredictable, you never know exactly when to wash and dry your clothes because it is completely dependent on weather. And it is sacrificial because being on the mission field has meant missing Grammie, Mimi, Poppop, Aunts, Uncles, holidays and birthdays together.
However, the Lord has also afforded us many privileges while we have been here in South East Asia and one of which happens to be that my physical responsibilities have been greatly eased. I have a wonderful house helper who comes to help me with chores and cooking on weekdays. We can afford to send our little girl to a Christian play-group with other children her age (though the occasional outbreak of hoof and mouth is no picnic!). Getting help to fix things around the house doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and we get to eat fresh organic produce daily at a fraction of what it costs in America.
So why do I struggle, you ask? It is my heart. My stubborn, fleshly heart, which the Lord has shown me these past months refuses to submit to being called one name in particular.
Slave. Slave of God, slave to Christ.
No rights. No demands. No entitlements. Just duty.
You know your heart is twisted in some sinful way when the word of God offends you. The passage on the undeserving slave in Luke 17:7-10 did that to me. I was offended. How could Jesus say such an inconsiderate thing? Doesn’t he know how tired and exhausted that slave would be after a long day of toiling in the field? How could he say that it is only the slave’s duty?!
I am so thankful to be saved. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave me to my pride and ignorance. In time and after pondering over that text over and over again, referring to commentaries, and discussing with my ladies’ group, all while asking myself what that meant to me as a wife and mother, it finally hit me.
“We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.”
I have no rights, and no entitlements.
When I wake in the morning to serve my family until I lay my head on my pillow at night (sometimes multiple times at night), I have no rights. No entitlements. When my daughter has a febrile seizure one night and pneumonia the rest of the week in the midst of my terrible morning sickness, I don’t get to indulge in hour long breaks thinking “I deserve this.” I need to come to completely embrace that my real rest and reward sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, and that is more than I could ever imagine.
As a friend of mine pointed out to me this morning, a slave waits on his/her master continually. Even when there seems to be breaks, she is on alert, knowing that she would be called to duty at any time. When my girl is taking her nap and I’m sitting enjoying some quiet time, I know I still have to be “on call” in case she walks out with a wet diaper or her dry cough keeps waking her. Nevermind the fact that in the midst of writing this post, I have been interrupted more times than I can count.
The doule [feminine form of the Greek word for slave] knows that any break or rest she gets is a blessing and a privilege in this life and it’s called grace. Glorious grace!
My offended heart so quickly forgot that though I am a slave, I am a slave to Christ. The Christ. I was purchased and now am owned by Jesus whose blood redeemed me from oppressive slavery to sin and the law. The same Christ who preached “take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your selves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” in Matthew 11:28-30. The same Christ who Himself descended from Heaven, made himself to become nothing, becoming a slave, coming to serve and not be served, modeling to us what it means to perfectly submit to the wishes of his Master.
This Jesus is the good, kind, and loving master. He doesn’t abuse his power but instead showers us with privileges beyond our own selfish expectations in the midst of our duty.
Murray J. Harris comments profoundly, “It is Christ’s voluntary role as God’s doulos [bond-servant] that prevents the Christian’s slavery from being a distasteful experience and makes it a privilege and honour.”
Much like being a mom, right?
I want to end my thoughts with the words by someone else more experienced and wise on the topic of motherhood and entitlements. Lisa-Jo Baker in her recent blog post this Mother’s Day, writes:
Entitlement believes that we know best, deserve the best, and resents the rest who don’t deliver.
Entitlement takes the sacrifice of motherhood and spins it in dizzying, disorienting circles.
Motherhood bends. Entitlement demands.
Motherhood serves. Entitlement stomps its foot.
Motherhood delights. Entitlement keeps lists.
Motherhood laughs. Entitlement whines.
Motherhood celebrates. Entitlement sulks.
Motherhood forgets itself in favor of remembering her dimple, his fastest mile, their mouths all ringed around with chocolate.
Entitlement tastes bitterness in every bite of a day that doesn’t go as planned.
And that is my prayer. I pray that as I celebrate the freedom, honor, privileges and joy I have in being a child and heir of God, sister and co-heir with Christ, I will mother my children and serve my husband with the humility and Christ-like duty of a servant and slave of God. Because that is what I’ve been called to and it is a privilege to do.
“I am a good-for-nothing slave, but O’ how marvelous is my Master!”
Sarah is a wife to a wonderful missionary husband, Kevin, and grateful mother to Adalia and a baby boy due in October. As a family, they are currently immersed in language and culture acquisition on an island in South East Asia with the goal of serving remote unreached people groups. Their chronicles as a family can be followed at their blog The Cooney Tribe. They are commissioned by To Every Tribe and New Hyde Park Baptist Church in Long Island, New York.
Note from Lis: I approached Sarah because not only is she a mom to a young child and pregnant with her second, but she is doing this journey while serving as a missionary in a foreign country! Her posts on Facebook are always so encouraging to me and I really wanted to tap into where she drew her strength from as I could not imagine how difficult it is to walk this road when you leave everything you know behind. Thank you for sharing, Sarah. You blessed me greatly!