I’m mostly certain raising small children has been one of the most challenging and exasperating experiences of my entire life. You can ask my husband, my mom, or anyone else who knows me, that the mornings are the hardest part. The sun has not even made itself known yet, and my tired feet reluctantly hit the floor running. One day you are pregnant and excited that that first little boy is about to make his appearance, and the next day it’s Thanksgiving morning and you have this tiny seven-pound baby in your arms. There is no way to be fully aware of how much your world has changed. I sure didn’t realize this as I looked down on that scrunched-up, tiny red face, but I soon found I had jumped on the treadmill called motherhood, and the belt keeps spinning round and round.
It has been a little over five years now since jumping full speed on that treadmill. When my Thanksgiving baby was about eight months, we were excitedly expecting our second. Then later when that baby boy was two years old, we welcomed number three! That’s a lot of diapers in a short amount of time. I estimated that my husband and I have changed at least 15,000 so far, and there are at least a few thousand more to go. I don’t know if I have ever been so committed to doing anything for someone other than myself for even 100 times—but 15,000 times!? Yet somewhere in the midst of all this diaper changing, cleaning, feeding, and all the other draining tasks of taking care of small children, a very subtle and wildly beautiful transformation was happening within me—something that only our Savior could do so quietly and so wonderfully.
Sometimes we feel as if we have to go through a serious, life-altering calamity, or a walk through the “fiery furnace” if we are ever to experience a heart change enough to be more like Jesus. I know that’s usually what I thought of when I heard the word “sanctification.” Yes, we are going to have trials and tribulations as followers of Jesus, and the trial could hit with no warning. But it could also just be through the dreary, mundane tasks of everyday life—from that groggy, early morning diaper change to the “I’m so done with this day” evening change. Change after change, diaper after diaper, Jesus is right there, and He is using this very thing (whatever your daily thing might be) to mold and shape us. How incredible He is to use our daily chores to make us shine ever so brightly to this dark world around us.
I once went through a season of overwhelming fear that something bad was going to happen when my first two boys were very young. I was still experiencing PTSD from a car accident in which my boys and I were miraculously spared, but I just knew I wouldn’t be so “lucky” a second time. During this period, a dear older woman from church came to visit, and she shared her own story of nearly losing a child shortly after his birth and how God used that to draw her heart closer to Himself. I expressed my own fear of losing a loved one because I knew that I needed some serious work done in my life. At the time what that meant to me was that something terrible and drastic just had to happen if I was ever to get close enough to Jesus for that work to go on!
I can’t remember all the details of the conversation, but I do remember that right in the middle of it one of my babies woke up from his nap. I was trying really hard to continue a rich conversation with this woman, so I desperately dumped a handful of cheerios on the coffee table hoping that would keep the baby quiet. But that only lasted so long, and before I knew it he started grabbing at the lady’s Bible. She was sharing all these words of wisdom I’m sure, but I wasn’t hearing a word. I was cringing, watching that little baby hand about to tear pages right out of the book of Romans. Realizing the danger her Bible was in, she just put it aside where he couldn’t reach it. Then she looked at me kindly and said, “Lisa, this could be enough.” Meaning, there is enough in your everyday life for Jesus to use for His work in you! The small trials that are happening fifty times a day, every day, are exactly what He is using to soften, humble, and teach me to put my dependence totally on Himself and away from myself, or anything else in this world.
Now He is teaching me that as followers of Jesus we are living lives of daily surrender. In the beginning of motherhood, I fought this idea and I fought it hard. Up to that point, as an only child, I had lived a life of looking out for just one person, myself. My own needs were the first I sought to meet. My attitude was totally self-centered, and if this girl didn’t get her way, things could get ugly. The most concerning of all of this was my uncaring attitude and hard-heartedness toward other people. For many years prior to marriage and motherhood, my choices and actions were based on decisions that turned my heart from God. I was putting my trust and happiness in people or circumstances instead of Him, and in the end, it led to a hardened heart.
So God has used my struggles as a parent to ultimately break my heart. He broke the hardened shell surrounding it with these daily sacrifices of myself. There is no way I would have ever gotten to a place of love, forgiveness, and peace if He hadn’t placed these boys in my life. In the book, Parenting by Paul David Tripp, Tripp puts it this way, “God will use the hammer of His grace to tenderize us so that we will be part of what He is seeking to do in our children and not stand in the way of it. The difficulties you face as a parent are not signs that God has forgotten you, but are the tenderizing mercies of a loving and faithful Father. He is softening your heart so you can be a tool of heart change in the lives of those He’s placed in your care.”
But we are not the only ones who are reaping the benefits of Jesus’ work in our lives! Our dear children are also going to be massive reapers of this transformation taking place! Not only are they our tools for change, but there’s this beautiful circle that comes back around with us loving them even harder. God is so faithful to each and every one of us. As the hymn puts it: “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.” I still have a very long way to go in what He is teaching me about love and self-sacrifice. I fail at it every day in some way or another, but even with my failings, I pray I can be faithful to the tasks He’s given me, especially as I learn how much of a gift they really are!
As we read in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” With His fresh mercies every morning, I have so much hope in the work He’s doing in me, and I can attest that these past five years of the daily grind have been the most transformative of my entire life. I might have tired eyes, and hair with more gray than I think I should have for my age, but I’ve never had such deep, resounding peace. The smiles and the laughter come easily. The joy only grows deeper. And the love I feel when I think and pray for another person is more tender.
I hope this is an encouragement to all you weary workers. I know I’m writing mostly about children and being a mother, and that’s because I can only testify to how God is working in my own life. I understand God might not have called you down this same path, but I know He has given us all a job to do. Whether it’s like my husband who has to stare at a computer screen all day, or like my mother who worked days and nights as a caretaker for the elderly, or my father who delivered mail, mailbox after mailbox, six days a week, we all have those small, mundane tasks we are dreading for another day. But know that the Lord is working and pruning your heart to be who He needs you to be. And the joy, peace, and contentment that comes from a surrendered heart is unlike anything the world could ever offer. ∎
—An alumna of Fairwood Bible Institute, and married to Frank Turner, Lisa is a “Stay At Home Mom,” the happy mother of three little boys.