She looked directly at me, talking intently. I felt increasingly uncomfortable and distracted. The baby in her arms was fussing loudly and batting at her face. She deftly darted her head around to miss the most direct slaps from his tiny hand and talked on. Her 3-year-old was pulling on her skirt and calling to her loudly. Still she talked on. Her 5-year-old was out of her range of sight and hearing, doing who knows what. Still she talked on.

I tried to see if I could help the 3-year-old with something. He glared at me and kept tugging on his mom. Still she talked on. I smiled at her baby and offered him his pacifier, to no avail. Still she talked on, the conversation frequently punctuated by her exasperatedly saying a child’s name, trying to get one or the other to settle down. But it didn’t work. It never worked.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only time this scene played out over the years. As my friend’s children got older, they did more and more audacious things trying for Mom’s attention—all while she talked on, doing her own thing.

There was nothing wrong with the things my friend talked about. She was a Christian lady who wanted to make a difference in the world around her. She loved to minister to others and share her knowledge and godly insight on things such as her ministries in the church, why homeschooling was important, abortion/pro-life issues, healthy eating, creation vs. evolution, and a host of other truly vital, important topics.

Though there was nothing inherently wrong with the things my friend talked about or the ministries and activities she was involved in, something nonetheless was terribly wrong. 

What was wrong in my friend’s life? She was living out a proper, Godly focus at an improper season of life! She desired to be used by God, but failed to see that her most important ministry at this stage of her life (and for many years to come) was her home and her children—not the church or the world. The right thing at the wrong time equals the wrong thing!

Tragically, my friend’s heart was not truly and fully at home with her children. Yes, she was bodily at home much of the time, she talked to her children about the Lord, she homeschooled and used Christian curriculum, and she and her family were faithful church members—present every time the doors were open. But her feelings of joy and self-worth were derived from ministering to others, not from raising her children. Her children knew it and responded in kind. Home was chaotic and miserable.

I wish I could say her family has had a happy ending, but they haven’t—at least not yet. In the grace, mercy and love of God, they still may; but during the 25 years we’ve known them, things have gone from bad to worse. 

There have been broken relationships and confusion in abundance. The parents love the Lord and are worried, perplexed, and even ashamed.

Most of us have my friend’s problem to some degree or another. We all want significance or acceptance, and we have a natural tendency toward selfishness. We have hopes, dreams or plans, whether that means we want to do something big and important like reaching a whole continent for the Lord, or whether that means our greatest desire is to take a nap this afternoon. 

If we’re truthful, most of us would admit that occasionally we have a teensy-weensy tendency, no matter what we say with our mouths to the contrary, to feel that children are messy, noisy distractions to be endured during our quest for “meaning” or “life” as we want it to be. (Was that said too honestly for our comfort, or did I pretty much hit the nail on the head? Ouch!)

But how does God parent us? Is He distant and involved in His own thing? Do we have to pester or become obnoxious to get His attention? Is He concerned with mature Christians rather than new Christians (older, more “useful” children rather than younger children)? Is He touched by our infirmities? Does He stick closer than a brother? Did He die for us?!