With the sun in my eyes, windows rolled down, and radio cranked high I belted out the words to Crystal Lewis' song along with her, believing every word was true.
"I will go wherever you lead,
be light in the dark, and be salt in the street.
I will go, no matter the cost.
I will live for the lost, so they'll know of the cross.
I will go."
SEE ALSO: 10 Things to Say to Your Preschooler
On the crooked road home, fresh from the ceremony where I had received my Masters degree in Counseling, my heart soared with the desire to go wherever God might lead. I boldly promised God that I was His girl, and that I would use all my gifts and talents to serve Him no matter what.
I meant it with all my heart.
SEE ALSO: 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Teach Your Kids to be Colorblind
Soon after, I found myself serving full time in crisis pregnancy ministry, reaching out to women who were making life and death decisions...decisions that would impact the rest of their lives. For ten brave years I poured my heart out for women in need in a work that felt very important. At Blue Ridge Women's Center (http://blueridgewoman.org/), I found a place where my passions and giftings met. I'm a truth-teller and a teacher. My greatest desire is to see the Word of God—His truth—open the eyes of the blind and help them see a different way. Working with women in their darkest hour gave me endless opportunities to see God at work in real and tangible ways.
Every day was an adventure! How would God provide? Whose life would He touch that day? What results would our ministry get that could impact the Kingdom of God for all eternity? What ways would I get in invest in other people's lives that might just make a difference?
SEE ALSO: 10 Simple Prayers That Will Make You a Better Parent
My days serving at BRWC were some of the sweetest times of ministry I've ever had. I grew as a Christian while I watched God move in the women we served. Seeing His hand so clearly fueled my belief in what was possible for my own life. I saw the Gospel in action, and it changed me forever.
My Crystal Lewis-sized dream to be used by God as salt and light was coming true...and then I became a mother.
Days that had once been filled with purpose and passion quickly turned to days filled with diapers and defeat. At BRWC, I could see God working every day. At home, I could barely see Him at all. Any progress with my boys seemed slow and tedious, and came from a place of persistence and monotony. My ability to think clearly, energetically, and strategically seemed to turn to mush along with the carrots I tried in vain to get my littles to eat. My boys pushed me to the brink and back over and over again, and left me feeling useless, overwhelmed, and, if I'm honest, a little lost. Over time, instead of joyfully singing "I will go," I found myself skeptically asking, "Where are You taking me? Why am I here? "What is my purpose now?" and, "How do I use the gifts You gave me to make a difference here?"
I've talked to thousands of moms over the years, and almost all of them have had a similar experience. There's something about the purpose of a woman that feels lost when she becomes a mom. We struggle to understand what our current circumstances have to do with the purpose we once had. We find it hard to see how our giftings fit the motherhood mold, and sometimes, even have to lay them down altogether. Many of us lose our identities completely because our giftings were our purpose before we had children. When we suddenly can't use those gifts in the same way, or at all, anymore, we struggle to know what our new purpose is.
Actually, it never changed, we just didn't see it for what it really was.
In Acts chapter six, we find the disciples overwhelmed with the day-to-day work of the ministry. They'd been so focused on just preaching the Gospel that the needs of the church were being overlooked. Widows were being neglected and something had to be done to take care of their needs.
Instead of just digging in and working longer hours, the disciples decided they would choose, "...seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom..." (Acts 6:3) to be appointed to the duty of meeting those needs. One of those seven was a man named Stephen.
In comparison with other characters in the Bible, Stephen's story takes up relatively little space, but his life was used by God powerfully to ignite the Gospel and cause it to spread like wildfire to the early church. Clearly, he was a man who loved the Lord and had gifts uniquely suited for ministering to the poor and neglected of the church. He was chosen from among thousands to be the hands and feet of the disciples so they could be free to continue preaching and teaching, but we don't hear much about Stephen's widow ministry after the fact.
In fact, we never see the fulfillment of his appointment at all.
The very next section of the book of Acts shows Stephen, "...doing great wonders and signs among the people..." (Acts 6:8), and some of those people didn't like it. What follows is the story of Christianity's first martyr. Stephen boldly tells it like it is, accusing his accusers of being "...stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears...resist[ing] the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51), and for his commitment to the cause of Christ, is murdered.
You might read that and think, "What in the world does that have to do with the purpose of motherhood?"
As far as we know, Stephen's gifts were related to service—taking care of the poor—but he died fulfilling his purpose—to be spent for the Gospel, for the glory of Christ.
We don't have any indication from Scripture that Stephen died while in the act of ministering to widows. What we know is that he was willingly poured out—killed—in order to make much of the Gospel.
Mom, our giftings aren't our purpose. At various seasons of our lives we might get to use the gifts God's given us as a part of walking out our greater purpose, but there's nothing in the Bible that says using those gifts is our purpose. They were never ours to do with as we pleased, but His to advance His Kingdom through us in whatever way He saw fit. We can choose to get lost in the fact that motherhood changes the way our gifts are used for a time, or we can hold them loosely, embracing our deeper purpose—to be poured out for the sake of the Gospel however God requires.
Knowing this, will we still go? Will we be salt and light in our homes instead of the street? Will we live to show our children the cross no matter the cost? Will we let go of our grip on our gifts and release the need to have significance because of them, finding our significance instead in the finished work of Christ?
If so, we'll break free of the disappointment motherhood sometimes brings, and even find joy in the difficult days of weariness and defeat knowing we're fulfilling our ultimate purpose, not just as a mother, but as a child of God—to follow Christ wherever He leads, allowing Him to use our lives—and our gifts—in the way that brings HIM the most glory.
(Note: Thanks to my pastor, Bryan Pruett, for providing inspiration for the concept of purpose versus gifting).
Image courtesy: ©Unsplash/Photo by Dawid Sobolewsk
Publication date: August 16, 2017