I desperately want to be a good Mom. I'll bet you do, too. Every single Mom I know wants to be a good Mom, in fact, a GREAT Mom! We would do whatever we could to provide our kids the best opportunities, to protect them from harm, to equip them with the skills necessary to lead a successful adult life. Every single one of us.
I was pondering that recently when one of my kids was going through a trial. As these kids get older, those trials come more frequently and more seriously. And the pain Mom feels during them is more and more acute! My instinctive reaction was to figure out some way to relieve the pain. What could I do to make things better? I wanted to fix it so they (and I) wouldn't hurt.
As I prayed, God took me to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew. I'd like us to focus there today -
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28
This was a good Mom, the mother of James and John, two of Jesus's "inner circle" of the disciples. From this passage, it appears she aspired to be a great Mom - she wanted the best for her boys. And, if you'll allow me a bit of sanctified imagination, I wonder if she even patted herself on the back because she was asking for Kingdom Significance, not worldly fame, riches or power! Major Holy Points, right?
But Jesus doesn't seem to be awarding Holy Points. Instead He says they don't know what they are talking about! Whoa!
Maybe what was actually going on was that this Mom doubted her own significance so she thought that, if her sons were significant, then she would be too.....
So let's unpack this passage....
Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”
So He doesn't chide this Mom for seeking significance for her sons. That's good to know! She is pursuing spiritual greatness, Kingdom Significance, if you will. The problem Jesus points out is that she (and they) misunderstand the path to get there.
He says they must drink the cup that He drinks. What is that cup?
The cup of suffering. Gulp.
This cup of suffering is explained further in Isaiah 51:17 and Matthew 26:39-42. Check out those passages.
So, let me get this straight. If I want my kids to be significant, (good Mom that I aspire to be) hopefully it is Kingdom Significance that I long for, not temporal. That's the first thing. Check.
The next thing is to be sure I understand what it takes to achieve Kingdom Significance.
Instead of giving in to the primordial instinct to protect my kids from pain, I need to let them fully experience it. I must teach them to expect it, to endure it with grace and even embrace it with joy. Instead of helping them by defending them against the occasional unfairness from a teacher or coach, I may actually be short-circuiting what God purposes to accomplish in them. It very well could be that when I think I am showing love (being a "good Mom") by rescuing them from the pain of being left out, I am instead blocking the work of the Holy Spirit to mature and refine their hearts. Perhaps, instead of teaching them to recoil from pain by trying to make their world such an emotionally safe place, I need to teach (and model) that suffering is hard but hard's not bad.
The path to Kingdom Significance is suffering.
And the other thing Jesus says we must possess in order to achieve Kingdom Significance...servanthood.
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
At first glance, this one seems easier than suffering. Just being honest. But I still need to be intentional to teach it...and model it...for my kids.
The heart of a servant - not just serving. Not jockeying for the best place, not prioritizing my own desires, not striving for preeminence or prominence or preference. Pursuing excellence and doing my best, sure. But to advance HIS Kingdom not my own agenda.
How can I help my kids have the heart of a servant? Lots of ways, probably. But some that come to mind include having them be responsible for some household chores. Seriously. So simple and yet how tempting it is to excuse them from work at home because of school, sports, or fun with friends. Too much excusing will certainly avert God's purpose of servanthood that is accomplished through repetitive, unrewarded(!), routine chores. Serving at home is usually much harder than serving elsewhere. But remember - hard's not bad. Probably means God is accomplishing a mighty work!
Serving other than at home is good, too, of course. Lots of opportunities are available. In our family, we have seen career choices evolve from service opportunities. What an added blessing!
But the key of servanthood leading to Kingdom Significance is a heart issue, not an activity. We must be deliberate to pray for and disciple towards a heart of servanthood. Help them make "little" choices to prefer others, to celebrate the successes of others, and to trust that God is at work when things don't "go their way". Rather than always commiserating their misfortune, rejoice in Psalms 84:11 - The Lord God is a sun and shield; He gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Sometimes He gives us the things (sun) we want and sometimes He protects us from them (shield) because what we think we want would harm us. If we can train our children to trust Him, the path to Kingdom Significance is theirs.
Dear Jesus, help us be YOUR definition of a good Mom! Help us not immediately protect our kids from the hard parts of life and help us help them to trust You!! And help us not seek to alleviate our own pain in their suffering nor to advance our own agenda through our children. Amen.