Note: This article now appears in Desiring God’s free ebook Mom Enough, available in three electronic formats, as well as paperback.
The clarion call to repent and believe the gospel message reverberates all over the world. Evangelism is happening in remote jungles where missionary planes land on runways of grass, in coffee shops set in the shadows of medieval architecture, in high-end boutiques in shopping malls, and in rickety taxis inching forward on congested roads in overcrowded cities.
We hear “missionary hero” stories and our hearts soar with thankfulness for the work the Spirit of God is doing all over the world. We pray for the “go-ers” and we cheerfully give our finances to send them.
“I want to ‘go,’ but I’m afraid the farthest I can ‘go’ these days is to the baby’s crib and back,” one brand new mom told me with a sigh. Sometimes moms see their ministry to their children as insignificant when compared to other ministries. After all, crowds of thousands gather in open-air theaters and cheer to hear the good news.
Because motherhood is missional, there’s something of eternal value taking place in the realm of the unseen. It’s true — sometimes the only cheering a mom hears is when the lid of the ice cream container snaps open in the kitchen. But as mothers share the gospel with more souls than we can count and faithfully raise up the next generation, the applause of heaven echoes in eternity.
Missions, Motherhood, and Second Corinthians
We can find four specific encouragements for our missional motherhood in 2 Corinthians 4.
First, we get a grip on being a jar of clay.
Not one mother can claim to have it all together. Being a fragile, common jar of clay means that we are free to enjoy and appropriate the sufficient grace of God and show the world that “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7–10). Because Christ’s strength is made perfect through weak moms, we are free to lose the pretense that we are self-sufficient moms. Instead, we can boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on us and fuel our contentment (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
Second, we learn to stamp eternity on our eyeballs.
It sounds like a fancy contact lens, but this phrase comes from a prayer attributed to Jonathan Edwards. Missional motherhood takes the long-view that stretches past the last diaper purchase, though we might pray that the Lord would hasten that day. The perspective we need looks past all the earthly milestones in our children’s lives and into eternity. The eyes of our heart are fixed on forever, “knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14).
Eternity reminds us that our children are not “mere mortals,” as C.S. Lewis described in his essay “The Weight of Glory.” But every human being is God’s image bearer who has an eternal soul. Motherhood is missional because no mom has ever taught a mere mortal about how “hands are for helping and not hitting,” or wiped sweet potatoes off a mere mortal’s face, or prayed for a mere mortal before school, or listened to a mere mortal tell a drawn-out story about the pigeon on the balcony.
Eternity means that childrearing is an awe-full, serious joy.
Third, we get goose bumps thinking about how God’s grace is extending to more and more people.
Missional motherhood knows all too well that we are nurturing life in the face of death. Grace, gratitude, and glory are not light and trite ideas in this world filled with the stench of death and blighted by the marks of reprehensible sin. The aim of all our work is that grace would extend to more and more people, increase thanksgiving to God, and glorify him (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Our work as moms is to glorify God, who sent his Son to do his mighty work on the cross in our place to pay the just penalty for our sins. Humbly receiving God’s grace and inviting our children to share our joyful gratitude for what Jesus has done on the cross is our happy mission in this fallen world.
Fourth, we joke about getting younger on our birthdays, but we laugh because we’ve got something better.
Even as our “outer self” experiences the inevitable entropy of age, Jesus is renewing our “inner self” day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). The best place to find this renewing strength is in God’s word. Over all the helpful, how-to mom advice, we receive wisdom from above in the Bible. Moms know they need to be near to God and understand just how near he is to them.
So through his word, “God daily comes to his people, not from afar but nearby. In it he reveals himself, from day to day. . . . Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and his church, between God and his children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God” (Bavinck, RD 1:385).
Soundtrack of Heaven
Missional motherhood is no stranger to all the stresses, anxieties, troubles, and pain of nurturing life in the face of death as well as dying to self every day. But it sees with eyes of faith a glimpse of something soul-steadying and bright — a “weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). That weight of glory is far heavier than the twelve-kilo toddler who keeps climbing on top of the counter and getting stuck.
All over the world, it is only by the grace of God that moms can nurture the souls of our littlest neighbors. All the while the soundtrack of heaven is ringing in our hearts: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! . . . Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:10, 12).
Be sure to check out Gloria’s new book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (Crossway).