We must remember throughout our lives that in God’s sight there are no little people and no little places. (The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way & No Little People, 90)
So counseled Francis Schaeffer, twentieth-century American pastor and theologian. Perhaps no one needs the reminder more than moms, whose lives center, most literally, on little people in little places.
Of course, Schaeffer is not encouraging us to deny what our eyes obviously see. An unborn child begins no bigger than the smallest of seeds — months pass before our stomachs grow enough to show. Newborns are hardly any more noticeable, as we tiptoe them back and forth between crib and nursing chair.
Eventually our babies do turn into toddlers, and our toddlers become “big kids.” Yet mothers seem to spend more and more time in small places: pantries, laundry rooms, carpools. So as we care for little people in little places, we tend to feel quite little ourselves.
“As we care for little people in little places, we tend to feel quite little ourselves.”
But Schaeffer reminds us to see as God sees. All our little people, all our little places — surely they are little, but God made them. God governs them. God gave them to us. And so it is God, not the world, who determines the value and use of our children, our homes, and motherhood itself.
We tend to see littleness as insignificance. Schaeffer articulates the inner conflict well: “It is wonderful to be a Christian, but I am such a small person, so limited in talents — or energy or psychological strength or knowledge — that what I do is not very important” (63). Surely, mothers resonate. We want to matter, but we are “just moms.” It’s our unpaid job to be publicly defied by toddlers at the grocery store. We feel small, and so our lives seem unimportant.
But we would do well to ask ourselves, Through whose lens are we looking at motherhood? It is the world, not God’s word, that sees littleness as insignificance. Today’s society shouts, “The bigger, the better,” but for thousands of years God has said, “The Lord sees not as man sees” (1 Samuel 16:7). As Schaeffer puts it,
We all tend to emphasize big works and big places, but all such emphasis is of the flesh. To think in such terms is simply to hearken back to the old, unconverted, egoist, self-centered Me. This attitude, taken from the world, is more dangerous to the Christian than fleshly amusement or practice. It is the flesh. (74)
Schaeffer shows us that our problem isn’t littleness and lack of recognition, but sin and temptation. The world’s self-exalting, child-belittling ways entice our flesh to despise self-sacrifice, which is inherent in caring for children (especially little ones).
Whenever we long for something more than what motherhood seems to afford, we must remember: sight that sees bigger as better “is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). God has a different, far grander vision of motherhood for us. He loves to comfort little moms of little children in a child-belittling world — not by puffing us up, but by satisfying us with his glory and drawing us into his ways.
His Is the Greatness
Counter to the way of the world, God is not in the business of making moms feel bigger so that they can feel better. He is in the business of revealing his own bigness and better-ness to us — because he made us, because he loves us, and because he knows what is best for us. And what is best for little mothers is that they find all their satisfaction in a good, great, and glorious God.
By his grace, we will lament our littleness less and less. Louder and louder, we will declare with David, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). We are indeed little, but God is great.
And we belong to him. He delights to use seemingly insignificant people for his glorious ends. His greatness can transform our humbles lives, if we will let it. “That which is me,” says Schaeffer, “must become the me of God. Then I can become useful in God’s hands. The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God” (72). In other words, how we feel about our usefulness means little; what God says about how he intends to use us is everything.
Little yet Useful
Take Mary. We know her as the mother of Jesus, but before the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was a poor woman betrothed to a poor man, living in a small town. In other words, she was little — but she trusted God. Though a virgin, she believed she would bear the Son whom God had promised. Before she became the most famous mother, she had hung a banner over her little life: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Little mothers, do we see ourselves, first and foremost, as servants of the Lord? Do we long for his word and his will to govern our lives? When we do, however inconspicuous our lives may be, God uses us. As Schaeffer says (and the life of Mary well illustrates),
The people who receive praise from the Lord Jesus will not in every case be the people who hold leadership in this life. There will be many persons who were sticks of wood that stayed close to God and were quiet before him, and were used in power by him in a place that looks small to men. (90)
We are not the mothers of Jesus, but we are the mothers of children whom he has made and given to us, children with minds and hearts capable of knowing and loving him forever.
One End for All Our Littleness
Are we satisfied in our great God? When we are satisfied in him, we will be used by him — in our homes, neighborhoods, and beyond. As Schaeffer puts it,
Only one thing is important — to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment. Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if committed to Christ and living under his lordship in the whole of life, may, by God’s grace, change the flow of our generation. (90)
This is the heart of why, for Schaeffer, there are no little people and no little places. In God’s sight, there are “no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people” (72–73). Either Christ’s blood covers us, or it does not. His Spirit works in us, or it does not. His glory delights us, or it does not.
“Nothing everlasting ever amounts to little, but sometimes we forget.”
And anytime the redeemed enter a room, whether it be the Oval Office or a newborn’s nursery, God intends to work in that place through them. God delights to use littleness for his glorious end — that is, making himself look good, great, and glorious in us. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
God’s grand purposes for our littleness can drown out any seeming insignificance. Wonder of wonders, much good can come from little mothers who are truly satisfied in, their lives wholly consecrated to, our wondrous God. Ultimately, our day job is infinitely more than changing diapers, wrangling toddlers, and running late to carpool. We labor to enjoy and exalt God alongside family, friend, and neighbor, now and forevermore.
Nothing everlasting ever amounts to little, but sometimes we forget.