The Hidden Ministry of Motherhood

In between “Mama, I want a snack” and baby squeals, with fists pounding on the high chair, I check my numbers online. How many views today on the blog? Did anyone comment on my Facebook post? Any new bloggers out there click the like button? Does anyone read this stuff besides my parents?

These thoughts seem innocent, but I know at times they come from a heart desiring notice and recognition for myself. I’m often baffled by this strong desire to be known and be seen. Maybe it’s because the role I play as a mom is a hidden one. My main ministry is confined to four walls. I don’t get a paycheck, time off, a promotion, or a raise like my husband. I don’t always get immediate results from my efforts, unless you want to count a shiny toilet and children clothed and fed as an accomplishment (trust me, it is).

This is not to say moms can’t work outside the home in various measures and get a paycheck somewhere, but the main role God calls us to as wives and mothers is our home and family. God made women to bear and nurture life and men to provide for and protect the lives of women and children. The heart disposition in these matters manifests itself in where our priorities lie.

Jesus’s Different View of Equality

The calling God places on women often seems like a hidden role compared to the men around us. And yet we are still equal before God in dignity and value. Our nation was founded on principles of equality — “all men are created equal” — a truth that can be attested to in Scripture. But it didn’t take long for our quest for equality to be corrupted by feelings of entitlement. Different God-given roles in marriage and the church scream inequality to the world, and to the strongholds of discontent in our own hearts. Our society, and even many in the church, views equality as one-dimensional sameness in which men and women, moms and dads, are considered to have interchangeable roles.

Many Christian women today secretly — or not so secretly — covet the pulpit and the eldership. We demand more and more rights in our competition with men. We scoff at fulfilling the hidden roles, because we want to be seen and heard. We have grown too important in our own eyes. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be seen, heard, and known. These are God-given desires intended to point us to the one who “counted equality with God not a thing to be grasped.” Philippians 2:5–8 says,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We have much to learn from Jesus in the seeming quietness and hiddenness of motherhood. He can sympathize with us, because in entering our world, he took on a hidden role. Being one with God, Jesus was the center of attention in heaven as his glory shone forth like the blazing sun. The praise Jesus received in the heavenly realms never took an intermission. He constantly received all the fame and recognition; he was always seen, heard, and known. And yet he chose to take on humanity and obscurity and become an unknown baby born in an unimportant town. The one who alone is worthy of all fame and recognition took the form of a servant.

For Jesus, this act of humble obedience didn’t make him feel any less secure in his equality with God. Jesus was fulfilling a different role than God the Father, but we never see him express feelings of inferiority. He was so confident in his equality with God that it didn’t faze his decision. Jesus never complained to God about being unfairly treated by saying, “Why me? Why don’t you do this instead?” This doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t struggle as he moved toward Calvary, as we know he did in the garden of Gethsemane, but what it reveals is that Jesus’s view of equality is fundamentally different from our society’s.

God Sees and Recognizes

When Jesus took on our flesh, he was not welcomed by many, but only a ragtag group of shepherds. He was without honor in his own hometown (Mark 6:4). He was rejected by his own people (John 1:11), betrayed and abandoned by his best friends, and ultimately executed as a criminal. He never deserved such treatment, and yet he willingly surrendered to it. His cry of abandonment from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) went unanswered, so that in him we would be heard by God. God looked away from Jesus as the embodiment of all our sin, so he could look upon us in the joy-filled delight of full reconciliation. Jesus’s fame and recognition dimmed, so we could be recognized as daughters of God. His sacrifice made the way for us to be seen, heard, and known — by God.

Jesus’s sacrifice looked unimportant and insignificant to man, but veiled to the natural eye — hidden — was great glory, because his actions reaped eternal benefits for his people. Likewise, our hidden sacrifices as mothers are not unimportant or insignificant, because underneath the nose-wiping, tears, and tantrums is a great glory resulting in eternal benefits.

We can follow Jesus’s example in our homes everyday by taking the form of a servant. A life emptied of itself, in Jesus’s name, does not go unnoticed to God. This is all that truly matters: to be seen by God in our seemingly hidden roles.