Written by: Melissa Kruger
The following article is a guest post from Winfree Brisley:
On Friday mornings, I have the privilege of gathering with women in my neighborhood for a Bible study. It's always a time of sweet fellowship and rich discussion, but a few months ago as I taught a lesson from Nancy DeMoss Woglemuth's Lies Women Believe, we hit on a particularly thought provoking topic. As we discussed the lie "God is not really enough," we found a common struggle.
For most of us, it seems easy to believe that God is enough in a spiritual sense, but we struggle with how to live out that truth practically while raising young children. We believe that God is enough, but when we haven't had a shower in three days or gone to the bathroom alone in three years, we feel like we need God and some basic human dignity. Trying to summarize our discussion, I jokingly said, "I think what we're getting at here is: Jesus cleansed my heart, but what about my hair?" That line got a good laugh and we moved on with our discussion, but I kept turning this idea over in my mind.
Some days when we're in the trenches of motherhood we know we should be grateful Jesus has cleansed us of our sin, but we just want to take a shower and have hair that isn't styled with spit up. There’s a real sense in which what Jesus has done in our hearts can feel very disconnected from our day to day lives. I often go throughout my day performing task after task—preschool drop off, changing diapers, disciplining a toddler, cleaning up food crumbs, running errands, preschool pick up, disciplining a toddler again—all the while, desperately desiring some sense of dignity.
In the moment, it seems a hot shower and some time alone would do the trick. And those things probably would make me feel better temporarily. But the cycle starts again the next day. So, what would it look like for the truth that Jesus is enough to meaningfully enter into that cycle?
The afternoon following our discussion at Bible study, I attended the funeral of a precious sister in Christ who had gone to be with the Lord after battling cancer. During the service, we sang the hymn "Be Thou My Vision," and I was struck by the third verse, which had never been particularly meaningful to me before:
Be Thou my battle shield, sword for the fight;
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight;
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O power of my power.
There it was—dignity—the very word I had been struggling over in my mind and spirit. The hymn writer understood what I had been trying to grasp: dignity is found in the Lord. As image bearers of God, all human beings have dignity. But our fallen nature pushes us to strive for honor and worthiness we can attribute to ourselves.
Yet, we who are in Christ can rest in the fact that Jesus' worthiness—his dignity—covers us. So, Jesus enables me to have dignity in motherhood, not because of how put together I look, but because he is making me look more and more like himself. And, it’s often in serving my children that this process of sanctification takes place.
The Form of a Servant
Paul says in Philippians 2:7 that when Jesus came to earth to live as a man, he "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant." To look more like Christ is to look more like a servant. So, what does a servant look like? Jesus told us in Matthew 25, where he taught whatever we do to serve "the least of these," we do to serve him. When mothers care for our children day in and day out, we are doing these very acts of service:
I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink, . . .
I was naked and you clothed me,
I was sick and you visited me
When we prepare meals for children who turn up their noses and flip over their plates, when we fill up milk cups only to wipe the very same milk off the floor, when we wash and fold load after load of laundry, when we wipe runny noses and rock sick babies, when we empty ourselves to serve our children, we serve Jesus, we grow in his likeness, and we share in his dignity.
Worth the Sacrifice
But we still haven't quite answered the question from my Bible study: Jesus cleansed my heart, but what about my hair? The fact that I'm serving Christ as I serve my children may give me a sense of dignity, but it doesn't make my dirty hair any cleaner.
No, but it should make me less concerned about my dirty hair.
The sinful woman from Luke 7 who brought her alabaster jar to Jesus, wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She understood Jesus was so precious that her personal sense of dignity didn't matter. Everything that she had—her most valuable possession, her tears, her hair—she used in service of the King.
As we serve our children there will be sacrifices. Some days caring for them may mean not caring for ourselves as we would like. But just as we are caring for our children, our Heavenly Father is caring for us and preparing for us. One day, "the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34). And in that moment, we’ll worship him in full dignity and full delight.
Winfree Brisley is a wife and mom who enjoys sharing her love of Scripture through writing and teaching other women. She lives with her husband and sons in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they are members of Uptown Church (PCA).