I pushed the damp mop across the kitchen floor, knowing full well that I would be finding sticky spots on cupboard doors and drawer handles for days to come. The transformation of a bushel and a half of apples into smooth, pink applesauce is the work of a couple hours on my own. However, with my grandson’s “help,” the task expanded to fill an afternoon, for while I am well-acquainted with the five-sided miracle of a star hiding in the apple’s cross-cut core, the discovery was stunning to five-year-old eyes.
How many apples sliced in two will verify that the star is there every single time? How many tiny cups of applesauce need to cool for snack breaks? How many salty pretzels are required for dipping and crunching? Apparently quite a few, and so this goal-oriented grandmother presses into the curriculum of self-giving. Productivity can become an idol, and a demanding one at that, requiring regular offerings of to-do lists and checkmarks, all evidence of accomplishment and shortcuts to self-worth.
Slaying the Giant of Selfishness has been a perpetual battle throughout the years of mothering my four sons. Pausing on the way to the laundry room to really look at the Lego structure and to listen attentively to the explanation of all its features or calling a halt to my weeding in the middle of a row of green beans to push a swing required a conscious act of the will. Saying “my life for yours” was an act of service that came hard to this task-oriented and driven mother.
When writer Elisabeth Elliot sensed a rising up of pride or a preoccupation with self in her own walk with God, she resorted to this sifting statement:
“The best way to find out whether or not you really have a servant’s heart is to see what your reaction is when somebody treats you like one.”
So, what does it look like to be a servant to my family, to say “My life for yours”? As a person of faith, I look to Jesus as my example of a servant’s heart. In a letter to his friends living in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Love means sacrifice, so as a wife, a mother, and now as a Grandmother-in-Training, I’m stooping low to pick up five smooth stones to fling hard at the Giant of Selfishness:
Stone Number 1: My time for your needs
When I function as if life is a race, everyone gets left in the dust. Breathing in the clear air of grace, I find that “my time is in His hands,” and He is not keeping score. Pouring juice and applying Band Aids is real spiritual work.
Stone Number 2: My schedule for your priorities
Making the phone calls, running the errands, setting up the appointments, my days are filled with details that keep things running smoothly here on this country hill we call home. Working to accomplish tasks in the “little minutes” of my day frees my husband to do what he needs to do when he comes home from work and liberates moments for family fun when we are all together.
Stone Number 3: My energy for your success
The older our children become, wider runs the circle of our lives. Long days of full schedules are draining. Minivan runs to piano lessons and track practice and hours on the bleachers require stamina but yield huge dividends of self-confidence for our kids. Paul’s reassurance in Galatians 6:9 rings truer every year: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Stone Number 4: My attention for your security
I loved it when my sons routinely scanned the audience before performances and checked the stands before basketball games to ascertain that my husband and I were there. Unfortunately, I’ve learned, too, it’s possible to be physically present with my kids and miles away in my thoughts. If we covet the confidences of our children in their teen years and older, let’s offer our full attention to their little voices today.
Stone Number 5: My prayers for your spiritual growth
A few years ago, I began guarding my time alone in the car as an opportunity for focused prayer for each of my children and grandchildren. Since they are all priceless to me,
my deepest desire is for their greatest good: wise decisions, satisfying relationships, holiness and helpfulness. But time-bound and short of sight, do I really know what’s best?
Saying their names out loud to God in the quiet, listening for his loving instructions, I am learning how to pray for their good–unselfishly, untainted by my own plans and designs.
Prayer is the unsung and unseen spiritual discipline in which we offer up our time, energy, and attention, carrying our loved ones to God in moments that only God sees and hears—and it’s the most important and impactful service we can offer to our families.
Lessons imperfectly executed on the first try have a way of circling back around, so I’m cherishing round two of storybooks, catching bugs, and making slow applesauce with my grandchildren. I still look at the clock more than I should, but I offer up the missing check marks on my do-list with more joy this time around.
Of course, the true test of humility is the realization that in this giant-slaying life, I am no David. Even with five smooth stones, my aim is faulty and my execution flawed. Only in Christ am I able to receive God’s mercy for my shortcomings and trust the power of Jesus at work in me to slay the giant of selfishness and free me to live given for my family.
Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She blogs at Living Our Days where she writes about the books she is reading and the grace she is receiving.