Ever since becoming a stay-at-home-mom five years ago, I have faced the mental struggle of defining my success. Before being a stay-at-home-mom, I taught English, literature, and creative writing to middle schoolers. After that, I taught remedial English, written communication, and technical communication at the college level. I never thought of myself as being one who thrived on others' respect because it was an affirmation that I received regularly. Fast forward to life as an at-home mom, and there's not so much respect floating around. My children are small and, therefore, do not very often think to compliment me or even thank me for what I do for them. My days often feel exactly like the day before: get the kids up, fed, and the oldest off to school; do the dishes; work on laundry; straighten the living room; pick up Tori; make lunch; work on more laundry; work on more dishes; vacuum the rug; sift the cat boxes; add to the list of things needed from the store; work on more laundry then put it all away; clear the table; make dinner; look over schoolwork; give the girls a bath...... Need I go on?
The amazing thing is that most of those tasks are things that have do be done again the very next day, and the day after that. There are days that I have been cleaning, picking up, and doing things all day but I look around my messy house after the girls get in bed and I think "I wasn't very successful keeping house today." So then I shift my thinking to my children, remembering a sweet talk about Jesus or the times the girls thanked me for lunch, or gave me heart-bursting hugs for no reason. Then I can think, "I'm successful (so far!) in raising them." There, that's better. But then my thoughts often drift to those who demean my role in society, daring to say I'm only a stay-at-home-mom. Some days I let that get me down. And on days when I've failed in my Christian walk, days when I didn't speak up and should have, or days when I've completely lost my patience with the girls and barked at them or bitten my husband's head off, I wonder how successful I am as a child of God.
As some of you know from my earlier blog posts, I have been studying the life of Joseph (found in Genesis chapters 37-50). My study posed the question "If Joseph's story had ended with being a slave in Potiphar's home, would you have considered him to be a success?" I read this and sat up a little bit straighter in my chair. I spent time trying to erase the rest of Joseph's story from my mind enough to imagine his slavery as his whole story. Would I consider Joseph successful? My answer was I would seek the ramifications -- How far-reaching was Joseph's influence for God? I would probably question the point. But it's not a "worldly" success story at all. I looked at what I wrote down, and I was intrigued. If I am measuring my success against some sort of standard, shouldn't it be God's measure of success? I could see how I was letting worldly values in as part of my standard of success.
Joshua 1:7-8 says, "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."
Matthew 23: 11-12 says, "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Philippians 2:3-4, 14-16 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others...Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life -- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing."
I looked at some other verses that you may want to look at as well: Genesis 39:3 and 23, I Timothy 6:6-12, and James 4:6. The recurring themes that I found, though, are vitally important to keeping my life focused the way I want it to be. God is after followers who are loyal, faithful, and humble. He desires children who serve, who obey His laws, and who exalt others above themselves. I have many opportunities as a stay-at-home mom to serve others, to put them before myself, to be a wife and mother who is obedient to God's statutes, and to try my hardest to do all of this happily and without complaining about it. Because, if I can't manage that with my own family, how on earth am I going to manage that with everyone else, with haters and unlovables?
If I focus on being loyal, faithful, and humble; if I serve, obey God, and exalt others above myself, I am a success in God's eyes. My social status won't matter. The size of my bank account won't matter. The title of my degree or the title of my current job won't matter. Only my life lived for God is an accurate measure of my success.