“What Is the Main Thing?” A Post for Mothers

~ by Brooke Diener ~

There is a legendary story of a rich man who came to visit a cathedral while it was being built and saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.”

The workman replied, “Because God sees.”

Mothers, no act of kindness you’ve done, no diaper you’ve changed, no muffin you’ve baked, no Latin you’ve graded, no teenager you’ve listened to in the middle of the night is too small for God to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

Parenting does not need to be efficient. Sometimes I think half the battle is really a struggle of priorities. Which is more important: cleaning the floor or playing on it? Doing the laundry or wiping a snotty nose? The truth is they all need to happen, but internally when I put my values (clean house, chores done) above theirs (explore the world), a struggle inevitably ensues. In order to sidestep this “them vs. me” mentality, I have adopted what I call the “main thing” approach. I ask myself—and them­—repeatedly in times of struggle or conflict, “What is the main thing?” They respond, “Showing each other Jesus’s love.” When the “main thing” becomes getting the kids in bed, I may miss that precious conversation my eight-year-old needs to have with me. When the “main thing” is getting dressed and into the car on time, I may be short with my words and in my selfishness wound them. The “main thing” can’t be making everyone happy either, for that is a false god and an impossibility. The main thing must be love or, as 1 Corinthians 13:2 says, “I am nothing.” The world says that serving is nothing. Christ says that servant love in his name is everything. The challenge and beauty of parenting is that it brings to light the reality that everything we do in life is to be done for an audience of one. The One. The I AM. The one from whom we can’t hide our motives. The one whom we cannot impress, only serve. The one who created us, sees our failings, and “dances over us with singing” anyway.

He adores us, and we have given him nothing but poopy diapers. We had nothing else to give. We are his children. That’s the beauty of parenting as well—it gives us this incredible window into the heart of God by putting us on the other side of the table. In pouring ourselves out for our children, we glimpse the shadow of God’s pouring himself out for us. In embracing our children in their weakness, we hear the echo of the Father’s heart, his compassion for our failings. When they struggle as we change their diapers, we say, “You can’t stay in your filth anymore. Trust me. I know it is uncomfortable now, but you must let me clean you.” He whispers the same to us: “Let me make you clean. I know your struggles now are painful. Facing yourself is not easy. Be still. Let me make you whole.”

This parenting is Holy work. It is every bit as holy as the monks in the cathedrals seeking daily the face of God. For we, like Mary, are invited to kiss the very face of Jesus. When he was here on earth, he said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). No one faces the world more hungry, cold, naked, vulnerable, and needy than a child. When we tie their shoes, spoon-feed them, wipe their noses, and listen with longsuffering, we are doing it for our Lord. The world tells us that we must struggle and climb the ladder to be valued and important, that we must achieve to be successful. Jesus tells us, “You are loved and infinitely valued already. Live out that center and lay yourself down.”

Happy Mother’s Day. You are a treasure!

Brooke Diener has been classically homeschooling her own children and teaching in co-ops for over a decade, and has served other homeschooling families through her writing and speaking at conferences. She holds a BA from Wheaton College in Christian education and psychology and a Montessori teaching certification from the United Montessori Association. She and her husband—headmaster, consultant, and author Dr. David Diener—live in Hillsdale, Michigan, with their four energetic and eclectic children and are committed to furthering the mission and impact of classical Christian education through their lives and work. In her leisure time, Brooke loves to read the classics and discuss them with friends, and to take long hikes in the woods with her family.

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