Forbid Them Not

A few days ago, after spending the first half of my day homeschooling my seven-year-old daughter, I sat down to work on my graduate work, literature magazine editing, and some backlogged instructional sessions for my church. I hadn’t eaten, so I absent-mindedly opened a can of SpaghettiOs and a disappointingly bland jar of all-natural peanut butter. I forgot water, so I asked my daughter to bring me some.

She did, but it was in her small Disney princess cup. She said, Here, you can use my cup. Her face was soft, her eyes full of love—and my heart instantly puddled on the floor at her feet, likely not washing them half as humbly as Christ would have.

Why is this significant?

Because that morning, I rose at 3:37 a.m. to drive my epileptic/autistic son to work and thought about how sacrificial of a mother I was.

At 7:48 a.m., I rose after only three hours of sleep to tell my 12-year-old daughter to have a good day at her new school, thinking about how sacrificial of a mother I was.

At 8:39 a.m., I ignored my 7-year-old daughter, who was gently knocking on my door so that I could sleep.

At 9:31 a.m., I sternly told her to stop excitedly bringing me school books to start our day because I hadn’t drunk enough coffee to de-grouch myself.

At 9:49 a.m., I again spoke to her harshly not to interrupt to ask when we were starting school while I was doing something important.

At 2:23 p.m., when I was still in a state of disgrace and yet to ask for her forgiveness, my daughter gave me her favorite cup. She could have filled any of my cups or mugs, but she brought me hers.

Romans 12:3 says, ‘For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…’ (NRSV)  

How we are brought low by children! I didn’t deserve the least of my daughter’s sacrifices; how much more the greatest?

It seems like our lives are counted down in hours and minutes—calendars full of obligations from birth until we die. Walk at this time, learn to ride a bicycle, complete elementary and secondary schooling, get a job, drive, get married or not, go to college or not, have children or not—and in between all that are the events which demand our attention and exhaust us.

We often find our worth in what we accomplish in our productiveness. This economic value for commodities has somehow become a standard for humans. But friends, God’s principle for human worth, both inherently and as co-creators in His kingdom, is much different than our society has come to believe.

I allowed this thinking to elevate my sense of accomplishment as a mother, a human person raising other human persons. And for what? Two seconds of ego?

In I Timothy 4:8, Paul writes, ‘For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come’ (ESV). We observe this principle when Martha complains to Jesus to tell Mary to help her, but Christ responds, ‘…there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her’ (NRSV). It’s not in our busyness where we find God’s approval, but in our commitment to Christ. What is ‘first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’ (James 3:17, NIV) is what exemplifies the wisdom of God.

There was no wisdom toward my youngest daughter or real sacrifice, even in my actions for my older children—why? Because my heart was full of mud. My right hand was high-fiving my left while my mouth was spitting muck and sludge at a very tiny angelic thing. Her cup was Christ’s, which ‘overflows’ (Psalm 23:5). Mine was one of the Pharisees’ cups, to which Christ says, ‘…you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence’ (Matthew 23.25, ISV).

The sacrifices God accepts are ‘…to do good and to share what you have’ (Hebrews 13:16, ESV), our bodies as ‘living sacrifices’ (Romans 12:1, ESV). And to not think more highly of ourselves than we should while doing anything for God or person—in fact, we probably shouldn’t think of ourselves at all.

It’s hard to extract ourselves from the workload of the world, but it is possible. Sometimes that means paring down activities and commitments, learning well the word no, and not sacrificing the wrong things—our health, mental well-being, our family, and most importantly, time in conversation with God.

Later, when I apologized to my daughter and explained that I didn’t start my day with her in the right place and she only deserves kindness, she said, ‘That’s all right, mama.’

*insert my tears here*

I’m not sure there is anything in the world more cleansing to the human spirit than mercy when we don’t deserve it.

Published by Jessica Calvert

Jessica Calvert is a fiction editor for The Black Fork Review, owner of Charm & Strange Press, wife of a weirdo, and mother of 6 minions. She holds a B.A. in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is currently an MFA in Creative Writing candidate at Ashland University. Jessica has work published in the Aurora and her mom’s refrigerator. Her chapbook of poems and short stories, Into a Dark Alley, was released in 2019.

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