When Success Means Sacrifice

Janel and Mom

It was past eleven this past Monday evening; my children’s fingers curled limply around the edges of their mattresses, and my husband contentedly read in our bedroom.

But my legs were crossed Indian-style on our thinning rug in the living room, the glow of a screen reflecting on my face: time to talk with my Mom, overseas in America. My four sisters and I are flung onto four separate continents around the earth’s axis.

Compared to missionaries in the past, I’ve got a pretty cushy gig. My kids giggle with their grandparents on FaceTime, parading across their latest Lego creations. I own a microwave. Kampala imports Oreos. This is not a bad deal. But you know, there is only one mom. Did I hear a catch in her voice, or was that simply the iffy wi-fi reception? “I’m so glad you called,” she said, her tone a little throatier than usual. “I was just really missing you.”

I miss you, too, Mom.

It’s interesting to me that the reward for my mom’s exceptional mothering—which I say with much humility, knowing that my perspective is limited, knowing there are those whose relationships with their parents or children are markedly painful, despite every effort—are these years of grief, where she waves to her wiggly grandkids through a screen. At Christmas, our stockings often hang slack on her mantel. Her love is physically present mostly through care packages and envelopes with promising-looking bulges.

Her willing, sacrificial grief carries nuances of the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 as they said farewell to Paul for the last time, perhaps peering at his ship until it dissolved in the horizon. Often the gospel demands of us that which is most precious, in profound hope—and still, in tears.

With Mother’s Day this weekend, I am reminded by my mom’s quiet, purposeful life that our homes function as launch pads for the gospel. Deuteronomy 6 says of the godly home, in effect, that we are fed our diet of the Word there, applying its nutrition to all areas of life. We are taught not only to walk but to run, both physically and spiritually. Home can be a place where our lives are permanently infused with love for God.

And it’s not just the job of moms. Paul demonstrates with his own house arrest in Acts 28 that our homes can be a hotbed of evangelism and discipleship. Like any resource, our homes aren’t our own, but God’s.

Truth is, sometimes solid discipleship does mean that our disciples do, and should, go and make more—far away from us. Wonderful fathers and mothers and youth leaders and teachers and mentors everywhere realize that the gift of triumph mingles with the sorrow of separation in this world.

Success for my mom, for now—for all of my family—is sweet with a touch of bitter. I trust that God will restore even this somehow: Perhaps we’ll get to be next-door neighbors for eternity. Perhaps He will personally present her with stuffed stockings at Heaven’s Christmas celebration.

But for now, I am thankful for a mother who is content to offer God her grief, a token of her success because of God’s graciousness. And I am not quite content, but satisfied, to love her from this side of the world, often in electronic forms—until I can step into her outspread arms again.

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  1. Pingback: A “Someday” in Autumn | a generous grace

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