Paying In Quarters
When I was in college, I wanted to give my life to the Lord, but I didn’t really know what that meant. It sounded dramatic and bold in my fiery youthful conviction. I was filled with zeal from short-term missions trips, my mind full of the writings of Jim Elliot and Amy Carmichael; missionaries that spoke of Calvary-love and went to far-off lands to preach the gospel.
I still want to live for Christ, but now I’m sitting here in my sweat pants in my suburban house, almost thirty years old, and my youngest child is trying to climb up my leg as I write. There are dishes in the sink and dinner that needs to be made. The other two toddlers are simultaneously telling me different stories and I’ve had to restart this sentence about three times and wipe all their noses. By general standards I have done nothing radical today except keep three little humans alive. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still giving my life to the Lord. Is it supposed to look like this?
A few days ago we celebrated Christmas and I was struck anew by the thought of incarnation love; what I’m going to call Bethlehem-love. Why didn’t Jesus just arrive on earth as an adult and get straight to the rescuing part of his mission on Calvary? Why all the slow mundane days between the stable and the cross? Why dwell in uncomfortable circumstances with imperfect people?
Motherhood, in fact most of discipleship in general probably looks a whole lot more like Bethlehem-love than Calvary-love on a daily basis. Unassuming and unnoticed – we aren’t giving all of our lives over in one dramatic act – we are paying the promise in pennies, in quarters, moment by moment. We are dying little deaths by living day after day in love with the people we rub shoulders with.
Someone once observed “We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying in on the table. ‘Here’s my life Lord, I’m giving it all!’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying ‘Get lost’. Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glamorous. It’s done in all those little acts of denying self for Jesus’ sake, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.” (Fred Craddock, in Leadership [Fall, 1984], p.47).
I don’t know what God’s going to ask of me each day. Maybe I will be asked to write the whole check at once tomorrow– it’s a sobering thought. But probably in the season of motherhood, I’ll be asked to love my family and others in little practical ways and “pay in quarters”. Maybe for you this Bethlehem-love looks like playing with your toddler when you’d rather accomplish something on your to-do list. Maybe it’s staying overnight on a pull-out couch so that you can have time with extended family over the holidays. Maybe it looks like something else in your life where you love quietly and humbly. It’s inviting people into your mess and coming down into theirs because you value dwelling with them above all else – above your own pride and desire to keep up appearances. Above ease and convenience.
It is perhaps the hardest love to quantify because it goes unseen and unnoticed. No one applauds. You yourself barely count it sometimes. It comes quiet, like a baby laid on straw. But it grows, oh how it grows – those quarters add up over time. And it will change the world. I can’t help but marvel that our Savior wished to be known as Immanuel – God with us. He didn’t just die for us, although that in itself would have been more than we deserve, but he lived for us. Dwelt with us.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
So maybe in all this nose-wiping and lego-playing and lunch-making we as moms are reflecting the Bethlehem-love of the one who was born and lived in humble circumstances with broken people. And maybe being radically given over for Christ has a whole lot more to do with your attitude than your circumstances. He is in this as much as any mission field. May reflecting on his incarnation give you confidence to approach the throne of grace as you live for him this new year – in radically unglamorous ways, one quarter at a time.
By Amy Hughes
For more about Amy see her bio on the "About Us" page.