There once was a handsome, overlooked shepherd boy called David.
Shepherds were hardly the centre of attention, or the most respectable people in society. You might remember that when the prophet Samuel asked David’s father, Jesse, if he could meet Jesse’s sons, he didn’t even bother to call David in from the fields. Shepherds were nobodies. Lonely, half-forgotten and looked down upon.
Can you sympathise?
Maybe you feel respected and admired as a mother. I hope you do. But I think it’s fair to say that in the UK at the moment, stay-at-home mothers are often unnoticed, ill-respected or ridiculed. Do you know that a housewife can’t countersign a passport application? How can she be trusted? We recently applied for car insurance, and putting me down as the main driver rather than my “professional” husband more than trebled the premium. Mothers are risky individuals. And how about the reactions at parties?
“So what do you do?”
“I’m a mum.”
So I for one can relate to David the shepherds (although I’m sure in many ways I have it much easier. I sleep under shelter, for one thing). Not just the social outcast side of things (I know it’s not that bad for us), but the mundane repetition of the job. I’m not sure what exactly shepherds did, but nobody is sure what exactly I do all day either.
Keep sheep/children alive; sleep; repeat.
So why bring this up? Am I about to tell you that one day, you too will be a warrior king? Sorry, no. Jesus Christ is the true David – he’s our King and Victorious Warrior – Hallelujah!
You’ll know the story of David and Goliath. Goliath is a big bad beast of a man who nobody dares fight – nobody except David. David goes to see King Saul and volunteers to take the giant on. Saul, naturally, has reservations. David is young and inexperienced – he’s not even a soldier.
But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’ 1 Samuel 17:34-37.
In the past I’ve always skimmed over this bit. I didn’t really want to hear about all the ways God had been preparing David for this moment. I wanted it to be all about the miracle of the stone in the sling. God didn’t need David to have practiced on wild animals – of course not. But the truth is, He did prepare David for this historical fight using his everyday battles. (A lady I met at a wedding recently pointed all of this out to me – she happened to be a mother of eight.*)
How irrelevant those tussles with bears and lions might have felt to David – he knew he was doing his job, but nobody was even there to see it. He was doing great things for his sheep – but his sheep would never thank him for it.
People might think all you do is watch daytime TV. In the news this week a male reporter claimed that being a stay-at-home parent was easy. People might not see the value in what you’re doing, or see the daily battles you face. But God is training and shaping us, and we might not realise it but he’s giving us remarkable skills.
On our church weekend away last year, several burly men spent about an hour trying to get a campfire started. Then a mum, originally from Eritrea, sauntered over and started it up in about three minutes.
I’m no good at campfires, but if someone in my church wants to know how to live off a tight budget then they can always ask me, since I’ve been feeding an ever-growing number of hungry mouths off one salary for about five years now.
If a role requires remaining calm under pressure, multi-tasking, patience with dawdlers or the ungrateful, planning ahead for the needs of others, doing something with one hand at double speed, prioritising, keeping things cheerful, encouraging, being hospitable, creativity with limited space etc. then perhaps the mothers in your church should be the first port of call. Of course, they might be a bit too busy at the moment, but in the future, when their children are a little more independent, then they might be the unexpected warriors your church family is looking for.
As mums we might not enjoy being isolated and repeating the same mundane tasks day after day, but let’s be encouraged that the Lord is teaching us many useful skills. These very skills enable us to keep serving the Lord and his people, and being a blessing to our families and church families. Who knows how he might use these skills in us in the future, for his glory? Thanks be to God for today’s battles, which may just give us the training we need for tomorrow.
*With special thanks to Caroline Hubert
Related posts: The God of Small Things
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