by Allison Martin
Toddlers can be really humbling. If you’ve ever been around one, you probably know what I mean. For example, I never realized that I always use the same wording when breaking not-so-great news to my husband. That is, until my little girl began starting her sentences with, “Umm, so…” It’s starting to happen all the time. My most used phrases, intentionally or not, are beginning to come out of her little mouth. So I shouldn’t have been too surprised when she picked up a new one.
I was cleaning the bathroom when Reagan burst in, jingling my keys. She beamed and held them up to me, and said, “Mama needs this!” A few minutes later, she returned proudly bearing my toothbrush, which I’m almost sure had been in her mouth. “Mama needs this!” Finally she happened upon a little box of safety pins, which she knew she shouldn’t have and promptly brought to me. “Mama needs this.” I started paying more attention, and realized I actually did say that more than I thought I did. Any time I suspected she might carry something important off, never to be seen again, I would point to it and say, “Mama needs this.” It was an unspoken boundary line. Those words elevated an object in priority. They separated what could be played with, and what was set apart. Because if Mama needed it, it was valuable. Those important things merited more protection, more watchfulness, and more intentionality. Lately, God is using my instructions for my daughter to preach to me. I hear those words replayed over and over. I felt them as I held my Bible this morning, letting the Word wash over me in the one quiet hour before the day full of crazy begins. Mama needs this. I heard them as we sat at a picnic table eating youth camp concession food. We swatted at mosquitos and laughed at each other’s stories like the family of God that we are. Mama needs this. They came to me with a broom in my hand, as our church poured itself into preparing for youth camp. That day, ministry was love with work clothes on. We served because Jesus did, and though it’s rarely glamorous, it is essential. Mama needs this. They convicted me as I stood in an altar service wrestling my two year old. The presence of God calmed my racing thoughts and silenced my fears, just as it has at times that I stood there alone. Mama needs this. I was reminded of them when I tried to be an encouragement to my friend, and then again as I received encouragement back. Because the balance God had in mind was that we would build up our friends, and open up enough to let them build us too. Mama needs this. I’m glad my little girl sees the priority I place on my keys and my toothbrush. Hopefully, that will keep them from being swept aside and misplaced. But I want her to look at my life and see even more valuable priorities to be guarded. I know life gets crazy, and obligations pull at us from a hundred different directions. But there are some treasures that we can’t afford to let get mixed in with all the nonessentials that so quickly clutter life up. Wants and wishes and hopes are all fine, but they are not what I need. And what I need can never be sacrificed for what I want. I really want an extra hour of sleep. But I need a consistent prayer life to live in victory.
I want to hide myself away when I’ve been hurt or disappointed by a sister in Christ. But I need the accountability and strength that comes with the Family.
I want things to be all about me, so I can have affirmation and pats on the back. But I need to serve as Jesus did, reaching down to the lowest without expecting anything in return.
Sometimes I want to go to the nursery and just let my daughter run her energy out the entire altar service. But I need the rain of the Holy Ghost to revive what is dry and dying inside of me.
My daughter knows what I think I need. I hope my life convinces my her that the presence of God is not optional. Isolation is not God’s design, and the family of God needs me as much as I need them. Ministry is not an obligation, but a joy. It is not about names or titles or positions, but about loving people in ways that they can see and touch and feel. God’s voice dealing with my heart is not a box to check off on Sundays, but the daily strength to be who I’m called to be. I am now more convinced than ever: the most familiar people in your circle know what matters to you, even if you don’t. They know what your priorities are, even if you’ve been fooling yourself. When people see our response to a move of God, or an opportunity to serve, or our commitment to God’s house… What do they think? I hope they look at me and think, “Wow. She isn’t just saying that this matters to her. She really needs this.” What would the people in your circle say? Mama needs this. Grandma needs this. My Christian school teacher needs this. My godly coworker needs this. My Christian friend needs this. And here’s why this matters: someday, my little girl and all the people looking up to you will come to their own crossroad of decision. And just maybe, they’ll remember how much you needed all those priorities you guarded. And maybe they’ll think, “If she needed that so much… maybe I do too.”