Around this time of year, my social media feed is filled with graduation photos, award ceremonies, and other posts from proud parents. I have to admit that I was not a terribly humble kid in primary and secondary school, and awards day was one of my favorite days out of the year. Schools create awards for everything. You didn’t miss a day of class—award. You ran one time around a track—award. You read a book or two—award. I remember standing there beaming (not sure if it was my pride, my braces, or my sparkly rainbow sweater) as the principal announced certificate after certificate for that year. Today, I’m sure that those piles of certificates are keeping the dust and spiders company in my parents’ basement. Yet on that day, those awards meant so much to me, because it recognized all the little things I had done throughout the year.
This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it was easy for me to be tempted to want a similar ceremony. A certificate for approximately five hundred loads of dishes done, two hundred loads of laundry folded, and one thousand meals prepared. A certificate for not grumbling when I picked rice up again off the floor. A certificate for the fastest I rushed a toddler to the toilet when she told me she needed to go “poo poo.” I guess someone decided to save a tree, though, for a pile of cardstock awards is nowhere to be found.
Sometimes when changing a diaper for the tenth time that day, I can ask the question of what’s the point of all those daily mundane tasks. I can believe that God has gifted me with certain talents and a desire to do “great things,” but I feel behind as I look at other women (on Instagram, in my church, etc.) who are admired for doing faithful tasks that I can’t do right now in my season of life. I see other women a few years ahead and wonder if I’m already behind in doing something spiritually amazing, something worthy of more Instagram followers. Then I look at the work in my hands today and wonder if it even matters.
Recently, as I was reading through Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Faith” chapter, I wondered when I would get my “faithful” moment. I wondered if I would ever get to do something “great” for God. But as I read, I realized that these heroes did not wake up one day to faithfulness, but they had practiced daily faithfulness in the mundane throughout their lives.
Abel regularly offered right sacrifices to God before he ever had to stand up to his angry brother (Hebrews 11:4). While the end of Enoch’s life was extraordinary, we know nothing of what he did other than faithfully walking with the Lord (11:5). Moses was a faithful shepherd among a pagan people when God appear to him (11:24-27). Gideon was faithfully thrashing wheat in spite of Midian oppression when the angel of the Lord found him, David was tending his father’s sheep, and Samuel was serving God’s priests in the temple (11:32). Great faithfulness didn’t develop overnight; it was a lifelong process.
The writer of Hebrews then inspires his fellow believers to follow the example of these “witnesses” and run the race before us (12:1-2). We may watch a race during the Olympics that lasts a few seconds up to a few hours, but that’s not the race we are called to run. We run a race that lasts a lifetime. The men and women in Hebrews 11 did not receive the full reward for their faithful lives until they stood before God (11:39-40). While I’m selfishly looking for quick glory, the writer of Hebrews is calling me to a life of self-forgetful, faithful devotion to God.
Artist and author Ruth Chou Simons challenged the self-centered longings of my heart when she said, “The Lord does more in the hidden years than he does when you have a big stage. Love the hidden years. Love the years that you’re not sure what you’re learning those things for. Rather than thinking what you’re going to do for God, delight in knowing him and be so grateful he’s pursuing you.” Today, God is preparing me for what he will call me to do tomorrow, but if I’m so caught up in tomorrow’s calling (and glory), I will miss out on the training of faithfulness today. Every dish, every email, every unseen task—they are all preparing me for work God has called me to do in the future.
John Ortberg says it this way in his book Soul Keeping, “When the soul is with God, it doesn’t matter if you are a dishwasher or a president. The soul thrives not through our accomplishments but through simply being with God.” It means that the worthiness of our actions is not measured by outward accolades but by whether we are doing it for the glory of God.
The apostle Paul encouraged servants that they could be at work for God even in their daily mundane tasks, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23). The encouragement for these servants is not that one day they will be recognized by man for their incredible service to their masters. No, the reward is the inheritance of every believer, an eternity with God himself. In God’s kingdom, the little things matter.
In a little over a year, I will turn thirty years old. I can already feel the deadline breathing down my neck—the world telling me that I should have a bucket list completed my last night as a twenty-nine-year-old. But, if God allows, I will have more life past my thirtieth birthday. What I did in my twenty-ninth year, God will use in my thirtieth. My daily faithfulness as a thirty-year-old will be prepare me for faithfulness when I’m forty or fifty. Instead of looking at what I hope God will do in my life in ten years, I will look for ways I can be faithful to him in the next ten minutes.
For now, I will lay aside every weight—including the expectations of greatness by thirty the world puts upon me and I put upon myself—that burdens me as I’m folding laundry, balancing a budget, or changing diapers. As I run my daily race, I will look up from the hamper, computer, and changing table and look to Christ, the founder and perfecter of my faith. If Christ washed his disciples’ feet, I can wash my husband’s dirty laundry. If Christ could hold children when he was exhausted, I can rock my newborn to sleep in the early morning. He did it all for the joy that was set before him, and he is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. I, too, can take joy in living daily faithfulness, looking forward to the promise of an eternity with him.