Sacrifice, Selfishness and Servanthood--WONDERMOM UNCAPED
By: Mary Elder-Criss
Pulling up in my driveway after nine hours spent working at Mom's house, I heave a heavy sigh of weariness. I turn off the ignition, and just sit for a moment, almost reluctant to leave the relative safety of my car for the disaster I know awaits me within.
As I jiggle the stubborn key in the lock in an attempt to open the front door, my arms overloaded with dirty laundry, I almost cry in exasperation. My frustrations are already close to overwhelming me, and I am on the verge of entering the “Complaint Zone” three minutes after arriving home.
“Good grief. How many times have I asked your father to fix the lock on this door, or have me a new key made?” I grumble to the girls. Growling in frustration, I drop the laundry at my feet, and use one hand to hold the knob, while I force the key into the hole, and give it a savage twist.
“You would think THAT wouldn’t be too much to ask!” I continue my tirade, as I wrench the keys back loose. Throwing them in the direction of the entry table, I stomp into the house, and almost fall over our Jack Russell Terrier, who was making a beeline for the open door to relieve herself. Slamming the door shut behind her, I belatedly remember the bags left on the porch.
“Grrrrr. I don’t suppose one of you could have gotten those, could you?” I snap in the general direction of the hastily retreating backs of my daughters. Jerking the door back open to retrieve the offending bags, I mutter under my breath, and head to the kitchen, to survey the mess left behind early this morning.
“Now I have all my work to complete, as well,” I sigh wearily. Slumping at the bar, I eye the stack of mail that has been awaiting my attention for three days. Thumbing through the pile, I am greeted by bills, bills, and more bills, with two or three credit card offers thrown in for good measure.
“Yeah, I need another one of those, like I need a lobotomy, so I can have even more bills to pay,” I murmur, and shove the mail aside. “I’ll deal with THAT later,” I decide. As I pick up the laundry and head down the hall to begin the first load, the phone rings.
“One of you girls wanna get that for me?” I yell from the laundry room.
Listening as the shrill ring goes unanswered, one, two, three times, I snap, “Or NOT?”
Storming back up the hall, I yank the cordless from the receiver, and bark a less than welcoming “Hello” into the headset.
“Hey good-looking,” my husband’s voice greets me on the other end. “What’s going on?”
“Hey, yourself,” I reply, unenthusiastically.
“What are you up to?” he questions.
“Oh, ‘bout three feet or more, I reckon,” was my smart response.
“Huh? What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks.
Sighing, I respond, “I’m up to about three feet in dirt, and laundry, Jerry. Did you want something?”
“Oh, I was just calling to tell you it looks like I am going to get off on time this evening, is all. Thought I might take Erin fishing for awhile.”
Deep silence on my side meets this proclamation.
“Yeah?” I answer shortly.
“Just wondered what happened to you for a minute there. Did you hear what I said about fishing?”
“Yeah, I heard you, Jerry,” I respond curtly.
“Uh-oh, I know that tone. Doesn’t sound like you’re too crazy ‘bout that idea.”
“Well, I don’t know why I wouldn’t be,” I sarcastically answer. “I mean, after all, it’s not like I could use any assistance around here, or anything. Just because I have spent nine hours at Mom’s house yesterday and today, cooking and cleaning, answering their phone, while attempting to teach the kids, and am up to my neck in work here, doesn’t mean I would want you to stay home and help me or anything like that. I’m fine, really. You go fishing with Erin like you did just two days ago, and I’ll stay here and work for the next six hours, catching up on laundry, writing the bills, cooking supper, vacuuming, and any thing else that might need attending. As far as finding time to write? Well, I don’t need to do that this week, either. Just because I’ve had several freelance opportunities lately that I’ve had to turn down because I’m too flipping busy doing everything for everyone else isn’t important. It’ll be fine. Really.”
As my tirade wound down into deep breathing on both sides of the phone line, mine in anger, his in shock, I tap my foot impatiently and wait for him to respond. Not receiving any, I interrupt the void.
“Listen, Jerry, I have to go. I have to get the laundry started so I can figure out what to cook for supper. You want to take Erin fishing, take her fishing. Whatever. I’ll see you when you get home, okay?”
“Mary, listen, I know you’re tired, but….
“But nothing, Jerry. Gosh, I just get so tired of everyone thinking that I’m some sort of Super Woman or something. I’m one person. Just one. Yet, I’m carrying the workload of about six. Surely you can understand that it irritates the heck out of me, facing all this work to be done around here, after already putting in a full day doing the same thing somewhere else, and then hear about your plans for relaxation and fun. If you can’t, well then, I’m sorry. When was the last time I was able to go do something fun? Unless you consider cooking, cleaning, and running errands a good time? I have just had it. But do what you have to do. Right now, I HAVE to go do this laundry.”
Hanging up the phone, I storm back down the hall to the waiting mountain of dirty clothes. Sorting them, I continue my one-sided conversation with myself.
“I’m telling you the truth. The NERVE of some people. Whatever. Go fishing, see if I care. I’ll just do all the work, as usual. Not like I need any help or anything. Why would I need any help? I’m WONDERMOM!! Just give me my cape, and Lycra tights and I can conquer the world’s dirty laundry and messy houses in one single bound! It won’t be a pretty sight, but I can do it!”
“Mom?” my nine-year-old questioned from the hallway, bringing my outburst to a temporary halt.
“Yes, Erin?” I question impatiently. “What is it? I’m busy here.”
“I don’t have to go fishing with Dad. It’s not important. Is there anything I can help you with, instead?”
“You could clean your room for starters, Erin. It’s pretty disgusting,” I snap in her direction.
“Okay,” she mumbles quietly, and turns toward her room.
Turning back to the task at hand, I attempt to ignore the hurt look on her face, and the still small voice that spoke inside.
“You didn’t really have to snap at her, you know, Mary. She was offering to sacrifice her trip with her father to help you out.”
“Yeah, well,” I mutter, and re-embrace my ill thoughts. “So, she should be offering to sacrifice that trip. They live here too, nothing wrong with them helping clean the doggoned place, is there?”
A silence deep with unspoken words of correction hovers.
Ignoring it, I finish loading the machine, and head back up the hall to find my thirteen- year-old sweeping the kitchen floor.
“What are you doing, Emily?” I question.
“Just thought I’d help you clean the kitchen, Mom,” she answers quietly.
Looking at the clock, I tell her, “Well, if you want to go to Youth Group tonight, you better be heading for the shower. You have just enough time to start getting ready while I cook dinner.”
“I’m not going tonight, Mom,” she murmurs.
“Why not?” I ask in surprise. Emily loves the Thursday night meetings, and rarely misses one if she can help it. “Don’t you feel well?”
“No, I’m fine. It’s just that I heard you talking to Daddy, and figured you could use my help more, Mom.”
“Well, it WOULDN’T be such a bad….” I began, then clamped my lips shut. There was that still small voice again, speaking.
“She’s offering to sacrifice something that means a lot to her, too, Mary, for your sake, and she’s doing it unasked, and doing it gladly. Now it’s up to you how you are going to receive it.”
Feeling my stomach drop sickeningly, I consider the sacrifices my two daughters have just made, and the spirit in which they made them. I then shamefully consider the spirit in which I have been serving, and I find to my disgrace, that there was room for much improvement.
I had been called to a season of servanthood, a time of sacrifice, and although I had been performing that ministry more than adequately for my Mom and Dad after Mom’s recent surgery, I had sadly neglected my own family. I had gone from being a dutiful daughter, happily giving of my time and myself, to my parents, to a shrewish wife and mother, complaining bitterly about the lack of assistance I was receiving around my own house. My husband and children were paying for the same service I was offering freely to my parents at an extremely high price.
I had complained over never having any time to write, but to be an effective minister of the Word, I must first be living the Word EFFECTIVELY. I had strayed off the trail of Servanthood onto the path of selfishness, and it was an ugly place to be, and not a spot where I wanted to take up permanent residence.
Murmuring a quick but heartfelt apology to the Lord, I thank Him for the attitude check, and call the girls to me.
“Listen, guys, I’m sorry for being such a shrew. I'm calling Dad and apologizing to him for being such a grouch on the phone, too. The house can wait. Emily, look up the number for Sambino’s Pizza, we are ordering out. Erin, since you didn’t get to go fishing with Daddy, how about he takes you to the park for an hour to play, instead? Oh, and get your Dad to pick up that new Scooby Doo movie on the way home, okay? Emily, since you are missing Youth Group tonight, how about I pop a pan of brownies in the oven, and we’ll all chill out in front of the TV and watch it together when your dad and sister get home. That sound okay with everybody?”
Looking at each other incredulously, I could almost hear the wheels turning inside their heads.
“Okaaaay…what happened to her? Ten minutes ago, she was muttering about capes and tights, and now she is offering us pizza, movies, and brownies? She’s quite obviously flipped her wig. But, hey…works for us.”
“What about the housework, Mom?” Emily carefully inquires, afraid she might start me off on another tangent by even mentioning it.
“I’ll finish Mom’s laundry and the rest of it be hanged,” I respond in cheerful abandon. “It’s not like it won’t be here waiting for us tomorrow. Throwing a quick glance heavenward, and hanging up my cape, I grin broadly. “That’s one sacrifice I’m only too happy to make, Lord!”
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