Do not let anyone treat you as if you are unimportant because you are young. Instead, be an example to the believers with your words, your actions, your love, your faith, and your pure life. [1 Timothy 4:12 (NCV)]
When a service group recently asked a young friend if she would serve on their board of directors, her response was that she’s not qualified since she’s “just a mother.” Her response reminded me of when I once thought of myself as “just” a mother. Many years ago, long before Facebook or LinkedIn, I received a questionnaire prepared by my high school’s reunion committee. Along with personal questions like marital status, it asked about my education, jobs, achievements, and awards. Once returned, the responses were Xeroxed, bound, and returned to us prior to our 25th reunion.
When I received the book and read about my old classmates, I felt like the greatest underachiever in the world. I’d attended a private arts academy and my class was filled with bright, talented, and intense over-achievers (except, apparently, for me). Some classmates played in well-known orchestras or had become celebrated soloists but I played piano for children’s Sunday school, accompanied the kid’s choir, and strummed the autoharp at sing-a-longs around the campfire. One classmate composed symphonies played by major orchestras while I’d written several unmemorable songs for Girl Scout camp. Several classmates had acted on Broadway, one had a featured role on a popular sit-com, and another had been nominated for an Academy Award. Rather than Broadway, I did readings at church, moderated political debates at candidate nights, and read bed-time stories to the kids. Fellow grads danced with the ABT and Twyla Tharp while I danced the hokey-pokey with my Brownie troop. Several alumni had become physicians but my medical skill was limited to removing splinters, putting on Band-Aids, and kissing “ouchies”. A few classmates had their PhDs and taught at prestigious universities but, rather than lecturing at university, I helped kids with homework, volunteered at the school, and became adept at science fair projects. Fellow alums had published books while I wrote the local League of Women Voters’ newsletter and did publicity for a local art fair. Several classmates had traveled the globe and lived in exotic locations but I lived in a small town and traveled the county ferrying kids to activities or meals to the homebound. One person had his art work displayed in major museums and another rescued people from cults. I was skilled with Play-Doh and crayons and the only things I liberated were the fireflies caught on summer nights. In short, I was “just” a mother.
After reading everyone’s accomplishments, I was embarrassed by what I’d written because my life seemed so mundane in comparison to theirs. It’s not that I didn’t like my life—I loved it! I just thought I should have done something more impressive in 25 years. Imagine my surprise when, at the reunion, one of my over-achieving classmates greeted me with the comment that he loved reading my profile. “I’m just a mom and my life is so ordinary,” I protested. “But, you’re so happy!” he responded. His words gave me pause and I looked again at my reunion booklet. I wrote of faith; others wrote of fame. I wrote of giving; others wrote of getting. I wrote of family; others wrote of colleagues. I wrote of church and service; others wrote of accomplishments and honors. Indeed, I was happy and content with my life as “just” a mother!
God gave missions of great consequence to people like Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Jeremiah, Gideon, Peter, and Paul but few of us will ever be asked to do anything as far-reaching as were they. That our achievements won’t be recorded in history, our names won’t be listed in a Hall of Fame, and no awards grace our shelves, does not negate our value. That most of us live in obscurity does not mean our lives are insignificant or unimportant.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy not to let anyone disregard him just because he was young. Like Timothy, we must never allow anyone (not even ourselves) to think less of us because we are “just” a youth or senior, mother or father, handyman, secretary, maid, or anything else. We are children of God and followers of Jesus! Like Timothy, our words, actions, love, faith, and morality are to serve as examples in daily, practical, and relational ways. Let us look forward to the day we hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” After all, His opinion is the only one that matters!
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”. [Erma Bombeck]