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Blog

WHEN WORK
FEELS
FRUITLESS

By: Leah Hollingsworth

My primary work is as a mother. I have several advanced degrees and I spend hours sitting on the floor, wiping runny noses, or standing in the kitchen, washing dishes. Many days, it seems like everything that I do backfires. It is easy to feel like what I’m doing is a waste of my time and education. I know that raising kids is about delayed gratification – after all, “your works will praise you at the gates” – but I could use a little more affirmation along the way. The work of being a full-time mom is hard, grueling work.

It’s not unusual for work to feel this way.

Work began as a good thing – in the perfect world and perfect garden, God gave the perfect man and perfect woman work to do. He created work as a good thing. And then sin happened, and work turned sour.

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” -Genesis 3: 16-19

The new norm for work now includes frustration, delayed rewards, periods of fruitlessness. We will always dream bigger than our achievements. We will always be able to envision something better than what we are able to do.

However. God still created us for work, and gave us a desire and a need for work. He gave us each work to do. It may be different from the work we dream of – but He has given all of us work to do.

Being a mom is deeply humbling work. In my previous job, I was very attached to my title and to prestigious name of the organization that I worked for. I was also very attached to the work itself, to my work community, and to my financial compensation. These things gave me a sense of purpose and a strong sense of identity. I felt well-used, successful, and was proud of what I did. Being a mom has broken me of my previous work idolatry.

There are many times, being a mom, when I don’t feel successful. I certainly don’t work for a prestigious organization. I receive no monetary compensation. I don’t have any of the things that I used to rely on to help me feel successful or proud. Some days, my son hates the food I cook.

But because God made me a mother, I have been called to be a mother. This is the work He’s put before me. I work hard to shape the hearts of my children. What could be more important than that? I show them God’s love and forgiveness and grace and mercy up close (often as a result of my own failures). I know this is important work, even if I don’t have a title or, sometimes, the respect to go along with it.

I realize now that it’s okay to be frustrated in my work. This frustration is not an indicator that it’s not the “right” work for me; it’s a result of God’s curse upon and promise about work.

It’s easy to think of “work” in the ways our society does – something only related to money, status, stability. God-given work is bigger. God has not given me the status that I once hoped for, but He has given me children, and entrusted me with the job of raising them in the way they should go. I must be obedient to His call. This is the work God has given me now.

One day, God will make all things new – including my work. He will show me, in the new heavens and the new earth, that the accomplishments I’ve achieved and dreamed of are nothing compared to the majesty of what He has planned. He promises that work will be hard – but that’s not His only promise. He will never leave or forsake us. He is close to the brokenhearted. He will bind up all our wounds. He will provide exactly what we really need. He will bear our burdens. And He gives us his peace.

You can read more from Leah Hollingsworth at her blog, leahswannhollingsworth.com/