Since becoming a mom, I always feel speechless when people ask me how my week was. I give them a blank stare while I try to think about it. I’m always grasping for something that happened that was a big deal, or an event, or something with some element of excitement to it. Sometimes I do have something exciting to share (or at least my mommy mundane version of exciting—got a toddler potty-trained, anyone?), but most of the time I don’t even remember what happened in the last week, because it’s so muddled up with the ordinary busyness of motherhood.
Monotony can be disheartening. There are times when I have to put on my cap of duty and just get the bathroom cleaned. Or when I’m tired of taking my boys to the same places to play over and over again. Sometimes it feels as if I just planned my meals yesterday and now I already have to think about what we’ll eat this week, and then shop for it all. Again.
I spend the majority of my time taking care of my family and my home. I tell my boys to stop fighting, and 15 minutes later I’m saying it again. I begin the evening’s meal preparation, even though I just put away dishes from our previous meal. Care-taking contains a litany of repetitive tasks: changing diapers, infant feedings, nap schedules (if you have one), getting children out the door in time for school, homework, baths, and bedtime routines. Every day is fundamentally the same.
When it comes to our everyday tasks, life can feel very ordinary; not so special or exciting. We live in a culture that values, and lives for, the big and exciting things of life: such as new babies, weddings, family vacations, or a big birthday party. These are the moments captured on Instagram.
Repetition built into creation
Repetition has a way of blurring our days together. It can make everything feel colorless and faded, and as if those bigger exciting moments are the only splashes of color. But what if we’re underestimating these ordinary days and repetitive tasks? What if we’re missing something? The mundane moments of motherhood are difficult, but the mundane beauties can be missed: cuddling on the couch to read a book together, having heart-to-heart talks, spotting an act of kindness between siblings, praying together, and talking about Jesus and the gospel. These are all sweet parts of this repetition. These are ordinary moments for eternity.
We need to discover how to spot these daily beauties and cherish them—because God created them. He made repetition.
Think about our world for a moment. Every day the sun rises and sets; every day the moon waxes or wanes; and every day these acts praise their Creator. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton mentions how the repetition of the sun’s rising might not be due to a lifelessness, but due to a rush of life. Chesterton compares the repetition found in nature to a child’s enjoyment in repeating the same games and songs. He says this is because children have “fierce and free spirits”; their joy in repetition is due to excess of life, not absence.
Chesterton then says,
“For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy . . . . The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”1G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Moody Publishers, 2009), p 92
The act of repetition can be a thing of beauty all by itself. For example, we’re called to repeat the Lord’s Supper as a church body (1 Cor. 11:23-25), and as we repeat this act it becomes imprinted upon us—informing us about Christ and about ourselves. We’re teaching ourselves the gospel over and over. As we know from observing our children, things must be repeated if they are to be learned. So, we must come again and again to the communion table—and to worship, prayer, and God’s Word—if we are to become more like Jesus.
Someday we’ll be more fully like God and no longer grow tired of repetition. We will have the “eternal appetite of infancy,” as Chesterton expressed, and will exult in the joyful monotony of worship. We’ll cry, “Encore!” every time we worship the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins. Until then, we are given tastes of this beauty here on earth as we repeat our tasks of mothering.
The little things add up to big things
It’s the little things we are called to. The day in and day out. The minute by minute. These little moments that can feel so monotonous have the power to shape you and your children. This poem by Julie A.F. Carney called Little Things, that I’ve read with my own children, is a great reminder of this:
Little drops of waters,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.
Thus the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.2Gyo Fujikawa, A Child’s Book of Poems (Sterling Children’s Books, 2007), p 89.
Just as many tiny droplets make up one vast ocean, so all of our days are made up of tiny moments. We don’t always see the bigger picture when we’re teaching our children a Bible verse, or probing their hearts, or spending time with them. Capturing the little things is what motherhood is about. When we train our children (talk to them, ask probing questions, and then pray with them)—or when we instruct them in God’s Word and help them apply it to the everyday struggles in their lives—then we are capturing the little things that will add up to big things. This is the glory found in the mundane. These are the most important times. May we be ever mindful of the Spirit’s work in these seemingly insignificant moments.
When we read the Bible, we see the Holy Spirit move in miraculous and seemingly impossible ways. His ways seem so big and exciting. But for us today, the majority of the time, we will see the Holy Spirit work in little things. He works on us and our children moment by moment, day by day, little by little. He is changing us one step at a time. He is working through our repetitive tasks to change our hearts and the hearts of our children. He is working through every Bible verse, every moment of instruction, every prayer, every conversation. He works through our actions of serving care and nurturing kindness (even in the times when our heart attitude doesn’t match our actions).
Feeding your child when they are hungry, changing a dirty diaper, bathing your child, and scrubbing the dishes all show your child Christlike service. You are their first glimpses of a Savior. But we don’t always see it until those little workings of the Spirit bear fruit and flower into something bigger (Gal. 5:22-23). We have to have faith in the Spirit’s work when we can’t see the big picture in the ordinary moments of motherhood. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help, so we can remain steadfast and faithful in the mundane tasks before us everyday.
This is an extract from The End of Me by Liz Wann, which helps moms find resurrection life in the daily sacrifices of motherhood. This short, easy-to-read book encourages mothers to depend on Christ when they reach their limit. The book will be available in March 2021 on The Good Book Company website, Amazon, and wherever books are sold.