I want to introduce you to Erin Hawley, Focus on the Family’s newest author. Erin is a wife, mother to two young boys and also a practicing lawyer and professor of law. This following excerpt comes from her wonderful new book, Living Beloved: Lessons from My Little One About the Heart of God.
If you think of someone who needs this does of perspective, please consider passing it along. I’d also like to encourage you to pick up a copy of her book in our store – and let me know how this message resonate with you by leaving your feedback in the comments section below.
Praising God with Our Daily Work
With characteristic zest, children show us what it looks like to live a life of praise. They show us how to praise God with our every action. I think of my boys somersaulting down bounce house slides or the stairs in our house (seriously?). Somehow, the sheer terror of it all results in breathless delight. Children push their bodies to the limits. They make full use of their capacities, talents, and gifts; they revel in their ability, even if these things are difficult, to run and to dance.
By living the lives they’ve been given, by embracing their design and gifts, my boys help me to understand more fully the command of Romans 12:1: to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Romans 12 tells us that true worship and praise is the devotion of our entire lives to God. As The Message puts it, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1). Children show us how to praise by their exuberant embrace of every undertaking—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
A special word here for moms. No task is insignificant. The work that God has given you to do today—nursing your baby, changing diapers, wiping noses and bottoms, cleaning up messes, sweeping the kitchen floor for the umpteenth time—it is valuable. The tasks that can seem mundane and monotonous may be the very servantlike ones that the God Most High values most.
As a mom, it can feel as if so much of what you do year-in and year-out goes unseen. It can feel as if no one notices how many diapers you have changed today or how many hours of sleep you have sacrificed. But the God who knows when every sparrow falls counts every minute of sleep you have gone without, every time you’ve eaten standing up, every time you’ve been fragile with exhaustion.
You are seen, dear one. And the work you are doing today has immense value.
Under the new covenant, we no longer bring sacrifices to the altar, but our lives become the sacrifice. John Piper writes, “It is your living that is the act of worship.” This understanding of worship and praise transforms the way we see our lives and our work. It isn’t just those in full-time ministry who are doing God’s work but every one of us in our ordinary lives. When the whole of our lives is offered to God, we can worship Him and bring Him glory through our every action.
The famous reformer Martin Luther gave dignity to secular work. He rejected the view that religious activities were the most worshipful but rather argued that it’s “a good work when a man works at his trade, walks, stands, eats, drinks, sleeps, and does all kinds of works for the nourishment of his body or for the common welfare.” In contrast to those who would define religious good works narrowly—praying, fasting, and almsgiving—Luther emphasized the value God places on ordinary work.6 In particular, Luther taught that the Lord was especially pleased with the normal things of family life, even though some of those things (like changing diapers!) might seem culturally “insignificant, distasteful, [or] despised.”
Centuries later, his namesake, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., made the same point: “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
The Martin Luthers understood the core teaching of Romans 12: We are to offer up the entirety of our lives in praise and worship. We are to hold no part of ourselves back. We are to praise God with our voices, our eyes, our ears, our hands, and our feet. The Romans 12 picture of worship upends our church culture’s current definition of praise—as thirty-some minutes of singing before the sermon begins. We are to offer up everything in worship and praise—our time, resources, work, dreams, and ambitions.
As we offer God our lives, the very calling of motherhood becomes praise. Each and every moment placed before God is an offering. And make no mistake: This offering of your everyday life is just as pleasing to the Lord as a well-attended sermon or worship service.
Dear ones, this is such good news. God is satisfied, delighted even, with us and our worship and praise of Him when we offer the lives He has given us—not someone else’s life but our very own—back to Him.