Henri Nouwen has become one of my heroes and role models because he was committed to the idea of “downward mobility”. That’s precisely what Jesus was talking about when he said the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven will be the servant of all.
And Jesus himself lived out this example of downward mobility: giving up his place on the throne, humbling himself by taking on flesh, and dying on the cross for us. (Phil 2:5-11)
What an upside-down kingdom. And what a strikingly beautiful kingdom.
I’m pondering this as I battle the urge to consider my mundane, unpaid work as a mother of small children to be somehow less worthy or less spiritual. How far from the gospel truth is this?!
As a young, ambitious woman I never pictured myself as “just” a wife and mother. In fact, I remember scoffing with incredulity behind an acquaintance’s back after she told me her ambition was to become a wife and mother. At the time I considered her an object of pity, even scorn.
Fast forward 20 years and here I am, a wife and a mother. And I’m not one of those Christian women who aspired to these roles. No, God brought me here tantruming.
Chronic illness has made me unable to work outside of the home — quite literally powerless to chase my ambitions. Relinquishing my career was excruciating. It was like a death, as I’d worked so hard over so many years to build myself a secure path.
Now I find myself here, a mother who’s confined to the home. I’m always here when my kids return from school. They are the main people I see each day.
My life has shrunken, drastically. And the shrinking process has been very painful.
But in this season, within this weakened body, I see Jesus — the King! — stooping low to wash his disciples’ feet. And I sense him inviting me to stoop low with him. To embrace this downward mobility he has allowed into my life by limiting my physical mobility.
Surprisingly, I’m finding glimpses of joy in embracing this servant’s life. I’m learning to serve my family, despite the lack of recognition or thanks or status or personal satisfaction this role entails.
Like Henri Nouwen, and like Jesus, I’m accepting the yoke of a lowly life. A housewife! Ha! I never would have chosen this role, but, oh, how I’m grateful to God for leading me here for this season. I’m learning so much.
Lord Jesus, thank you for being our great Servant-King. May we love those you’ve entrusted to our care with affection and endurance, even when we don’t get much in return for our efforts — for we know that you poured out your life for our sake; you lavished kindness on us even before we even knew how to thank you for your sacrifice. Help us to become more like you. Amen.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:26-28)
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