First of all, I need to start this blog by saying that I got most of this content from a sermon I heard preached a few months back. I meant to blog about it right after I heard it but then, I didn’t. So if you are impressed by this be impressed by Pastor Matt Keller of…some church that I forgot the name of, not me. Well, you can be a little impressed by me. I mean I DO still know the entire rap from “Waterfalls” after memorizing it in fifth grade AND I once brought an entire training room to stunned silence after quoting the movie “Anchorman” at a completely inappropriate time. So, yeah I’m KINDA still a big deal.
Anyway, back to this sermon that I am hijacking. It’s about something called a “donkey mission” and how they can be, well, a real pain in the…ass. (I can’t write a whole blog about donkeys and not make one “ass” pun…I just can’t. LET ME LIVE!) Anyway again, back to donkey missions. This whole thing actually comes from a real mission to find donkeys. It’s found in 1 Samuel chapter 9. The bible tells us that a man named Kish had a son named Saul and Saul was…oh I don’t know…like the Chris Hemsworth of all his other Hemsworth type brothers. Or the Liam I guess, if you’re into that…ok or the third, non-famous Hemsworth brother who is also very attractive. Either way, the point is he was attractive and tall and probably had an unexplainable sexy accent that no one else in his region had or something. So, one day Kish lost his donkeys and sent Saul to get them, along with a servant. Probably should’ve been a female servant in my opinion because they would’ve gotten found a lot faster, but I digress. So, Saul and the servant, (I’m going to call him Chris since we are talking about our favorite Hemsworth’s) go to look for these donkeys. They look everywhere and walk for days. Eventually, Saul get’s pretty ticked off and wants to scrap the whole mission because he thinks his dad is really going to be more worried about him than the donkeys. This sounds like something that would be true, but in actuality Saul was just a little ticked off that someone of his stature and importance was off looking for donkeys when he should’ve been back at home, where he was “really important.” Well “Chris” the servant stops him with some wisdom he said: “Behold, there is in this city a man of God, a man held in honor; all that he says surely comes true. Now let us go there. Perhaps he can show us where we should go.” Well, point number one for Chris because the “man of God” that he was talking about was Samuel. And Samuel had already been told by God that Saul was supposed to be anointed the first king of Israel. So, Saul met with Samuel and instead of finding out where his donkeys were, he found out he had been anointed as king over all twelve tribes of Israel. Can you imagine that? What Saul had thought was something mundane and meaningless was actually the most important thing he had ever done.
Drawing any comparisons yet? If not let me help you out. Motherhood, or parenting in general can seem like the world’s longest and messiest donkey mission.
Now, Saul knew he was important, he knew he was good-looking and had prominence in his tribe. He probably wondered why his dad sent him to look for a bunch of animals when they had servants to do things like that (I’m imagining him whining in a Draco Malfoy voice here; “but Dad, this is SERVANT stuff!”) Yet, there he was looking for donkeys.
Donkey Missions keep you humble. Parenting will humble you like nothing else will. Saul was humbled to go do servants work. As parents we do servants work every day. For me, I didn’t really know humility until I was up at 2 am, covered in other people’s bodily fluid. Or, when you want nothing but to be alone or do something for yourself but you still need to get those sippy cups of water to thirsty babies. Or, when you have to apologize to a little tiny person because you know that you lost your temper and it had nothing to do with anything they had actually done and everything to do with your own self. Parenting little ones is no respecter of persons. I’m sure even the queen Beyoncé has had her fair share of being humbled by her kids. For me, there are times when my pride will try to well up, just like Saul’s. “Well, why does my husband never do…? Why am I always the one…” And if you are like me, you sometimes use these words like “always and never” even though you took several classes in social work school that tell you not to because quite frankly it’s just not accurate. Or, just the old “I can’t believe I have a master’s degree and all I do is change poopy diapers and clean up other people’s mess all day, I could be doing so much MORE.” Many times your work goes unnoticed to others. Or, you don’t even see it yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten to the end of the day and thought “what on earth did I do all day today and why are we all still in pajamas at 6:00 at night??” Being a parent humbles you my friends. Just like going to look for a bunch of mules humbled Saul.
Donkey missions test your patience. I really don’t need to go very far for any parents reading this to shake their head and say “yes and amen.” In our story, Saul was getting pretty impatient and wanted to just turn around and go home. I have frequently lamented that I cannot actually “turn around and go home” in the midst of a challenging parenting moment (unless you count running to the closet and locking the door, I’m not above that sometimes). Staying home with my four kids has been the largest test to my very small patience that I have ever known. I mean, the other day I had to have the most frustrating conversation with a three-year old because a bear in a book we were reading didn’t have a yellow shirt on and she thought he should and was a complete basket case about it. I lose my patience way more than I should, I yell and I get frustrated. I am trying to be better, I think most of us are but it’s a daily struggle. The testing of our patience only gets harder the longer our mission lasts. I wonder really how long it took for Saul to start complaining, to start thinking about turning back? I can tell you it probably would have been a lot sooner had he been traveling with a seven-year old who was trying to learn new math. Or with a three-year old who could absolutely zip her own coat, thank you very much. Being on this parenting mission can get so daunting, it can be so overwhelming that it swallows you up whole. I can tell you as someone who transitioned from being a full-time working mom to a stay at home mom, the mission increases exponentially in difficulty the more you have to actually be around your kids. You see parenting, like looking for donkeys can be so tedious, so mundane, can make you feel so ordinary, and less than, and just plain tired that you forget what they are really about.
Donkey missions are always about something greater. For Saul, it was about receiving his anointing as king. For us, it is about raising children that make this world a better place by simply being in it. I am not going to say we have to all raise the next Billy Graham or Maya Angelou or Mother Theresa. I am saying we are on a mission to raise children that are a reflection of Jesus, in whatever form that takes. You know that cliché “you can’t see the forest through the trees” well if we let it that’s what can happen with parenting. I am as guilty as anyone at looking at all these trees and losing my way. Even now as I am reflecting on this I can’t say as I’m doing an amazing job at remembering my ultimate goal is to raise kind and loving people. Some days, my goal is just to get to the end of the day without committing any felonies, and that’s ok! But the reason this story and this sermon have stayed so fresh in my mind for all these months is because God wanted me to know that there is a bigger purpose for all of this unseen work I am putting in. Like Saul I may not completely understand it and I will lose sight of it at times but it’s there. It’s there in the four little faces that will one day become big faces who go on to live their lives in this crazy world. I am currently responsible for shaping four worldviews, four sets of morals, four little lives! When I stop to think about it that way, it seems so much more important that trying to find a bunch of donkeys. I hope you can see it that way too, my friends because it is so important and YOU are the vital piece.