“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope. Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso”- Pablo Picasso
There is something in me that wants the best for my children. It is the way I am wired and programmed. I think all mothers are probably like them. We have grown them in our bellies, nursed them at our breast, woken to them through the night, comforted them when they are sick. We want them to achieve the heights they are capable of and simply delight the world the same way they delight us. Lately, I’ve been reminded that they will have struggles of their own and as much as I want to protect them from this, I recognise that through trials come growth and surrender.
In Matthew 20:20-28, we read this little story of a mother’s love and ambition for her sons:
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Can you relate? I get a little uncomfortable with this story because I can so easily see me in it. I can see myself kneeling down next to Jesus, trying to have a quiet word- “Have you seen my two beautiful children? Do you think you could give them a special role in your kingdom?” Little did the Mother of James and John really know what she was asking and what her sons would endure. James went on to be the first disciple killed. John endured persecution throughout his life and ended up penning Revelation. They were ousted by general Jewish society, for they were disciples of Jesus, the one who had been crucified.
What is of greater worth to me than my children reaching the top of their respective career ladders though is having a heart surrendered to Jesus. I think over the past year or so, as I look at my children growing up and I get to know them more, the more I plead with the Father- “Please, listen to this mother’s request. Please look on my children and have your Holy Spirit do a work in their lives. Help your grace and mercy cover them. May they worship you with Spirit and Truth. May they have a passion for your Word and it working out in the day to day.” I have realised I don’t hold particular careers close to my heart for my children, I have even started training myself to think that if they are gifted with singleness that will be okay too. But at the end of the day, it isn’t whether they sit at the left nor the right of Jesus in his kingdom that is my greatest concern- my greatest concern will be that they are there at all.
It is sometimes hard wondering just how we go about helping steer them towards the truth of the gospel. We get anxious about ‘indoctrination’ and we worry whether their little minds can understand. Or we have older children and we don’t want to ‘turn them off’. In the middle of this anxiety, I found a panel discussing, “Teaching Our Children About Jesus” on The Gospel Coalition. As one of a number of evangelical mothers discussing this topic, Mary Mohler, in her wisdom, said that our role as mothers is to fill our children’s minds with knowledge about God through his Word. The Holy Spirit then takes that head knowledge and brings it to our children’s hearts. I have thought of this lots- with responsibility and relief. We are responsible for training our children about God, and we can have relief that it is his job to bring their heart to himself.