I love a job well-done, a paper well-written, a cake well-baked, a case well-made. More than that, I love the words of affirmation that follow. I’ve always sought to excel academically, professionally, socially, and relationally. Receiving praise or glory feels like a reward; a moment of recognition can be a healing salve to hours of discouragement and frustration. Sometimes, we all need encouragement. But, maybe more often, we want recognition. While striving to do things well is not wrong or sinful, striving to do things well for the sake of our own glory is. To that end, I have a confession: I’m a glory hoarder.
Not surprisingly, motherhood threw a wrench into my self-glorification. I haven’t received nearly as much glory as I’ve been accustomed to in previous seasons. In the academic world, you get grades and diplomas. In the professional world, you get performance reviews and promotions. In the social world, you get friends and influence. In motherhood, you get dirty diapers and sleep deprivation. There’s no paycheck, no performance review, no pomp and circumstance. In the midst of motherhood, it’s been difficult for me to ignore my love of self-glorification, mostly because I don’t get glory as often as I think I should. The sudden absence of accolades and affirmation makes my dependence upon it embarrassingly clear.
Without the gospel, motherhood can be one unseen and underappreciated sacrifice after another. The best we can hope for, is for the praise of the world or the praise of our children. However, in light of the gospel, motherhood is one of many creative vehicles the Lord uses to sanctify us, teaching us about his unconditional love and endless grace. By God’s grace, motherhood teaches us about our unshakable hope and eternal inheritance. With gospel grace, we know that every sacrifice we’re called to make, every humble act of service that receives no praise, and every kind word in the face of frustration is seen by the Father and is used for our good.
While the ultimate destination of sanctification fills my heart with great joy, the process and the journey require me to surrender my idol of self-glory. Only God truly and completely deserves the glory. In fact, our ultimate calling in life is to “glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” When I desire or hoard glory for myself only, I fail to recognize God in his rightful glory and simultaneously affirm that I am my own god, worthy of glory. While God surely cannot have glory stolen from him, glory-seeking (or, perhaps, simply a proclivity for affirmation) redirects our worship inward to ourselves rather than upward toward God. How quickly I covet the praise of others, only to hoard it for myself, puffing with pride. Likewise, when I don’t receive the glory I think I deserve, I shrink with self-pity. In either case, my hoarding of glory or my covetousness of glory doesn’t lead to me to God with a grateful heart; rather, it turns me inward and twists the glorious design of God.
Recently, my husband and I were sitting on our front porch and we were discussing the pros and cons of an upcoming trip. He had been invited to participate in a week-long business trip on the other side of the country. My husband is intelligent, full of integrity, and charismatic. This trip would allow him to exercise his gifts in a tangible way that would (hopefully) provide some kind of benefit to our company and family. Ugly thoughts raced through my mind: Another opportunity for my husband to shine while I’m left home with the baby, the laundry, and the dishes. Am I going to have to watch my husband succeed professionally for the next decade while I sit in the background? Will I ever matter to the world the way he matters to the world? What about me?!
Like I said, ugly. I was bombarded by envy and self-pity, and I knew it was wrong to harbor those feelings at all, let alone direct them toward my husband who was thoughtfully considering the impact of this trip on our family. I had to acknowledge my wrongful desires and swallow my pride, confess, and ask for forgiveness.
To glorify God is to enjoy him, love him, and trust him through obeying his will, commands, and law. Put simply, glorifying God makes it all about him and not all about us. Glorifying God means that we daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute are longing to look up at him rather than inward at ourselves. Motherhood provides a shocking departure from our ability to garner self-glory; in the midst of middle-of-the-night feedings, heaps of laundry, cranky children, and putting toys away, to continue to revolve our lives around ourselves is effectively impossible.
And, what grace! What grace that God would give the gift of motherhood to show us that our life was never meant to be used for our self-glorification anyway. Perhaps the small glory of a hospitable home, a well-behaved child during an outing, or a perceptive comment during Bible study tempts us to heap glory for ourselves and gaze inward. Instead, we are called to identify the true source of grace, truth, and strength: God himself. When the lack of glory and the temptation toward self-pity and discontent arises, when a child wakes for the fourth time in the night and our eyes well with tears of frustration and exhaustion, we’re to rejoice in God for the opportunity to lay our lives down for the sake of others, seeking to emulate the ultimate example of Jesus Christ.
In any and all circumstances, the glory isn’t ours, it’s God’s. And it’s good that the glory belongs to God. When we attempt to hoard glory, we’re like pools of standing water that eventually grow stale and cannot provide nourishment. When we give glory to God, we are like a flowing river that allows everything in and around it to flourish. We were never meant to be glory hoarders; we’re designed to be conduits and vessels of God’s glory, never forgetting its true source.
Motherhood changes you—your body, time, relationships, perspective, commitments, everything. Some of these changes are bittersweet goodbyes, glancing at cherished seasons in life through the rearview mirror. However, some of these changes are invitations to shed sin and put on righteousness. The Lord patiently and graciously bears with us, revealing our sin and calling us to deeper obedience and faith. He bears with us as we come face to face with previously unseen sin. Once we see this sin for what it is—disobedience and idolatry—we can lay it down at the feet of Jesus, trading sin for his easy yoke and light burden. Let’s lift our eyes up and realize glory was never ours to begin with, and that we’ll be most deeply satisfied when we give God his rightful and deserved glory.
Cassi lives in Chico, CA with her husband and son. After spending several years working at an international anti-slavery organization in Washington, DC, she earned her Master of Social Work from Boston University. Cassi anticipated she would go on to become a licensed clinical therapist specializing in trauma. Instead, by God’s grace (and humor), she is a small business owner currently farming a 700-acre almond and walnut ranch alongside her husband and family in Northern California. Cassi loves writing, serving in her local church, being wife to Rory and mother to Pax, and connecting gospel truth to business and home. In everything, she strives to have confidence in the gospel and grace in the grind.
New City Catechism
1. Cor. 10:31