For the past 12 years, I’ve called myself a “stay-at-home mom.” Last fall, my youngest started kindergarten and, as he headed off to school, I did also. I started substitute teaching. A few years ago, I started writing and speaking. About that time, I started to ask myself questions about each of these vocations.
In all of my vocations, I struggled to define what a successful day, year, or lifetime would look like. I’ve come up with ideas, but they often shift with experience, the realization of responsibility, or even my mood.
Questions about Success
How do I define success as a stay-at-home mom? Is success completing laundry every day? Can success only be defined by the end result? But what is the end result of being a stay-at-home parent?
How do I define success as a writer and speaker? Is it by how many people I’m influencing? Does the rubric have more to do with how I’m influencing people?
How do I define success as a substitute teacher? Is a day successful when all of the tasks that were assigned for the day are completed, or is that the responsibility of the students? Am I successful if the students like me?
Having these questions constantly tumbling through my head, I was elated to see the title of Sharla Fritz’s recent study, Measured by Grace: How God Defines Success. Throughout the study, I found myself encouraged and pointed to Christ. The chapter on Rahab was particularly encouraging in my work as a mother, substitute teacher, writer, and speaker.
Redefining Success in Motherhood
I often question my own worthiness and ability to care for my kids when I can see my sin and the destruction it causes. I look at our children and see the same tendencies to hurt their neighbor as I have. As I was reading Measured by Grace, I found Rahab’s story particularly encouraging when struggling with the idea of imperfections. Sharla Fritz writes:
Don’t you love how God used a flawed woman? Her role in the defeat of Jericho demonstrates that God doesn’t wait until we’re accomplished, cleaned up, and respectable before He works through us. He uses us in our less-than-perfect state. … He allows us to be a part of His plan to bring victory to His people and glory to His name.
Despite Rahab’s flaws, God works in and through her. In my own life, starting out motherhood unmarried, while difficult, was not an impossible situation for Christ to work in and through. Regardless of how we begin our vocations, or how rocky our days are as mothers, we can be thankful that God uses us in spite of our less-than-perfect state.
Redefining Success in Writing
In my vocation of writing, I often wonder what my goals should be. Social media has made finding an audience simpler, but making the connections are not always simple. And while I may be able to make connections, I often find myself asking the question “What should I be doing with these connections?”
The Lord doesn’t measure success by our social connections. Whatever position in life you have right now—honored or humble, influential or inconsequential—God sees you as an important piece of his plan to make His glory known. He will use you to demonstrate His grace.
We were not created to be alone; connections are good. We do not need to fret about how many we are making because God uses the connections in our life to care for us and show His grace.
Redefining Success in Substitute Teaching
Substitute teaching means I’m not with one classroom of kids all year. In our small district, I have the advantage of seeing the same students, but it’s inconsistent. When I walk out of school at the end of the day and the end of the year, I’m never certain if it was successful or not. Fritz writes this about seeing our successes:
Know that you may not see the success your faith brings about. Rahab saw an immediate result of her faith in the saving of the Israelite spies and her own family. But I doubt she lived to see her great-great-grandson become king of Israel, and she would have had no clue that she would become an ancestor of the Savior of the world. We can’t always witness the results of a faithful life.
Christ and True Success
Because we know that God is using us, we can be certain that the work we do is not done in vain. God uses us and the work of our hands. As Colossians 3:23–24 reminds us, our inheritance is secure.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
We get to work and serve our neighbor out of the assurance that we are loved, cherished, and cared for. We do not work to ensure those things. The success of Christ became ours in Baptism, and we can have confidence in this eternal inheritance.
Read about God’s grace shown through Rahab and seven other biblical figures in Measured by Grace: How God Defines Success