Dying to Self


The end of the school year has always brought with it a series of events, one of which is Field Day. This beloved tradition, that even I remember in my own public school days, has been a favorite of my children for years and years. The day includes relay races, team competitions, a rented DJ for dancing, BBQ, treats and deserts and so much more. This year, a new addition was brought to the Field Day activities: Face Painting.

Oh, how all the school children lined up in a hurry for this newest treat, my children included. While for some, attention was diverted for a time, others enjoyed the skill and artistry of this patient and talented face painter.

The day was hot. The sun was searing and most tried to find relief in the very limited space of the overhang of the school building. Without a cloud in the sky, temperatures raged on up over 100 degrees. The children were pouring water over themselves and even the adults were finding creative ways to endure the heat.

And then, my Serious, seven year old little girl came to me with such a sadness on her face. I asked her what the problem was, and she said she hadn’t gotten her face painted yet.

I told her, “Go stand in the line, honey, you’ll have to wait.”

She answered, “Oh, Mom! I have been, but so many people are cutting in front and I’ll NEVER get there!”

Let me tell you about Serious. She’s a thoughtful and compassionate little girl. She never forgets anyone and tends to the details that we all usually forget. But she has a tendency to lose her cool when things don’t go just right. She has a conviction with justice that overwhelms her, and her emotions…..well…..let’s say, we’ve been working on her controlling her temper and frustration when things go awry. This day, she kept her calm, she was sad, however not angry, not frustrated, just sad about the whole situation.

I told her how proud I was that she kept her calm and just came to get me.

Walking with her, I found the long line for face painting, then scanned the crowd. Okay, I thought, I better do something for her. Who would cut in front of a mother, an adult? Ok, I’ll stand with her.

I looked into her pleading eyes, grabbed her hand, and said loudly, “I’ll stand with you!”

The line actually moved quite quicker than I had thought it would, but in the heat of the day, it was like slow motion. Children behind us were inching closer, closing any gaps, and as I saw a few children, once behind us, now standing in front of my Serious, I grabbed my daughter, pulled her next to me, and put both hands on my hips, trying to make my stance wider. No one was getting through my fortress. I would get my girl to the front, waiting our turn and not allowing any more cutting in line.

Good grief!

Serious and I were silent. She looked up at me and smiled with her bright red cheeks, and sweaty palms squeezing my hand. “We’ll get there, I promise,” I said. She nodded, and mentioned something of the heat.

Yes, it’s hot. I took a mental inventory of the state of my person. I felt the drips of sweat slowing descending down my back. My shoulders and arms were on fire from the sun, and I could see the start of a nasty sun-burn. I wiped my forehead free of sweat and search the crowd again for one of my other children or my HH so as to bring some water for us. No one was in sight. Then I looked at Serious, fared skinned, blond hair, Oh, dear, she’ll fry out here. I pushed her into my shadow, and told her to stay there, out of the direct sun.

Looking over at the many mothers under that school overhang, fanning themselves, drinking ice cold water, and having idle chit chat, I longed to convince Serious to give up this wait. I longed to sit under in the shade and enjoy the smallest relief it could give.

And then it hit me, just as fierce as that hot sun, a responsibility of my vocation, that I offered up for my little Serious that day. A mother must die to self. Watching so many walk by with Popsicles and snow cones, my body rose another degree, and my skin was offered to the sun as a sacrificial protection to my child.

Alas, we found ourselves second in line. I turned my head for an instant, dropped by hands from my waist, and sure enough, two boys cut in front of my Serious. Acting fast, I simply moved those two boys out, Yes, I physically put my hands on their shoulders, looked them straight in the eyes, and said, “There is no cutting boys. That’s not nice. Look, so many people have been waiting in the sun. You can’t cut. It’s not, not nice.”

The whole line behind me shouted, “Yeah!” The two boys gave me their dirty looks and they moved to the back of the line. I searched to find the mothers of these kids, no luck. They were no where in sight. Feeling slightly guilty at my actions, I looked at Serious, and she smiled the biggest grin I’ve ever seen.

I told her, “Child, you are next!”

The mom standing behind me, whispered in my ear, “Good for you! Way to Go!”

I smiled, and said something like, “Well, we are just being fair. You have stood here too, in this heat.”

Serious got up there, had her face painted, and afterwards, she hugged me, seemingly to understand the protection I provided her the past hour of waiting in line.

Field Day continued on, and I feared retribution from the mothers of these two boys, and what I could possibly say in return that would be appropriate and thoughtful. I had nothing. Then I realized something. These boys weren’t going to run and tell their mothers that they had done something wrong. At the very least, I sent the message, this mother wouldn’t allow cheaters.

I talked with my Serious at home that day, told her that I was proud she waited in line with me without getting upset. She told me, “Mom, I was kind of embarrassed.”

I said, “Why? Oh, when I pulled those boys out who cutted?”
She said, “Yeah, I was embarrassed.”

“Yes, honey, I know, but what they did was wrong. And that’s why I stood with you, so that you’d finally get to the front of that line. If they kept cutting, you’d never get there!”

She answered me, “Yeah, I know. I felt weird about it. But I guess I am glad you did it.”

Music to my ears.

The next few days, and yes, even today, I still suffer with this sunburn on my shoulders and arms. It was in that line, that the sun fried my skin. In was in that line, I had my epiphany. So many times, as mothers, we offer ourselves in order to suffer for our children. It’s a unique and holy vocation: Motherhood.

The sacrificial notion of this calling is often overlooked when we get past the obvious sacrifice of our bodies in pregnancy. Consider all the times we surrender our own comforts for one of our children. Think of the times we forfeit luxuries in order to teach justice, fairness or the dignity of a human person.

Motherhood is just that grand of a God-given calling. Giving of ourselves in these ways, dying to ourselves each and every day, whether in big ways or small ways, not only perfects us as Christians, but as mothers. It tells a love story like no other. Our actions, our forfeit of our luxuries tells them how great our love is for them. It has the power to tell our children without any words, You are worth it. You are worth my time and sacrifice.

While suffering with this burn is difficult right now and even sleeping is tough, I’m grateful for the lesson I found on that Field Day that no snow cone or time in the shade could have given me. I found a worth and a value in my vocation that I took for granted, that I never saw as clearly as I do now.

Thank you Lord, for giving me a glimpse of your sacrificial Love. I might have sacrificed my skin, Lord, but you gave it all. Help me to be more generous, and in turn show my children what real and lasting Love looks like.

Copyright 2011 Sahmatwork



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1 Comment

  1. Dear SAHM, such a great column – your writing is so descriptive that I felt like I was living the day with you. Thank you for modeling the gifts, great and small, that we can offer to our families and to our God. Wonderful!

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