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JOURNEY TO THE CROSS | Week Two: How motherhood points us to Christ

By: Jessika Sanders


person carrying cross


“And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” —John 13:14-17 NLT

Service and humility are not valued virtues in today’s day and age.  Rarely does anyone want to do hard, less than desirable work. And with a culture that encourages pursuing your dreams and “slaying the day” who has the time to serve others? But if you’ve been following Jesus or reading the Bible for any length of time, you know that God’s Kingdom is an upside down one. Motherhood, at its core, is an invitation to humble service that points us to Christ.



Dirty Diapers and Dirty Feet

With three children ages 4 to 11, I have spent 10 years—a quarter of my life—changing dirty diapers and wiping wiggly rear ends. While it has been far from glamorous, I can honestly say the hard work and service have been so good for me.  For as long as I can remember I have strived for recognition and accolades. I have run myself ragged and burned myself out of jobs and careers, all to be noticed and celebrated. But with motherhood, my hard work happens within our four walls and the only ones who take notice are the members of our little family. There are no report cards, no yearly reviews, no promotions, no raises. There are no shout-outs at staff meetings or employee of the month photos hanging on the wall. There is just humble service that faithfully shows up day and night in love because He first loved me. 


In Biblical times, washing feet was a dirty job. The agricultural way of life meant the dirt roadways were shared by both people and animals.  There were no sewer drains or gutters that neatly lined the sides of the road. And because the shoes of the day were typically strappy leather sandals, that meant there was no tiptoeing around the dirt and waste. Washing your feet of the filth and the odor they carried, was essential before entering the home. Feet washing was such an undesirable task that it was reserved for the lowest ranking servant in the household. 



Scripture John 13:4-5

Yet in John 13 we see God in the flesh, the King of Kings who left Heaven’s throne to dwell with us, humbly taking the position of the lowest ranking servant to wash the feet of his disciples! Scripture tells us, “So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” I imagine Jesus’ work to be slow and intentional. I imagine the room silent as his disciples sat awestruck at the humble act the Messiah was performing for them. I imagine the intimacy as he knelt before them, taking their feet in His hands and gently and compassionately, washing the dirt away.


I can’t help but think that through this act of service, the hearts of the disciples were also gently washed by the hands of the Father. How could being physically held, physically cared for, and physically washed clean by God not humble your heart and radically change you?



Following His Lead
Scripture John 13:14-16

Leaders go first.  Jesus didn’t just tell His disciples they should humbly serve others in love, He showed them.  After their feet were clean and his towel damp and dirty, in John 13: 14-16 Jesus shared, “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”


As mothers we have been invited to go first with countless opportunities to model service daily for our families. In fact, for many of us the service began the moment we learned that life was growing within us. We humbly submitted to the needs of our child, doing whatever needed to serve them and create an environment in which they could thrive. And whether we now find ourselves in a season of running a healthy household or in a season of navigating a childhood hospitalization or our child’s complex medical needs, we are presented with the choice to put the needs of others above our own. We can choose to serve as we make meals and as we run a feeding pump. We can choose to serve as we change diapers and as we change a trach, an NG, or a G-tube. We can choose to serve as we hand out vitamins and as we administer medicines. We can choose to serve as we drive to extracurriculars and as we drive to therapies. It is quite possible the work we do will go unnoticed or without a thank you or acknowledgement, but the call to do as Jesus has modeled is clear.



The Blessing
Scripture John 13:17

Jesus’ beautiful illustration of service through the washing of the feet is wrapped up with verse 17 which says, “I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” 


In the context of this passage the Greek word for “blessed” does not mean “happy.” It does not even pertain to our feelings, but rather the condition of our soul.  Here the word “blessed” means a soul well-oriented with God. Imagine the Lord looking down on us and smiling fondly because we not only understood what He was trying to teach us, but we did it. 



Reflection

As I reflect on my eleven years of being a mother to three very different children, I see that even when I didn’t know Him or His Word, He was still faithful to bless me as I served others in love. And I’m willing to bet if you take an inventory of the moments that make up your motherhood journey you’ll see His faithful hand of blessing on your service too. 


Maybe we recognize the blessing when we lay eyes on our child for the first time—all the sacrifices we made during pregnancy were worth it.  Maybe we recognize the blessing when our child achieves a milestone like eating on their own—all the years of nursing, bottle-feeding, food pumps, or playfully spooning “airplanes” in their mouth become worth it. And maybe we recognize the blessing when we realize the true gift of motherhood—that the years of stretching and burning off of our selfish desires is totally worth it to be made more like the One who saved us.



Prayer

God, just as you said you would bless the disciples for serving others in love, I believe you will bless me as I serve my child(ren). Help me to fix my eyes on the truth that you gave of yourself and died on the cross for me, so I too, can give of myself for my children.  Grant me a humble, faithful heart to serve others in your name, O Lord. 





Jessika Sanders writer, author of In His Hands: Prayers for Your Child or Baby in a Medical Crisis, founder and president of Praying Through ministries

Jessika Sanders is a published writer who has been featured in Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Hope When Your Heart is Heavy devotional (2021), Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. magazine (2023), and Tyndale’s So God Made a Mother (2023). She is also the co-author of The Good Book Company's, In His Hands: Prayers for Your Child or Baby in a Medical Crisis ( July 2024). Jessika is also the founder and president of Praying Through ministries.


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