What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36
The life I never expected
I am a full-time working mum. I have worked as PCI Children’s Development Officer for 13 and a half years and the last five and a half of them has involved juggling being mummy to Bess. That all changed on 23rd March 2020.
I had one morning of working at the kitchen table while my husband worked at his desk. At the same time as trying to give Bess, who had just had her nursery school education stopped, enough to do to at least be able to read one work email before the next interruption. This kind of thing is something I know many have juggled for 18 months – working, home schooling, parenting. At lunchtime that day I got a call to say that I was furloughed and I shut down my computer.
My experience of furlough was mainly positive. I expected to grieve not being able to do my job. I did miss my colleagues and the work we do, but I realised that I had an opportunity that otherwise I would never have had. In my normal life, being a full-time mummy was not an option. However, for 18 months I was handed the opportunity to feed into Bess’s life with a lot more time than I would have normally in terms of education, playtime and also spiritually. We spent nearly every day together, mostly just the two of us as my husband continued to work, while I was on full time furlough. Then as I came back to work part time, I was able to fit that around her going to school for the first time.
I have discovered the incredible privilege of walking with Bess and being proactive in helping her to process life through the lens of faith.
God at work in our family
In Deuteronomy 6, God gives Moses commands for the Israelites to live by. In verses 5-9, it says:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
I have used this passage in a work context in helping parents and congregations to think about the opportunity and challenge that we have to share faith with our children. I now had the opportunity and the challenge to live this out 24/7 with Bess. What a privilege and a responsibility!
What we did was not super spiritual. We simply brought God into our everyday. At first, I had to work at remembering to bring God into conversations, but very quickly it became second nature. As we explored the themes that came home from nursery school, walked through local parks, read books and did our bedtime Bible stories and prayers, I watched Bess’s faith grow and her questions increase. Then last summer, sitting in our caravan in Donegal, we had the privilege of listening to Bess pray to invite Jesus into her heart. Bess already loved Jesus but this was another step on her journey of faith.
I think one of the things that I have been reminded of constantly over the last 18 months is that although I love my job and am committed to helping our church aim for excellence in children’s ministry, those are not the most important things. Maybe sometimes those things that we are passionate about, and that includes working for the church or being involved in church, take precedence over things that are ultimately more important, including supporting and encouraging parents to be the primary disciple-makers of their children. Taking another look at my life in the light of my experience of the Covid-19 pandemic reminded me of the things that are more important, and that has helped me to be a discipling parent, rather than simply reminding others to do it.
Maybe you have found all or parts of the last 18 months hard. Maybe you are weary. Maybe you are grieving things or people that have been lost. All of those are important things to recognise and bring to God. However, maybe you have also seen the positives in this experience. Maybe as you look at how your life was before there are things that you now value more and other things you value less.
I think many of us see the value of families being together and not running out to different activities every night of the week. Maybe we need to find a better balance of being together and being elsewhere. Maybe we need to find more time than we used to have to share our faith in the every day with our children – as we sit at home watching TV together, as we walk along the road to school in the morning, when you lie down having whispered conversations at bedtime and when you get up in the morning to start the day together.
I am so thankful for the time that I have had over 18 months to share faith with Bess every day. And I am ready to continue that in the months and years to come as a parent. That is something that I value even more highly than I ever did before. However, I also want to help our church to help parents do that in whatever situation they find themselves.
Let’s take time to have another look at ourselves and as we go forward hold tight to those things we value most.
God help me to better see and appreciate what really matters in life and what I tend to make of too great importance.
Ruth Bromley is PCI's Children's Development Officer.
As we emerge from our personal experience of the period of the pandemic and living through lockdown, it’s good to take another look at how we see things now and how that might have changed as we go forward into the future.
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