It’s that time of year again – graduation season. It has been exactly ten years since I walked across a stage in North Robinson, Ohio, to collect my high school diploma. Five years ago I made the same sort of walk across a different stage in Toledo, Ohio, after earning a Bachelor’s degree. As I remember those two different points in my life, I am struck by how my hopes, plans, and desires for my future have turned out quite differently than I ever imagined. It’s a perfect example of what Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
As a high school graduate, I was prepped and ready to pursue my dream of becoming a missionary medical doctor. I had grown up in a church that heavily emphasized overseas missions and I was fascinated by the study of the human body and medicine. I wanted my life’s work to consist of pouring my energy and skills into caring for the weak and sick. My desire was to take up the commission of Jesus to “Go… and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). I was very much like Peter and the other disciples on the night that Jesus was arrested before His crucifixion.
“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.”Matthew 26:31-35
Peter’s words, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” summed up so well who I was at that point in my life. I was itching to be tested to prove my faithfulness to God. Utterly ignorant of the weakness of my flesh, I considered it my goal in life to pay the ultimate sacrifice and die for the sake of the Gospel. Several chapters earlier in Matthew it says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) Jesus had called Peter to deny himself, but instead Peter denied Christ.
Many things had changed by the time I made my second graduation walk. I had no plans of furthering my education, and I was engaged to someone who had no intention of ever moving away from the area where he had grown up. Medical school and living overseas were out. My zeal had cooled. I was ready to become a stay-at-home wife and mom, or so I thought. The truth is that I was wholly unprepared for the amount of self-denial that would be demanded from me as a wife and especially as a mother. I, like Peter, found it easier to deny Christ than to give up my own selfish desires.
Today my days and weeks are filled up with washing dishes, wiping snotty toddler noses and sticky hands, changing diapers, washing more dishes, feeding kids food they often don’t like, disciplining disobedience and outright rebellion, changing more diapers, endless laundry and even more dishes. In one sense, it’s exactly what I had always dreamed of doing with my life – care for the weak, helpless, and sick in the name of Jesus. I have learned that physical relocation is not necessary to the call to make disciples. Sometimes making disciples looks like disciplining a disobedient child, praying with my children, reading them the Bible, teaching them to memorize Scripture, teaching and singing songs about God with them. It’s continually denying myself and needing to depend fully on Christ so that I can point my children to God each day. I fail most days. It’s so easy to deny Christ by becoming impatient and angry with my children. I deny Christ and the authority that He has given to me when I fail to require obedience from my children.
I praise God that He made me a mother. Motherhood has taught me how to deny myself like nothing else in life. I’ve seen how prone I am to deny Christ instead of myself. The good news is that God is faithful. “For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
In the end, Peter did die for Christ. God did a mighty work in Peter’s life to take him from being a fearful denier of Christ to being a bold witness of His resurrection and glory. I know that God is doing a work in me too, and I am grateful for how He has directed my life so differently from what I had planned.