Bathed in the Gospel

encouragement for Christian mothers: "The world can very much disparage and downplay the calling of motherhood, and sometimes I am the first one to listen, forgetting that this full-time job I have of caring for children who would be helpless without me is kind of huge, and that, while I may not be changing the world as I prepare their breakfast…  I have at least changed theirs."

The way she lifted her legs in perpendicular fashion as I lifted her out of the bathtub let me know that the way we do bathtime has become routine to her…

Laying a clean, full-sized towel completely out across the bathmat, I always set her down “just so” on her bottom before pulling the back part of the towel up to her neck and then wrapping the rest of it over her shoulders and around her arms. I finish up by swaddling her little legs, feet, and toes, patting her dry as I go.

Once she looks like a little terrycloth burrito, I grasp her by her towel-covered arms, and, lifting her up into my left arm and perching her on my hip, I hold her legs in a sitting position with my right arm.

We go straight to the bathroom vanity where she says “Hi, baby!” to her reflection in the mirror, her hair a riot of wet, dripping curls, her smile exuberant, her skin glowing with health and cleanliness. I then carry her into my bedroom where a laundered set of clothes awaits her on the bed next to a new diaper, Johnson’s baby lotion, and a brush.

This is our routine, and we could both probably perform it with our eyes closed.

She is used to being bathed, my little one, having the yogurt washed out of her hair, the dirt washed out of her fingernails, the living washed out of her day…

She is used to being wrapped up and dried, cuddled and loved, lotioned and combed, diapered and groomed.

She is used to being dressed in fresh, clean clothes.

Just like she is used to raising her legs just right to land on her towel.

And I realized as I dried her today that, what might feel like routine to me…or even sometimes drudgery, if I’m being honest…says something monumental about her life, as well as my role as her mother…

and that, while bathtime is such a common ritual for us that she knows how to hold her body when she emerges from the tub, the very essence of our routine says something.

Something big. Something important. Something eternal.

Because her simplest routines contrast so deeply with those of children all over this fallen world. They have routines, too…

Rocking themselves to sleep at night in orphanages with too many babies and not enough workers.

Hiding food in their highchairs to make sure there will be enough for their next meal.

Moving from foster home to foster home, different bed, different rituals, different guardians.

Pulling dirty and wrinkled clothes out of a pile before dressing themselves and going to school.

Eating whatever they can dig up in the pantry or whatever someone will give them for free.

Getting on a church van to attend worship and learning about who made them from strangers rather than family.

Bearing their own fears and burdens with no one to talk to, no one to comfort them, no one to guide them.

And it should never be lost on me that, in many ways, one of the simplest and most obvious differences between those children and my little girl who sticks her legs up when I lift her out of the bathtub is…me.

The world can very much disparage and downplay the calling of motherhood, and sometimes I am the first one to listen, forgetting that this full-time job I have of caring for children who would be helpless without me is kind of huge, and that, while I may not be changing the world as I prepare their breakfast…

I have at least changed theirs.

When my children are clean, it is because I’ve bathed them. When they are full, it is because I have fed them. When they sing a song from memory, it is because I have sang to them so often that the words have imprinted themselves on their brains. When they are wearing  clean and pressed clothes, it is because I have washed and ironed them. And when they learn how to walk those ancient paths of truth, it will hopefully be because, aided by the Spirit and covered by grace, they are following behind me and their Papa.

The things I do as a mother all day, every day, might be simple gestures…

making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…

singing hymn after hymn until they fall asleep…

telling them who made the flowers and the rocks and the trees and the sky…

reading them a story…

cleaning up their vomit…

buying them healthy food at the grocery store…

bandaging the tiny cut that made them cry…

taking the time to really listen to them while they talk…

getting the stains out of their clothes…

but they are gospel gestures.

And it hit me with beautiful and convicting clarity today that any amount of passion I have for the sanctity of human life, any compassion I feel for the orphaned or the abused or the hurting, any desire I will ever have to bring the good news to a lost and dying world…

well, it starts here.

At bedtime.

At breakfast, lunch and supper time.

At reading time.

At bathtime.

At home.

And while it may not always feel like I’m doing anything really important in the world and while there are days that I entertain the notion that my life is pretty mundane and that my college degree was a huge waste of time and money, I need to periodically remind myself that I’m doing something pretty big.

And so are you…

Remember that the next time you pull your baby out of the bath and she knows what to do with her legs.