Martyr Mom Returns the T-Shirt

Sighing.  I find myself doing it often.  It’s because I’m not a huge fan of interruptions and it’s because I’m selfish and neither of those issues mesh well with life as a work-at-home mom of three young daughters.

So, I sigh.  “Mom, can you?”  Big, shoulder-heaving sigh.  “Mom, I need help . .. ” Deeply dramatic sigh.  “Mom, I’m thirsty.  I’m hungry.  I’m tired.  Can I cuddle?  Can we play Candy Land?”   More sighing.

In her book, Be the Mom: Overcome Attitude Traps and Enjoy Your Kids, Tracey Lanter Ester calls this the “Martyr Mom.”

Do they sell t-shirts for that?

In all fairness to me, there’s something particularly frustrating about apparently hidden “Mom Alarms” on all the seats in the house.  The moment I begin to ease down into the sofa or a chair, a child (or two or three) yells out “Mom!!” somewhere in the house.

Treating service like martyrdom, though, reduces ministry to a burden instead of an honor and a privilege.

There’s neediness around us. Moms respond to cries and sniffles and grandmas to hands lifted up for a hug.  Perhaps at work you’re taking lunch breaks with the girl in the next cubicle over who shuffled in this morning with eyes reddened from tears.  There’s the cashier at the grocery store who needs you to hang up the cell phone and pause for a smile and the friend who needs you to take time for a phone call and a lunch date.

We’re foot washers.  That’s what God called us to be.  He asked us to bend down low, stooping down out of our own agendas of personal satisfaction and busyness, to touch the messiness of those around us with love and humility.

All without complaining or tossing out loud sighs of fatigue and annoyance.

Jesus, after all, did this for us.  He chose sacrifice for us, without complaint, without sighs of frustration and without dramatizing the heavy load of the burden.

The night Jesus was betrayed, He “crossed the Kidron valley” along the way to the garden where He loved to pray (John 18:1).

Beth Moore notes this valley was “a deep ravine which had been a large cemetery since before 1500 BC.  The Kidron Valley was infamous for being the center of death and the grave” (Moore, Living Beyond Yourself).

Oh how often he must have walked steadily through the graves, the literal valley of the shadow of death, in order to reach the familiar garden.

It wasn’t a one-time journey.  Judas the betrayer knew where to find Jesus that night because he “knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (John 18:2).

Christ chose to pray in the familiar place, knowing Judas, an insider, would find him easily.

Then the soldiers arrived along with “some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons” (John 18:3).  Judas brought along a “detachment” of soldiers—a full 600 men—not just a few random Roman guards to protect him from the angry disciples.

 For a moment, it sounds like the sacrifice was forced.  Like Jesus’ death was imposed on him, the victory of Satan over a helpless man—of 600 soldiers over one unarmed Jewish leader.

And yet, Jesus, “knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’  ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.  ‘I AM he,’ Jesus said . . . When Jesus said, ‘I AM he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:4-5).

Six-hundred armed soldiers fell to the ground simultaneously at the name of Jesus.
Beth Moore notes: “In the King James Version, the word he in verses 5 and 8 appears in italics, which means the word is not in the original text but is added for our understanding” (Living Beyond Yourself).

“Whom do you seek?”


“I AM.”

Jesus wasn’t carried off to trial, torture and crucifixion, helplessly caught up in the triumph of Satan and death and the grave.

He chose to go with 600 soldiers who couldn’t even stand on their feet at the sound of HIS HOLY NAME.

Paul tells us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14 NIV).

He says it again: Jesus “gave himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4) and then later exhorted the church to “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 NIV).

Jesus gave himself up for us.  He chose sacrifice for us.

And Paul asks us to “walk in the way of love,” this very same sacrificial, non-complaining, freely given love, without sighs, but with joy in the worship of service.

Who has Christ asked you to serve today?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Remembering: Back to School Lessons, Part Two: Love is in the Lunch Box

Originally posted on September 7, 2011

Sandwich, fruit, snack, drink, napkin.

Check, check, check, check and check,

Two Hershey kisses and a note saying, “Kisses from me to you.  Love, Mom.”


It really doesn’t matter whether we packed the lunch bag or sent the money in for the lunch line, whether we wrote a note or didn’t, if we enclosed a fancy napkin or sent in a folded paper towel, still we moms likely thought of lunch.  We made a plan to provide for our child’s nourishment.

Not all kids have a mom or dad who lives out love every day through simple acts of kindness and provision.  That makes it easy to forget that a sandwich for lunch and clean clothes for school are an expression of love.

The people in your life, whether they are your children, or your grandchildren, or your aging parents, or a sick friend, could say you love them because of your words.  When I grab my girls in a surprise hug and whisper, “I love you,” my girls always sigh loudly and say in exasperation, “We know, Mom.  You tell us all the time!”

Maybe you tell your loved ones that you care all the time, too.

But there are depths of love that remain inexpressible in words and are only made clear in our actions.  No one may even recognize the love while it’s ongoing, but they would miss it in a heartbeat if you weren’t there.

It’s the fact that we’ve provided for their lunch.  It’s being there to meet the bus at the end of the day.  It’s sitting at the table and patiently working through math problems.

And so much more.

It’s smoothing back hair and bringing juice to a sick child.
It’s reading a book by a nursing home bed.
It’s holding a hand in a hospital room
It’s toting a meal to a recovering neighbor.
It’s washing bed linens soiled by sickness.
It’s writing a note to a friend.

In our everyday lives, our love doesn’t matter much if it’s expressed in words, but never in deed.

God’s love would be a bunch of meaningless words on a page, too, if He didn’t lavish us with grace every day.

There in His Word, He tells us that He loves us.  We most likely read it or say it or hear it everyday and twice on Sundays.

As adults, though, it’s so easy to become blase and apathetic about God’s love for us.  It’s a children’s concept.  The Sunday School theme.  We define God’s love by nursery songs like “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

And so over time, it seems we picture God as loving us, but not passionately loving us.  It’s more of an unemotional general concern for our well-being and maybe more for the condition of the planet rather than for us personally.

We’ve even confined one of the most powerful Scriptures in the Bible to a kid’s memory verse and little more:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish and have eternal life” (John 3:16).

But did you see that in this verse His love has legs?  He didn’t just say, “Those people I made, they sure are great!  I like them a whole lot and care about them a bunch.”

Oh no.

He put His great love into action.

He loved the world, not just the human population, but you and me and each child on a school bus and each person on your street, individually, uniquely and passionately enough to sacrifice His own Son for our eternal destination.

He wants to spend eternity with you.  Now that’s over-the-top passion.

Why do we sometimes picture God as sitting relaxed on His throne, watching impassively as life bombards us with strife?  Why do we acknowledge that He sacrificed His Son for us and then treat that as “no big deal?”  Or perhaps we fail to recognize the millions of ways He sends gifts of love and grace to us every single day.

In Psalm 136, the worship leader engaged his congregation in responsive praise.  He sang out what God has done for them and the people answer in return, “His love endures forever.”

Twenty-three times they sing back the refrain, declaring that God loves them and always will.

Why?  Just because He said the words, “I love you”?

No, because He “made the heavens” and “set the earth upon the waters.”  He brought Israel out from slavery in Egypt and “divided the Red Sea asunder and brought Israel through the midst of it, but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.”  He struck down enemy kings and gave the Hebrew nation the Promised Land.

It’s a litany of God’s love.  “His love endures forever” and we know it because of all He has done for us.

There at the bottom of the long list of reasons to give thanks: “He gives food to every creature” (Psalm 136:25).

Oh, yes, He packs our lunch.

How has God shown you His love today?  How can you give Him thanks?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King