Christian Living, Words and Writings

Labor Day! When Your Service is Known But to God

From the True Woman archives, a piece I wrote back in 2015 which poses the question, if my most fervent, difficult, selfless labors are known to God, and God alone, is that enough? It should be, right? But is it?

Atop a hill overlooking our nation’s capitol, a simple monument of white marble lies under perpetual watch at Arlington National Cemetery. Inscribed on the structure’s west-facing side are these words:

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.

This, of course, is what’s known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and incidentally, the subject of my son’s American history project. Although the monument now honors soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War as well, the original “unknown” was selected on Memorial Day, 1921, having been one of four American unknowns exhumed from four World War I cemeteries in France. Highly decorated World War I veteran U.S. Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger was chosen to make the selection as the soldiers lay before him, encased in identical caskets. A spray of white roses was placed by Younger on the third casket from the left, and that soldier became America’s World War I Unknown.

And so it is that this soldier’s story rests in shadow along with a multitude of others whose lives met the same fate. His age and hometown are sealed in the tomb. His rank is a mystery—in fact, the tomb sentinels do not wear their insignia while guarding so as not to outrank him. We will never know whether he died providing aid to another soldier or lying in a trench. Any acts of valor, any deeds of sacrifice, anything good or hard or praiseworthy that he had done is buried with him . . . unknown but to God.

Holy War—Life in the Trenches

Too often, I live as an embattled martyr—a sacrifice of war on the altar of Womanhood. Upon my husband’s waking after I’ve been up with a crying baby all night: “Can you believe he cried all night long??? Oh, wait, you didn’t hear him because you were SLEEPING.” When my son announces at 10 p.m. that he needs a shirt ironed for school the next morning: “Are you serious? I just sat down for the first time today!” After the cat vomits on the living room carpet for the fifth time this week: “I can’t. I just can’t. Someone else clean it up.”

This year, in a season of financial difficulty, my husband and I made the tough decision that I would seek part-time employment outside of the home. I was offered an ideal office position, one that is flexible so I can schedule my hours when my husband or older kids can be with the younger kids. It’s been a blessing, but also a curse, as the job offered me an unexpected fringe benefit—the chance to add a shiny new plaque to my altar, one reading “Working Mother.”

Today, I am tired. And I want everyone to know it. I want to make a list of my accomplishments and leave it on the counter for everyone to see:

  • Things I’ve cleaned that I didn’t mess.
  • Clothes I’ve folded that I didn’t wear.
  • People I’ve forgiven who didn’t deserve mercy.
  • Jobs I’ve done that I didn’t sign up for.

Oh, my prideful, deceitful heart . . .

The work that God has given me in His design for my family is good. It is right. The work that I do in my church body and my workplace is fitting. The sacrifices that I make as a part of my role, while they do not add to my righteousness (Titus 3:5) are meant to glorify my Father. Shortly thereafter, in Titus 3:8, Paul exhorts Titus to “insist on these things, so that those who have believed God will be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” My service to my church body, my diligence at work, my acts of forgiveness when done with a proper attitude bring honor to God, and beyond that, He sees them! In Psalm 33:13–15 we read:

The LORD looks from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.

God sees. God discerns my heart. But is that . . . enough?

Battle Cry—Is God Enough?

Pastor John Piper spoke to a similar issue in a recent edition of  “Ask Pastor John,” discussing obstacles to forgiveness. “The key,” Dr. Piper said, “is how important and how satisfying to us is the fact that God knows . . . that God understands and God attends to us. God feels with us. He is a merciful high priest. Is that enough? What this showed me was how deeply my heart tends to be oriented on other people more than it is oriented on God.”

And so in my days of frustration and my times of fatigue, I must ask myself, is He enough?

  • If all of my homemaking labors go unnoticed and unappreciated . . . is God enough?
  • If a sister sins against me and I forgive her and no one ever knows the hurt she caused . . . is God enough?
  • If I do the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge and the praise I pour out goes unreturned . . . is God enough?

Even now as I write, I have to ask myself, If I pour my heart and time into my writing and it gets zero “likes” and no comments, or if I accidently hit “delete” and my words evaporate into the land of lost recycle bins, known but to God . . . is that enough? Is He enough?

More often than not, the answer is “no.” I choose momentary affirmation over eternal reward. Jesus warns us of just such a thing in Matthew 6:1–4:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Tearing Down the Altar

The honest truth: In my heart, I believe that God is enough, but I am so busy polishing the plaques on the altar I’ve built that I neglect to cultivate a heart that praises Him. Does Psalm 105:1 say, “Oh give thanks to yourself; call out your own name; make known your deeds among your friends and family”?

No! We serve a wonderful, compassionate, and wise God whose word says:

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered (Ps. 105:1–5).

The battle plan, for me, is clear. With a heart of obedience and love for the Lord, I must knock down the altar of my own creation, that cold, stark monument to Womanhood. I must clear the battlefield, bury the rubble of self-glorification, and begin to plant anew seeds of praise to Him. As for my deeds, my weary heart? We serve a God who sees! A God who knows! A God who keeps count of my tears ( Ps. 56:8) and yours! With His help, in the end, may it be said of me:

Here lies a wife, mother, and servant whose costliest deeds are known but to God . . . and He is enough!

Have you, like me, been fighting a battle to make your name known instead of the Lord’s? How will you endeavor to serve others with quiet joy today?

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