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It was just over three years ago that I said goodbye to my work colleagues and left the office for the last time, with a very heavy heart and an enormous bouquet of flowers.
I had only three weeks to wait for my little boy Tom - my first child - to be born. We remember arriving home from the hospital with a two day old baby and wondering what on earth we were supposed to do with him next!
This was my moment of realisation of how hugely my life would change on beginning my new job as a full time mother.
Actually, before thinking about this sermon series, I had never really thought of being a mother in terms of a job or work, but I can see similarities:
But there are some very significant differences:
At the moment I am faced with the challenge of looking after a little one who sometimes wants to test me, push me or blame me for things (please remember I have a two year old!) Being a mother is often about persuading, educating and protecting someone who may not want any of those things - someone who might try their best not to be loved at times.
It all seems rather unfair really... to have to rise above all this and go on loving through thick and thin. But then that's exactly how we treat God. God loves us despite all the things we, his troublesome children, throw at him.
In all of our work and daily lives God can reveal to us something about himself. The way I see it, my job as a mother is to reflect God's love. The job of motherhood has certainly had something to teach me about the nature of God's love.
My love for my children outweighs the list of challenges that I have talked about and so does God's love outweigh the challenges we present Him. For a mother, all those worries, frustrations and strains are worth it because we love our children unconditionally.
Something of God's challenging model for love is described in 1 Corinthians 13, which says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres".
All of this makes me stand in awe of God's love for us. His love exceeds anything we're capable of. And yet Mother love, like God's love, is hardcore. It's not wishy washy. It's not pink fluffy love. It shows itself in action; in doing things which in any other circumstances I wouldn't want to do; humbling things which I couldn't do without some sort of self-sacrifice. But as a mother you feel privileged to do them... sometimes!
But I am truly thankful that God has given me this job. That He has trusted me with these little people. It is a great blessing and an enormous responsibility. A responsibility that I know that I can't possibly live up to.
Nearly three years on, Tom has been joined by his little sister Laura and I suppose I am slightly more experienced than that brand new mother I described earlier. But still I will often fail in the individual tasks I face. I am frankly not up to the job of loving in the way that God does. The only way I can begin to try is by asking for his strength to do it.
Other sermons in this series cover faith in various other occupations. I think that whatever our employment or daily activity, we will all do well to seek to be more Christ-like and to try to love in the way He loves.
Just as I am not and never will be a perfect mother, none of us is good enough to be truly Christ-like; to accept Him and to behave in the loving and patient way He does; "to be slow to anger and abounding in love". But by learning from Him we can try. And in doing so, we must rely on Him.
It is the only way we can come close to His example and sacrifice.