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On the Side - October 2014

Defining Our Worth

By Carol Shrader

My 8-year-old is learning to use a thesaurus this week. My three 17-year-olds are using vocabulary flash cards to rapid-fire study for their upcoming SAT. Needless to say, we are currently a household obsessed with words!

Just wanted to warn you before I begin this didactic devotional with the promise to offer empirical knowledge of ways to be steadfast women, Godly wives and not be patronizing, peevish or obtuse….

No. I won’t go there. But, out of curiosity, I did look up the word WIFE in the thesaurus. There were eight words listed as synonyms: companion, consort, spouse, partner, mate, helpmeet, significant other, other half.

Not bad. And I agree with all on most days.

Just last week, I had the privilege of being Wade’s companion as we traveled to San Diego for an annual conference. I know that we partner together in many things – parenting our four children being one of them. And I pray I am a helpmeet to him as he cares for patients and works to impact our little corner of the world.

But I have to say that I would add a handful of “synonyms” to the list: launderer, cook, errand-runner, travel agent, secretary, calendar manager, accountant, and caregiver for his offspring, to name a very few.

Words are fun. I like to try new vocabulary and find ways to incorporate new words into my everyday language.

One of my children takes the whole vocabulary-improvement thing to a different level. When I am conversing with Mason, he sounds like…well, Mason.  He does use a large vocabulary and I may or may not pat myself on the back for modeling such behavior. But when he is around people he has just met, he uses an abundance of multi-syllable words. He ups the percentage of large words per sentence exponentially. After witnessing such behavior recently, I questioned him. He knew what I was referring to immediately:

“I have one shot, Mom. I walk in and they see me and my crutches and people automatically jump to assumptions about my intellect. I have to show them from the first words out of my mouth that my legs are affected, not my mind.”

Oh. I see.

Mason and his brother Benjamin have Cerebral Palsy. My boys are two of a set of triplets – beautiful Claire rounds out the three – born entirely too early. Their premature birth caused something to go awry in their brains. As a result, Mason uses cuff crutches to ambulate, Benjamin a power wheelchair. Both are smart, articulate and, at 17, sensitive to first impressions.

“Your worth is not wrapped up in what other people think of you,” I worked to do damage control.

“Of course it is not, Mom.  I know where my worth lies, but it matters. It matters.”

And even as I try to argue, I understand his point. For as protective as I feel about all his amazing attributes – that far exceed any limitations due to his CP – I understand the challenge in seeking God’s face when we measure our self-worth.

I can pull up the synonyms for “wife” discussed earlier and know that on any given day I might succeed at 9/10. And yet, if I miss something on the calendar, forget the dry-cleaning, or find the need for fast food for supper, my self-worth takes a hit. No one around me has to say a word. I am frankly married to an amazing man who once told me (right after the triplets were born) that he was ok with cereal for dinner every night. He really does not equate my worth as his helpmeet with my ability to put fresh homemade food on the table.

So why do I?

And unless I am completely missing my mark – why do you?

Oh my dear ones, our to-do-list might be out of hand, our daily schedule might exceed the hours in the day but we serve the One who cares about so much more than what we accomplish in a day:

“…even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 30-31 (NIV)

Our Father God loves us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. I love my children and I comb, brush and braid a lot of hair in this house. But I can assure you that if counting their hairs is a task I need to add to my to-do list, I will fail miserably. Not our Creator – He knows, He counts and He finds our worth in His love for us.

May I encourage you to run your race toward Jesus?  Do not equate the check marks on your to-do list with your life worth. I cannot ease your job requirements as wife, mother, and friend, but I can promise you that there is One ready to help you meet every goal and accomplish every task. He knows the plans He has set before you and the grace He can give to achieve those plans.

“…we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NIV)

And I AM praying, dear ones, that by HIS power you can exceed your job description!


Carol Shrader is wife to her Wade, Mother to her four (Benjamin, Mason, Claire and Cate) and self-proclaimed wordsmith -- or at least a flash-card wielding vocabulary teacher!

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