Six hundred years. Staring in 1248 and ending in 1880. That’s how long it took builders to complete Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The construction of that cathedral took longer than the United States has been in existence. Of course not all cathedrals took this long – on the other end of the spectrum the main structure in Chartres Cathedral, for example, was built in just 25 years. Chartres is definitely the exception though, most cathedrals were built well beyond the lifespan of the original architect, builders, priest, bishop, and pope involved in its planning and design and initial construction.
There was an email forward that went around a while back that compared the work of mothers to the work of those who built those awe-inspiring cathedrals so many years ago. The gist of the email is that we as mothers do things that may never receive notice in the here and now. In fact, much of what we do goes without thanks or notice and from all external appearances, no one has any clue the effort that goes into much of what it takes to raise a family. Children may never say thank you for late nights spent on lunches, laundry, cleaning, prayer, and in tears over the burden of it all well after they’re snuggled in bed wrapped in the world of dreams. Put simply, so much of motherhood is unseen. And it can be easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged as we equate being “seen” with being important.
The writer tells the story of reading through a book about the great Cathedrals of Europe and reading a legend that illustrates the nature of those who built the cathedrals. There was a rich man who came to visit a cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it.” And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”
In all honesty, I’m usually one for forwarding an email like to share a laugh with a friend who is as cynical as I am about email forwards – but even to my cynical mind and heart, this spoke much needed truth. God sees. I will likely never be heaped with praise for sacrifices big and small or hours spent caring for sick or heart-broken children. I will likely never get a pat on the back for running errands to gather all of the supplies needed for a school project or watching soccer games in the rain or getting kids to choir and making sure they make it to Sunday School each week.
And so long as I’m being honest, sometimes even knowing the humbling truth that God sees isn’t enough for me. That truth may be what I need to hear and embrace, but in my selfish and prideful and narcissistic way, I still want those pats on the back and the praise. I want praise from my husband and my kids and my friends. I want to be noticed. I want to be affirmed. And I am constantly looking to the world for that affirmation. I’m looking to other needy, broken people to fill that need to be approved. I read that email about motherhood being analogous to being a cathedral builder and I read the multitude of verses in the Bible about our approval coming from God alone – and I say “Yes, but . . .” – I look over them, past them and into the eyes of the world.
The world we live in isn’t much help in our endeavor to stop chasing praise; it encourages us to look externally for all of our approval. The world of facebooking and instagramming and tweeting our accomplishments and vacations, the pinterest-worthy creations we make with our kids, and every profound thought that crosses our mind.
So the obvious question lurking right over my head is: How do I change this dissatisfaction? How can I rest in knowing that God sees? I think the answer might be staring me in the face everywhere I turn:
Open your eyes and see what you have, crazy woman! Look all around you at the blessing in your life!
Soak it in.
Roll around in it. Smile. Laugh.
Relax those shoulders and stop looking ahead and behind.
Open your hands and recognize what gifts you have.
And be thankful. Be grateful.
Because the seeking and striving after something else from this world implies that what I have is not enough. And that couldn’t be further from true – I have enough. More than enough. Heaps of enough. So today I am reminding myself that God sees. God has given me so much more than I deserve and I will open my eyes and my hands in thankfulness for it all