Being a stay-at-home parent can be challenging for many different reasons. The hours are long, the “clients” are often unappreciative, and at the end of the week, there isn’t even a paycheck to show for it. But overall, one of my most frequent struggles as a stay-at-home mom has been the feeling of being insignificant in the eyes of the world. I look around at what other men and women are accomplishing, the ways in which they are making an impact on the world, and I wonder, “Will anything I do ever be noticed like that?”
I have written before that one major shift in my thinking came with the realization that somebody has to do this work, and that means it is an important task. This concept has helped me a lot with my feelings of purpose, but there are still days when I kind of wish I could do something that would get a little more recognition from the outside world. Some days I crave the kind of gratification that comes from receiving a pay raise from a boss, or an “atta-girl” from a co-worker, or a note of appreciation from a client. It’s not quite the same when your “boss / co-worker” and “clients” all live in the same house with you.
These thoughts were hanging around the back of my mind while I was reading my Bible the other day. It was a familiar story, that of Jesus turning the water into wine (John 2:1-11). But there was one little parenthetical phrase in there that I hadn’t particularly noticed before.
Before I get into that, though, allow me to set the stage. The setting is a wedding, which in those times was a week-long affair (or more) rather than just one evening. Many commentators think it was probably the wedding of someone closely related to Jesus, considering that his mother Mary seems fairly involved in the proceedings. But this wouldn’t have been just a small family gathering; likely the whole village would have come.* Perhaps there were more guests than expected, and that’s why the wine ran out early.
Over the wedding feast, there was what this passage calls a “master” or “ruler.” The specifics of this position are debated—some commentaries say he may have been a head servant or waiter in charge of the feast; others say he would have been a particular guest appointed by others to taste the wine. But either way, this was a person who was elevated above his peers to a position of special honor and responsibility. The success of the feast in some sense rested in his hands.
I found it interesting, however, that the text specifically points out that it was not this person of elevated social status who got to witness the miracle in this passage:
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. . . . [T]he master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew). – John 2:7-10, ESV
Who was it that knew that a miracle had been performed? The servants. . . the ones with the low position and social status. . . the ones who had received no special recognition. They not only knew about the miracle, but got to witness it firsthand. It seems likely that they may have been among the few in those days to ever know, since it would have been embarrassing for the groom’s family to admit that hosting their guests had required a miracle. These servants may not have received the recognition of men, but they had the special honor of witnessing this first miracle of Jesus.
Many times I feel about as important as one of the servants in this story, with no special position or social status. But despite the lack of recognition from those around me, this story tells me that I may be in a prime position to see God’s hand at work—to witness miracles. As I wrote this time last year, God often chooses to give special honor or responsibility to those who seem to be the most lowly. After all, He chose shepherds (essentially social outcasts) to be the first to receive and deliver the message about the newborn King.
And what did these servants and shepherds do to deserve this special honor? Nothing. They were just doing their jobs. No one ever credited the servants with having performed a miracle or having produced a secret stash of wine, and no one should have. Their work would have been nothing of note except that Jesus worked through them. They merely followed His orders, and then watched as the water turned to wine.
And indeed, this is true of every great prophet in the Bible, from Moses to Elijah to Daniel. These men may have had greater power and prestige, but they too were simply obeying God and allowing Him to work through them. That, in the end, is probably the most important lesson of all. I may enjoy being noticed and appreciated, I may crave the accolades of man, but it is God who truly deserves the honor and praise. It is not my effort, but His work through me that makes my achievements worthy of note.
And although the miracles within my view may not be as awe-inspiring as the parting of the Red Sea, they can still show me that God loves me and is at work in the world and in my life. Like Mary, I can treasure up the little things and ponder them in my heart (Luke 2:19, 51). And even when I feel unseen by others, I can keep doing His work, hoping for a day when I can hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).
See also section 3 here: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/smiths-bible-dictionary/marriage.html
Photo Credit: iStock: London – The stained glass of the Wedding at Cana in church St Etheldreda by Charles Blakeman.