Most mornings, my first thought isn’t a particularly holy one.
My first conscious thoughts of the day are usually wrapped in the last thin strands of vacated dreams or begrudging sentiments about how early it is. It’s so dark at 5:15 a.m. It’s difficult to think of anything beyond the coffee pot.
A few weeks ago, my husband preached a sermon from Romans 11, and the prevailing point from the end of that chapter is that we exist to glorify God. It felt like a rather anti-climactic point for me, to be honest. I know I exist to glorify God. I know you exist to glorify God. This was not brand new information. And yet, Paul’s words in Romans 11:36 pierced my heart that morning with an arrow of conviction and gentle rebuke. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Just that morning, I’d scrambled to get my kids dressed and out the door to church. I’d groused at them for their slowness at putting on shoes and coats. I’d grumbled about being late. I complained about how full my arms were with toddler hands, diaper bags, purses, a casserole for the fellowship meal afterwards.
While getting the kids in the van, I mentally tallied a long to-do list for the week. As I drove the short route to church, I skipped ahead to the next day and started planning my day for work and errands and meal prep. Mothering, writing, teaching, taking care of my home—all the things on my list press in until I feel smothered by them. Though I check things off frequently, the lists seem to grow when I’m not looking. The laundry piles up, the dishes are a revolving-door chore, my deadlines won’t be ignored, and I know lately I’ve pushed my kids in front of a screen too much in order to get things done.
So, on the Sunday morning that I sat in the pew and heard Paul’s simple words, I felt the sting of a timely rebuke. From Him. Through Him. To Him, everything.
Who do I belong to?
Before I am a mother, a wife, a writer, a teacher, a housekeeper, a friend, a mentor—before all of those things, I belong to Christ. And I exist for Him. For what brings Him glory, not the glory of my to-do list.
The very fact that I opened my eyes to a dark morning and a rude alarm clock is a testimony to Paul’s exhortation. I sleep for Christ’s glory. I wake up for Christ’s glory. I breathe for Christ’s glory. I swing my feet out of the bed and stand for His glory. I drink the coffee and groggily study the Scriptures for His glory. I dress and feed my children for His glory. I write for His glory. I teach for His glory. I support my husband for His glory. I wash dishes and fold laundry for His glory. Well, maybe I don’t actually do all those things for His glory, but I am supposed to.
Paul said it this way in his epistle to the Colossian church: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 ESV). Whatever we do — word or deed. We exist for the sole purpose of glorifying God, and if I could pin that truth to the inside of my eyelids I would. For what would change if the first waking thought at the shrill call of my morning alarm was not a grumbling one about the early hour or the unwinding of my to-do list, but a reminder that I belong to Christ?
If my first thought when I wake is, I exist for the glory of God, what would change?
It’s about identity…
Here’s what I think would change: everything.
It might be subtle, or mostly internal. But it would be noticeable, leaving nothing untouched.
I would silence the alarm with thankfulness that I am alive and able to rise from my bed without assistance. I would drink my coffee with gratitude for warmth and caffeine on a cold, dark morning. I would anchor myself desperately in the Word, because in it, God tells me how I can glorify Him.
I would pray with purpose because I know that God will fulfill His good purposes that bring Him glory and work for our good. I would parent my children with patience and kindness because I am parenting not for my pride or for the sake of obedient children, but because God is patient and kind.
I would work with peace and humility, neither seeking affirmation or fearing rejection in the outcome because I work for God’s name to be known, not my own. I would cease striving over the to-do list and keep my hand to the plow in a way that quietly entrusts the days to God because He is in control, not me.
My days belong to Him. My hours belong to Him. My minutes and seconds belong to Him. The work of my hands and the words of my mouth should only be done because He holds all things together. He needs nothing from me, yet somehow, He receives glory when I work, parent, and rest with Him in mind.
It boils down to identity, really.
Identifying as a mom isn’t wrong. I am a mom. Identifying as a writer isn’t wrong either. I am a writer. I am a piano teacher and a wife and a Bible study teacher. But those things only tell you what I do, not who I am. I can lose all the qualifiers that tell you what I do. But I cannot lose the qualifier that tells you who I am.
By God’s grace, I belong to Him. The core of my being is anchored in His faithfulness, His work through Jesus at the cross, His unchanging character. Knowing who I am then gives me a script for how I do the things I’ve been given to do. And if my existence, my breathing and occupying space on this planet, is for God’s glory, then the narrative is clear for how I should live. I live to make God’s name known. It’s the central message of many of Paul’s epistles: this is who you are (you belong to Christ), so this is how you live (for His glory).
So before we are wives, mothers, workers, homemakers, friends, teachers, women – we belong to Christ. And belonging means that all those other roles should be viewed and fulfilled through a lens that is clearly reflecting the glory of Christ, not the glory of us.
Parenting for God’s glory in the midst of a two-year old’s tantrum looks differently than doing so for our own glory. When our aim in parenting is to make God’s name great, we remember kindness and grace. When we parent to make our own name great, we often defer to hurt pride, embarrassment, or short tempers.
When we fold laundry or wash dishes because God is faithful, gratitude edges out our complaints and grumbling. When we wake up early to read the Scriptures and pray because God has always kept His promise to be with us, then we can rise from our beds with hope because knowing this ever-present God is more important than an extra hour of sleep. Belonging to Him means living every corner of our days with Him in mind.
Remembering changes everything…
Remembering God’s glory in the morning seems like a simple exercise. I’m training my mind to harness itself to that one thought in the mornings: I exist to glorify God.
It’s harder than I expected. I’ve had thirty-seven years of practicing hazy discontentment first thing in the morning. And to be frank, forgetfulness is my worst enemy. But, slowly, I’m making an effort to remind myself at 5:15 a.m. that I belong to Christ and I exist to bring Him glory.
And in both small, barely noticeable ways and big, sin-killing ways, it changes everything.
Glenna Marshall is married to her pastor, William, and lives in rural Southeast Missouri where she tries to keep up with her two energetic sons. Glenna is the author of The Promise is His Presence (P&R, July 1, 2019). You can connect with her at glennamarshall.com where she writes about suffering, biblical literacy, and God’s faithfulness.
Glenna is a regular contributor for Women Encouraged and will be speaking at Women Encouraged 2019.