This is the fourth post in a series about being children of God and how that informs our various roles as women. Read all of the posts in the series here.
I recently closed out a week in which all five of my children came down with strep throat. We also made a seven-hour round-trip to a children’s hospital and had three soccer tournament games, horse therapy, and homeschooling—which more or less happened. There are days and seasons when being a mother is chaotic and depleting.
The mom circles of the internet resonate with these feelings. Facebook statuses and blogs cry out, “We are exhausted, frazzled, and tired of being told what we’re doing wrong. We can’t keep up with your little-girl hair tutorials, Pinterest party favors, exhaustive age-appropriate reading lists, or perfect dietary and educational choices.” We desperately want to do this mothering thing well, and yet we feel we are constantly falling short.
The North Star
Mamas, we’ve lost our bearings. So many of us have walked for months without looking up to check our course with the north star. We have learned something valuable in this, however. We have learned that we can never do it all. It’s time to ask ourselves what we’re aiming for, and to be ready to let the rest fall away.
Dear sisters, we need to remember that we are God’s children. We are followers of Jesus. We died to ourselves and Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20). We have found the treasure hidden in the field and sold all that we had to buy it (Matt. 13:44). We are aiming to know Christ and to live daily in His presence (Phil. 3:8-16). Bringing up little ones cannot change that, and yet the daily struggles somehow erode our resolve and dim our focus. Jesus has an admonition for us as He had for distracted Martha: only one thing is necessary (Luke 10:28-32). Only one, even as mothers. We need to treasure Christ— in front of our children, with our children, when the children finally, finally sleep—our heart must beat for Christ. That’s the sun at the center. That’s the north star in the woods. The rest is background noise.
The problem is that the background noise wails like a tornado siren most days. Diaper blowouts, ear infections, food allergies, sleep deprivation, school work, and appointments cannot be ignored. We do have to feed the children every day. We have to discipline them and educate them. How does one love Christ first and raise children well when everything about children seems to pull our eyes off of Him? We need help.
We need a steady diet of sermons, songs, books, and poetry that lift our eyes off of our immediate crises and put them on the whole of redemptive history and our place in that. We need reminders that our pain as well as our monotonous struggles of the every-day are a result of exile from God’s presence, that Christ came to buy us back from this, that Christ’s Spirit is real power for us today, that the sacrifices we make to live for God’s honor are meaningful and valuable, and that we have a real and solid hope of life beyond this world. We need reminders of the character of goodness in Christ: forgiveness, compassion, gentleness, self-sacrifice, faithfulness, endurance, purity, love, and hope. We need the power of His Spirit living through us.
What Matters Most
Only when Christ is in clear view, and our spirits are leaning on His, can we take that right worldview and that fullness of Christ’s character into our relationships with our husbands and children. Mothering well springs from this. I look back now over the past twelve years of what very much feels like pouring myself out (Phil 2:17) as a mother, and though I cringe at my failures, there are moments and seasons that I can look back on with solid joy. For all the worry and all the stress I have put into so many parenting decisions, it is not the dietary choices, not the educational choices, not the after-school activity choices that I made well that matter most; it is the times when Christ shone through me.
It is the patient endurance in the monotony, the reverent and awe-filled conversations about God that popped up along our days, the genuine prayers and the rich songs in dark rooms at bedtime that weigh the heaviest now. It was on the days that I took my kids with me to help my neighbors, and in the hours I spent teaching them to make cards for those who were sick or lonely that Christ reached through me to begin forming His character in my children’s hearts. It was in the few, desperate times that I actually humbled myself to ask their forgiveness, and they threw their little arms around me that we preached the gospel to each other.
These moments have been the sweetest, truest, most God-honoring moments in my home—the moments that solidified my relationship with my children and spurred them on to their own relationships with God. And sadly, these are the moments that the Pinterest-worthy party decorations, the after-school activities, and the push for academic perfection may distract me from. Jesus told us that we will never be able to serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). He was speaking specifically of those who wanted to follow Him and yet pursue wealth, but His words apply just as well to anything else we are tempted to pursue before Him: entertainment, peer approval, and yes, Pinterest-variety perfect parenting.
Dear friend, have you strayed off course as a child of God and a mother? The answer is sweetly simple: love Christ well. Love Christ who offered Himself to restore you to relationship with your Creator (1 Jn. 4:9-10, Rom. 5:6-11). Love Christ as your example (1 Pet. 2:20-24, Phil. 2:5-8, 1 Jn. 2:5-6), your Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:25), your Brother (Heb. 2:11-12, 17-18;) and your rest (Matt. 11:28-30, Heb. 4:3-11).
Let the Rest Fade
When we wander from this, we need to find a way to get those sermons, songs, books, and poetry into our lives to lift our eyes back to our first love (Rev. 2:3-4). We need to get them into our cars, into our kitchen work, into our bedtime routines with the little ones. We need to find a church that lifts Christ up each week, and get our families involved consistently. We must get ourselves to the stream to drink (Jn. 7:37-38) and to the table to eat (Jn. 6:35). We lose the most meaningful battles if we let the needs of daily life pull our gaze from the spiritual reality above us (Col. 3:1-14). Friend, find a way to surround yourself with others who will speak Christ into your life, who will pray for you, and who will encourage you. Don’t let all those lesser things that you are striving for drown out life’s theme.
The apostle Paul worked daily to raise adult children in Christ and his task was much the same as our own. His parenting of the Thessalonian believers is a light for those of us making our way as parents:
"But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."
1 Thess. 2:7-12
Sister, when you feel torn in too many parenting directions to do anything well, keep Christ in focus (Heb. 12:1-2). Keep your life holy, righteous, and blameless. Shepherd the little souls in your flock willingly, setting an example for them (1 Pet. 5:1-4). Share your authentic love of Christ with your children as you work night and day. Exhort them to walk in a manner worthy of God. Set your hope and your children’s on Christ’s kingdom and glory. When you fall short of this, pray for Christ to work these things in you (Heb. 13:20-21). In the end, this is the work that will never be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Let the rest fade.