I used to be a smother mother –
My husband will tell you, when our son was born I was a baby addicted, feed on demand, co-sleeping, smother mother. But I got over it. I have an addictive personality so it only follows reason that the newest star on the block would capture my attention.
But really I’m only content when I can’t get enough of Jesus. So after a couple of years and life lessons I found my balance; loving my children, and wild, head over heels, addicted to Jesus. It’s best that way.
The balance is hard to maintain. Guilt, my own needs, and peer pressure, all push me off course. But I’ve seen the damage that comes from women living for their children.
Idols are easy to erect in our lives. Honestly if you haven’t bowed before a few in your life I’d be surprised. Our hearts are hungry for meaning, for love, and it takes experience to recognize that it’s Jesus and only Jesus that satisfies. We can say it with our lips, but living it is very different.
By nature we’re addicts. We’re meant to be. Devoting, adoring, craving, needing, worshiping, it’s in our nature. It’s only natural that one of the things we can be addicted to is our children. And it’s easy to tell ourselves our devotion to them is a healthy spiritual practice. But we have to be careful.
Loving our children with the goal of raising mature followers of Jesus, grounded in the truth, is a healthy goal. But I’ve watched mothers grieve the growing up of their children as if it’s a loss and not a gain. I’ve seen them find their purpose and meaning in the role of mother and when that role shifts they’re lost.
For a time I was there. I wondered what I would do when my kids grew up and then I realized that I should be doing now what I would be doing then. Devoting myself to Jesus fully as a disciple, living in the purpose he created me for, studying his word, and living on mission for him.
As a young mother there was a wobble, a natural lean, toward infatuation with my children, considering them my first priority. But I can’t find that in scripture. I recently saw a Christian woman’s twitter post saying “My greatest and most important work will always be that of Mother. Period. End of story. All else is secondary.” That rubs against me. I just can’t swallow that. Training up children with a reverence and faith in God is important and God clearly blesses generations. It’s certainly his goal for each generation to teach another.
But Jesus also said radical things, hard things like, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
God’s command to teach the next generation doesn’t contradict Jesus’ command to love him most. It’s a matter of priority. The most important work of our lives is to be Jesus addicts. All else is secondary, including children. And honestly they will be healthier because of it. Several years ago I realized the best thing I could do for my children is have a vibrant relationship with Jesus (and their father but that’s a different post).
My parents were in ministry. It was hard. I saw more church junk by the time I was 17 than many seasoned adults have seen first hand. After a particularly hard season I remember my parents wrestling with the reality of ministry life. The question was asked, by a parent or a friend I don’t remember, “if ministry was really an altar worth sacrificing a family on.”
It was a defining moment for me as a young Christ follower. I responded firmly, “Yes.” That’s because my parents had done well in teaching me, and showing me, that Jesus is first. He’s the only fix for the addiction we have and it’s our privilege to tell others. What is laid on the altar of sacrifice for Christ’s sake is always redeemed. And that has certainly been true of our family.
Abusing or neglecting children is not okay. But putting them in their proper place in life, as a part of our lives and not the whole, is healthy. Showing them, and not only telling them, of our devotion to Jesus. Expecting them to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel and teaching them to lose their life for Jesus is good.
I don’t ever want my kids to think my greatest life work is them.
I want them to know, from my example, that the greatest lifework is pursuing Jesus. When Jesus is supreme all else naturally comes under his rule and care, that’s where peace dwells.
It’s easy to get a wobble in our mama mojo. How are you doing at maintaining, or finding, a healthy balance?