|Welcome back to our review of "The Mission of Motherhood" by Sally Clarkson. If you haven't purchased the book yet, it's not too late to join us! Click here here for a great deal from Amazon.|
This chapter, titled, “The Undivided Heart: Committing Our Lives to God’s Design” definitely touches on what may be seen by some as controversial. The key verse of the chapter is “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands” Proverbs 14:1.The chapter begins with Ms. Clarkson sharing about a visit she had to a doctor who was absent-minded and therefore misdiagnosed her. She learned that the doctor had a small baby at home, and she felt torn between her job and taking care of her baby. She expressed that the baby gets the leftovers and that she doesn’t have time to relax and enjoy her. Sally’s insightful commentary on her interaction with the young doctor is helpful in pointing out a few things to us:
I felt deeply for this frustrated mom, because I understood her dilemma. It’s the same one confronting many loving, well-intentioned mothers. When they were preparing for life, they focused on career preparation and assumed that motherhood and a home life could be tucked around the edges. The importance of motherhood, marriage, and the legacy they would leave in the lives of their children didn’t enter into their training or planning. So they were not prepared for the reality that motherhood, especially when it is carried out according to God’s design, is more than a full-time job. It’s an absorbing task that demands all the resources God has given us–our physical energy, our intellectual abilities, our creative gifts–and involved powerful emotional attachments as well.
This is worth re-reading. If we plan or hope to parent in a manner that lines up with Scripture, we must be willing to let go of selfish desires that manifest themselves in many ways. The “what-ifs”, and “when they are older…” ways of thinking. Or this could include the desires or plans to fulfill a part- or full-time job. This could include running. This could include blogging. There are a myriad ways of having a divided heart toward our homes and it would be wise for us to flesh out what that might look like in our own lives. Is there anything in the way keeping us from wholeheartedly living out our respective roles God has given us? In her own reflection of priorities in her life, Ms. Clarkson clearly articulates what I think is true across the board for any mother:
If I didn’t commit myself wholeheartedly to the demands of motherhood, I would never be able to do my best, because my heart would always be somewhere else.
She goes on to discuss the cultural difficulties of having a family in which mom stays at home. There is not moral support, and many believers have bought into the lies of feminism. We live affluent lifestyles instead of simple ones, which demand more money and more time away from home. Out goes quality time with our families, nourishing meals, and enjoying the simple wonders of God’s creation in our children and nature. The demand to keep up with the material lifestyle takes its toll on the family. How many people do you know who have debt? How many of those people feel bound by it?
Sally shares the reality of mom staying at home. There is time. Time to read books, paint, make cookies, make nourishing foods. Not that life is always peaceful, but there is flexibility and she has the physical and emotional resources to care for the souls of her children that she probably doesn’t have if she is also seeking to maintain a full-time job. Things might be a little tight financially, demanding her to be creative in finding ways to be frugal. It is not easy to be at home. I’ve heard someone say that working outside the home would offer a “break” from the daily grind of fulfilling all the responsibilities and demands that await us in the home. In some respects, I’d agree with them. But I wouldn’t trade this for the world.
Sally wonderfully communicates the responsibility laid on us when we mother children (emphasis mine):
God holds me accountable for our stewardship of his blessings. And that means I am responsible for the ways in which I choose to care for the children he has given me. At the Judgment, I know I will give an account to him for these precious lives he entrusted into my hands.
I probably don’t need to say this, but I think that she would hold to the Biblical perspective that ultimately, the father, the leader of the home, is accountable for how we shepherd the children entrusted to us. Yes, we’ll be held accountable for our own actions, but we also do submit to an earthly authority, who holds a higher authority over these children than even us.
Sister in Christ, please hear Sally’s wise words about what happens when we are not living lives that have the strong foundation of Scriptural conviction:
“Without biblical conviction, the tendency is to blindly accept the norms or standards of the people with whom we spend time. That means we can allow the media and our peers to shape our ideas about motherhood and family instead of basing our decisions on the eternal truth of Scripture.”
Oh, please read that again! This is true in every single area of our lives. We should seek to live every area in submission to God. Not only is it easy to walk in the ways of the world, but it’s easy to hear or read something that someone we know or respect wrote or said and try to do it. It often ends in failure, because we do not own the principles behind it. We must walk by faith. Otherwise, we sin. Romans 14:23
Next, Ms. Clarkson spends time discussing Proverbs 14:1, the verse at the beginning of the chapter. House really has three meanings in the OT. Physical dwelling, a home or household; a heritage. Just as very detailed blueprints that have specific designs and plans for a house are needed before building, so also we need a strong foundation for our families. Luke 14:28 makes it clear that we need to count the cost of choices we make. Sally shares that she has met many mothers who regret misplaced priorities or a divided heart for the home (family).
In addition to counting the cost of our decisions, she reminds us that we are instructed to set our hearts on those things which have eternal significance, not that which is earthly. We are taught in Scripture that the love of the world chokes out the love for God.
I love and appreciate how Sally gently reminds us of Romans 12:1 towards the end of the chapter. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
To fully experience our fulfillment in Christ and fulfill his will in our lives, we must come to the point where we give our whole selves to him–our freedom, our time, our bodies, all of our possessions and gifts–trusting him to show us how to use all that we are for his glory. To sacrifice means to give up or surrender something of value. We are living sacrifices, which means that moment by moment, out of our worship of him, we are to surrender our own needs and expectations for the greater value of pleasing the Lord.
That paragraph was both encouraging and convicting. Encouraging because I will not be disappointed with the satisfaction that comes only from God. Convicting because I often want to do things my way, without being willing to sacrifice for the greater value of pleasing the Lord. This has left me much to chew on.
What about you? Have you been confronted with difficult truths in this chapter?