In a recent survey conducted by the Barna Group, 62 percent of women said their most important role in life is as a mother/parent. Jesus came next: 13 percent of Christian women believe their most important role in life is as a follower of Christ. Why does that shock us? After all, the Bible tells us who we are – selfish, self seeking and prone to wander. For me, this survey just serves to confirm what I know as a parent, and probably what you all know if you have children: I have put great stock in my “mom/parent” identity.
How often have I introduced myself as my child’s mom? How much of my conversation has revolved around my parenting, my child, his schedule? If you have children, chances are everyone around you has kids – meaning you hang with others who have the same season-of-life experiences you do. The result is that your day-to-day world revolves around children and their needs, and friends with children and their needs. All of this makes perfect sense to me. Moms singularly focus on their kids. As moms, we live inside the tension of knowing this focus is out of whack, yet living in a non-stop cycle of caring for our children.
Can we change?
Why is all of this worth talking about? What hope is there for us? Because the truth is, if I had it do all over again, I’m not so sure I would or could do it any differently. I am not saying clinging to your children is okay. I am just acknowledging the fact that it is very difficult not to when, day in and day out, your every waking moment is spent nurturing, training and teaching your children. We do not have to maneuver through a lot of mental gymnastics to figure out what the result of all this is. Our children have become our idols. We have placed all of our hope in a faulty basket – our sinful kids. If they turn out “good” I will have proven my worth and “paid my way,” so to speak. All those years of pouring into them have paid off and I have done my job well. However, here is the problem: If we cling to the deception that our kids prove our worth, we will be crushed and so will they.
Looking for worth in all the wrong places
Our worth is found in Christ alone. Counting on a person (a child) to give us value is empty – the created does not give value to the created. Only the Creator can give value to the created. Saddling our kids with the burden of having to be good enough to prove that we are good (parents, etc.) will crush them. Proving our worthiness is not in their job description, and they can never be good enough to prove our worth.
In addition, when we realize that our worth has been severely damaged by our children’s “bad” behavior, it will crush us. When we come to find out that they are real people, sinners just like us, we are devastated because we realize our reputation is at stake and our value and worth has gone down. Even now, many of us are still clinging to the hope that they will “pull through” – that they will finish that college degree, find that Christian spouse, stay pure until marriage and go to church regularly. Then, we will be satisfied. Our worth will have been proven.
I know all this sounds dreary, so if you are still with me, I want to give you some good news by first asking a few questions. Do we believe that God is not aware of all if this? Does God shake a pointing finger at moms, waiting for them to shape up and start focusing on Jesus? Did Christ die for everything else but the idolatry of our children? Do we think we are the first moms ever to have an unhealthy focus on our children?
God loves sinners
The truth is that none of this catches God by surprise, and that he is not shaking his finger at us. Listen to this unbelievably good news: in the midst of idolizing your kids, God loves you. He knows it’s not healthy for you, so he may gently pry your white knuckles from the grasp of your children’s lives. However, his love for you has never faltered and will never fade away. You see, the gospel frees us to be good mom, bad mom and/or idolizing mom, because who we really are is forgiven and loved in the midst of it all.
God loves you with an everlasting love that makes its stand on the cross of Calvary. His love for you does not depend on your ability to get it all together and stop idolizing your kids. Will all of you be better off if you do? Possibly. However, the love of Christ and his grace for you does not wane. His friendship, his nearness and his delight in you cannot be halted! It is a full force love that you can do nothing to stop – thankfully! Looking for our identity in parenting is disappointing and fleeting. Knowing our identity is in Christ alone brings hope right now in the daily grind of our lives and hope of the assurance of our future eternity with him.
Lori Harding is Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. She blogs regularly at lorileighharding.blogspot.com.