Marriage · Parenting

Guest Post: When Motherhood Becomes an Idol

The following is a guest post written by Rebekah Hargraves, author of the new book, Lies Moms Believe, and the companion Bible study. I hope that you grow from reading her words, as I have.

As is often the case, this post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made using these links will earn Quiet(ish) Spirit a small commission. For more information, see our Disclosure.


It seemed a bit ironic to begin a book by saying that motherhood is not a woman’s highest calling when that book was aimed at encouraging moms! Even so, that is exactly what I did in Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them). The reason was because I have come to believe that if we get our foundation wrong – how we view motherhood and what we believe to be its purpose in our lives – then the whole building of our mothering begins to grow weak and will eventually crumble. When motherhood reigns supreme, our identity, our fulfillment, and our worth are based right there in our mothering, and when that happens, we are asking for trouble.

Even so, it is still terribly unpopular these days (particularly in the conservative Christian circles from which I hail!) to say that motherhood is not, in fact, a woman’s highest calling. But this must be said, even if it is unpopular to do so. It must be said because it is truth and only the truth sets us free from the ensnaring lies Satan sends our way each and every day of our motherhood journey.

 

Motherhood, the Lord, and a Woman’s Highest Calling

You may be asking, “What is the big deal, Rebekah?”. Why is it so wrong (and, I would propose, so dangerous) to view motherhood as being a woman’s highest calling? I would say there are at least five issues which result from this false narrative on motherhood:

 

  • We forget what our true highest calling is.

As I address further in the book as well as in the companion Bible study, a woman’s true highest calling is actually the same as a man’s: to be an image bearer of God and an ambassador of Christ (see Genesis 1:26-28 and 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, respectively). Anytime we place any other role, job, calling, or purpose ahead of those two callings, we become guilty of making idols out of those other responsibilities and, in the process, making gods out of them to the exclusion of the one true God.

Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 10:37-38, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” We have these words in black and white, clear as day, and yet we somehow believe motherhood to be a woman’s highest calling? This simply does not go together.

 

  • We fail to properly prioritize our marriages.

As it has often been said, our husband was there before the kids came and he is the one who will still be there after they leave. In other words, we need to make our husbands our first priority (second only to God, of course). We need to invest in our marriages. We need to not make the mistake of relegating our husbands to the back burner because we are busy moms and believe motherhood to be our highest calling. What we have to remember is that we were designed to be our husband’s partner and helper in life before we were ever called to be the mother of our children. Both roles are incredibly important, but only one lasts in the same capacity for the rest of our lives. The other shifts and changes as our children grow and eventually leave.

 

  • We rise and fall by the condition of our mothering.

When we believe our role as mama is our highest calling, we will inevitably begin to place our identity in motherhood rather than in Christ. On a good day when our children are all behaving as little angels and everything is going off without a hitch, we will feel good about ourselves and begin to believe that we have it all together. Then, when a bad day comes, and our children refuse to listen, forget the meaning of the word “obey”, and act like little heathens, we begin to despair, believing their behavior to be all our fault and the result of our being awful mothers. Many moms ride this roller coaster on a regular basis.

This is not at all what the Lord would have for us, however. Sweet mama, there is a far better way! Fix your eyes on Christ instead. Always remember your true highest callings. Remember who you are in the Lord. Embrace your identity as a child of God, an image bearer, an ambassador, a mama who has been made new and redeemed. That is who you are as a follower of Christ, and that nature of yours does not change with the changing days of motherhood.

 

  • We do our children a disservice.

When motherhood is viewed as being our ultimate highest calling, our children can easily become either little idols or little burdens. A human being was never meant to be who you turn to for your validation, your whole purpose in life, or your highest calling. When you rely on a person to be your source for that kind of worth, you will be tempted to make the world revolve around that idol, that person who gives you meaning in life. This kind of mothering will result in smothered, spoiled children who will be ill-equipped for adulthood and unprepared for real life.

On the flip side, however, when your children comprise the sum total of your highest calling but then disappoint you, require you to make many self-sacrifices, or add difficulty to your life, you will begin to view them as being little burdens rather than the blessings and rewards God says they are (see Psalm 127:3-5).

Either way, it does our children a disservice to be viewed as the most important people in our lives. They are precious blessings, to be sure. But they were never meant to be put in the place of God.

 

  • We isolate our single and childless sisters.

The mistake of making motherhood into an idol is largely what, I believe, led to the desperation of women like Leah in Genesis. When we say motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, we are saying that a woman’s worth is found in whether or not she is a mother. We are saying that if you are childless, you are less-than. This is not at all what we mean to imply when we say these things about motherhood, but it is the clear implication of our words, nevertheless. Let’s stop supporting these false narratives on motherhood and instead wrap our arms around our sisters-in-Christ who don’t have children, reassuring them that they, too, have a huge part to play in the Kingdom work of God.

 

Motherhood in Light of the Kingdom

As in many other areas of life, there is a balance to be had here, as well. I follow up addressing the lie that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling by addressing lie #2 in the book: the lie that mothering is unimportant work. The truth of the matter is that, contrary to what some would tell you, mothering is actually not at all mundane when viewed through the lens of the Word of God. Even those tasks like cleaning the bathroom and making the fiftieth meal of the day are impactful for eternity. To be sure, motherhood has a huge part to play in the carrying out of the Great Commission itself.

It is when we place motherhood in its proper context, not on the top pedestal, but underneath it, that it then receives its full purpose, importance and worth. Motherhood is another way in which we bear God’s image and live as ambassadors of Christ. When left on its own on the highest rung of the ladder (where it was never meant to be), motherhood actually loses some of its importance, because it is separated out of its proper context. But when placed again under the overarching highest calling of representing Christ to the world, it rises to being the important, beautiful, worthwhile work it truly is.

So, take heart, mama. While it is wrong to make motherhood into an idol, motherhood is something to celebrate and embrace.

 

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Rebekah Hargraves is a wife, mama of two littles, blogger, podcaster, and author whose passion is to edify, equip, and encourage women in their journey of Biblical womanhood, particularly with an emphasis on the gospel and its implications for everyday life. Rebekah’s first book, “Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them)” released last fall, and the “Lies Moms Believe” Companion Bible Study comes out March 30, 2018. You can find Rebekah on her website, Hargraves Home and Hearth, on Instagram, or on iTunes via her podcast.

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