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Happy Mother's Day, Mom. But please make sure you don't hold the most dangerous belief a Christian mom can have...
It doesn't quite have the same appeal as the others, does it?
I know. Mother's Day is supposed to be a time when we celebrate moms, not warn them about dangerous beliefs. But if you're a mom, it's a great time to let others celebrate you while you take stock of where you are as a parent and where you should be.
Consider this post a heart-to-heart from a mom who is spending Mother's Day taking stock.
The Dangerous Belief More Than Half of Christian Women Hold
A few years ago, Barna Research did a large study that examined the lifestyles and priorities of Christian women.
They found that more than half (53 percent) of Christian women said their highest priority in life is family; only 16 percent said it was their faith.
Similarly, 62 percent said their most important role in life is a mother; only 13 percent said it was a follower of Christ.
These are astounding statistics when you consider how at odds they are with what the Bible says about our identity:
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).
"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:3-4).
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him" (1 John 3:1).
"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
These verses--and at least 150 others--point to our identity being first in Christ, as children of God.
Moms, that is who we are. Children of God before anything else. And our priorities must follow.
None of these verses say anything remotely close to, "Oh, but if you have kids, then you are first and foremost a mom. Your family comes first."
None. Not even close. God always comes first.
Thinking that our top priority is our family is the most dangerous belief we can have.
Ironically, it's a belief that can lead to devastating consequences for the spiritual wellbeing of our kids. Why?
First, we end up deferring to our kids' worldly wants more than their spiritual needs.
As moms, we have a natural desire to make our kids happy. Sure, we know that not everything that makes them happy is good for them and frequently say no, but there are many times when the happiness-versus-benefit tradeoff isn't as explicit.
For example, we know that giving them cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be a horrible health choice and we would never cater to that kind of happiness. But what if we launch a weekly family Bible study and the kids seem to hate it--as in, there's not an ounce of happiness anywhere to be found?
I can't tell you how many parents have told me they tried family Bible study but their kids "just weren't having it" and they gave up. And I completely understand how hard it is. We've pushed through Bible studies where one kid was standing on her head, another was complaining how bored he was, and the third was crying because the second child had just hit her.
It's a battle.
But these kinds of battles are necessary and you'll only be willing to fight them if your highest priority is God.
Second, we prioritize time in the wrong ways.
This has been an overly hectic winter and spring for our family. My son had baseball and Cub Scouts, my daughter had piano and Awana, and my other daughter had soccer and American Heritage Girls. We had something extracurricular every school night and on Saturdays.
The stress of getting everyone everywhere they needed to be took its toll. There was more fighting, more harsh words, less patience, and more general negativity in our family than in any season before.
All of these activities individually are good. And I have rationalized the insanity by telling myself that individual good things must add up to a cumulative good. But I've had to really reassess what I've been willing to do in the name of "family" while trying to be a good mom the last few months.
I've realized this is not a cumulative good.
I must sadly admit that there were a couple of Sundays when we were all so tired from the demands of the week that we did "home church" instead of going to worship. There were also weeks we didn't do our normal Bible study because of fatigue from these other commitments.
There's no way to look at it other than that we put some notion of "family" first those weeks. And I hate it. If we can't keep our current family schedule without ensuring God gets the best of us, then the schedule needs to change--not our time with God.
How we choose to use our time tells our kids volumes about where God really falls in our priority list.
Third, we focus more on our kids' earthly accomplishments than their spiritual development.
My 9-year-old daughter has been playing piano for three years and was recently in her first competition. Music is her gift--she can play very advanced pieces for her age, and play them well. I have to admit that I anticipated she would either win or get an honorable mention. But when results were posted, she wasn't on the list for either.
I was really disappointed because she had worked so hard. Like a sad Tiger Mom, I wanted to know more about the kids who won, so I googled their names. It wasn't difficult to find out about them--they had been featured in articles because they had competed for years already. They practice 4-6 hours each day. My daughter practices about 45 minutes. These kids are, in effect, training like future Olympians in sports.
I admit that my first response was one of some bitterness. Where can I find a competition with "normal" kids who do other things in life? It was an ugly reaction. And then I started thinking immediately about how much more I could get my daughter to practice every day.
But as I imagined what that would look like, I knew that it would mean she would spend less time reading her Bible, having the many casual conversations about faith that we have when hanging out at night, memorizing Bible verses for Awana (which she loves!), and much more.
I'm not suggesting that those who spend Olympic-level time on developing certain skills can't also develop a robust spiritual life. But I know my daughter well enough to know that in her case, such a schedule would have a devastating effect in that area.
When moms prioritize family over God, it often leads to a preoccupation with successes in this world, especially as we naturally compare our kids to others. We get sucked into thinking we fail our kids if we don't do what it takes to help them succeed in worldly ways. But when our priorities are in the right place, we count our success by what we've done to lead them to Jesus. That's a completely different kind of parenting that only happens when we truly put God first.
Finally, we don't grow in our own faith as much as we should.
This isn't last because it's least important--it's last because I think it's the most important thing to take away.
When our identity is caught up in our kids rather than in Jesus, we can easily become a slave to the relentless responsibilities of parenting and put the time needed for our own spiritual growth on the backburner.
In doing so, we think we're putting our kids first, but in reality we're able to give them less of what they need: a mom whose identity is so wholly wrapped around Jesus that they see what it means to be a committed Christ-follower from sunrise to sunset.
That won't happen when we aren't caring for our own soul by regularly studying the Bible, praying, serving, and fellowshipping with other believers. And this is not the default! No one falls into these things. We must be intentional.
Moms, if we didn't get our kids' laundry done this morning, but we prayed together before school, we did well.
If we didn't get our kids to soccer practice with matching socks and hair bows, but we studied the Bible with them this week, we did well.
If we didn't let our kids participate in a Sunday morning sports event, but we worshipped with them in church instead, we did well.
If we didn't feed our kids dinner...oh wait, that would be bad. We do have to feed them. Just don't stop there.
Happy Mother's Day, fellow moms. Let's go forward this year remembering that by loving God first, we are able to love our kids best.