I am sitting in the living room; my thirteen year old is taking a break from her drawing to put away some dishes, my eight year old is playing “business,” and my little boys (4 1/2 and 17 mo.) are roaring at each other and making whatever other noises little boys like to make. Someone comes to me to “tell” on someone else and my husband responds with “please give mom some time to write.” This is real life, with real children and a real husband and wife. A family learning how to overcome temptations and sins. A family learning how to love and serve each other more than we love and serve ourselves. A family trying to keep the evangel at the center of our family culture and life together. My husband brought me a cup of espresso and now has all the kids at the kitchen table eating fruit and talking about the city of Troy (I have no idea how that conversation started). I’m supposed to be writing about the excellencies of Christ… but instead I want to write to you about being faithful with gifts and talents in the midst of executing our role as wife and mother.
This morning I posted 2 Timothy 1:7 as today’s Lord’s Day Quote.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
I have been thinking about this verse since my husband and I watched Don Carson’s session Preserving the Gospel from The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference last night. Set within the context of the entire passage Dr. Carson was teaching from (2 Timothy 1:3–2:2) Paul is encouraging Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” I’ve thought a lot lately on how we women in general, and mothers in particular, are to “fan into flame the gift of God” without timidity, but with power, love and self-discipline.
Just like men, women made in the image of God are called to a variety of vocations, gifts and callings. When and if the Lord calls us to be wives and mothers we must seek to learn how to fulfill our gifts and talents within those distinct roles. I have learned a lot over the last few years as I’ve meditated on the parable of the talents. I’ve thought about times when I’ve squandered and/or buried my “talents.” I’ve thought about times when I have slacked on my duties as wife and mother to pursue selfish desires. I’ve even had many years of burying and denying all talents on the altar of motherhood because of a truncated view of the gospel.
If you happen to be a wife and mother, at some point you get told that “you can’t have it all,” and certainly not all in the same season. You get told that the road of motherhood and wifehood is a season that changes. And that is all true to a certain degree, at the level of a cultural proverb. But as Christian women, we are to search for gospel answers to our questions. I don’t know about other women, but frankly, I am not persuaded nor satisfied with proverbial wisdom. I want to know how the gospel answers my questions. I want to know how a woman who seeks to keep the cross of Christ at the center fleshes out a gospel-empowered life. I want to know how I can “fan into flame the gift of God” while simultaneously being a good steward of my home, and loving and serving my husband and children.
My husband coined a phrase just for me, mimicking the style of Don Carson: “Being a wife and mother is much more than caring for the house and kids, but it’s certainly not less than that.” (The Carsonian turn of phrase can easily become the basis for a parlor game: “Being a Christian is much more than loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength… but it’s certainly not less than that,” or, “being a Christian woman is much more than being a woman, but it’s certainly not less than that…”) These baseline standards and aspirational directions create the space in which we live, and present us with both tensions and resting places.
Women are disciples of Christ also, right along with men. The gospels make that clear (see Luke 8:1–3). We are co-heirs of the gracious gift of life (1Peter 3:7) and we receive the gospel without partiality (Gal. 3:26-29). The entirety of the Word of God applies to us. These things do not stop or get put “on hold” during the season of motherhood. We can never stop pursuing Christ first, not even when God in his goodness blesses us with a husband and children. Our fidelity belongs to Jesus Christ, from there all our doings flow.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever lose his life for my sake will find it.”
Now, by no means do we abandon our families. God forbid! But neither can we allow anything to eclipse our devotion to Christ. And this then, is the tension in which gospel women find themselves in—it is a tension built into our roles and calling, put there by our Creator. I submit to you that it is precisely this tension which is meant to drive us to the Cross first and foremost! It is this tension that is the means of our sanctification. It is this tension built into our everyday life that pushes us to (or should push us to) complete reliance and devotion to Jesus—and from that place, at the foot of the cross, we are to rise and do our Lord’s bidding. Whether it is time to change a diaper, run a load of laundry, or “fan into flame the gift of God.”