Tuesday, May 1, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: biblical motherhood

a couple posts ago, my friend melissa asked me a crucial question: how should a christian mom be spending her time?  what are the most important priorities?

i felt a little silly when she asked this because i realized my posts have been a little scattered and not organized, linear thinking like i usually try to aim for.  one of my main purposes for this series is to stand counter to our culture that upholds paid vocation higher than motherhood.  but just as the biblical commandments of what we should do are bigger and harder than what we shouldn't do, so the purposes and focuses of motherhood are bigger and more important to study than those things that can distract from these purposes (though both are necessary and good to examine).

the bible describes a mother's role in several passages.  as we have already seen, God is the one who created men and women, and their unique roles and responsibilities, as described in genesis 1-3.  when we live out the way that God created us, we become most alive and free (though we will still face difficulties and trials), which is why it is important to gain our understanding of motherhood from the bible.  there are two other passages i will highlight in hopes of clarifying this.

"young women [are] to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." titus 2:4-5

two observations:

1. four virtues are mentioned: self-controlled, pure, submissive and kind.  two roles are mentioned (a "to do" list of sorts, if you will): loving their husbands and children and working at home.  in paul's perspective, these two things are the two roles most worth mentioning that young women should focus on.

2.  why should young women focus on these things? "that the word of God may not be reviled".  that is quite weighty.

a second passage is even more practical, for those of you who like tangible examples like i do.  it was written hundreds of years before paul's words and before jesus came, but it parallels the two roles paul mentions: loving our husbands and children, and working at home.

 "An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:10-30

this passage doesn't mean that a good mother must do each one of these things in exactly the way listed, but more that this is an example of one great way to live out the role God desires for mothers.

here are some examples [although not an exhaustive list!] of how she fulfills the roles of loving her family and working at home:

loving her husband and children:
she makes them warm, fashionable clothes (v. 24)
all the days of her life she does good to her husband (v. 12) [worth praying about: do you do good, not harm, to your husband every single day?]
what she does for her children cause them to rise up and call her blessed (v. 28)
she supports her husband so that he can hold a high position in the city (v. 23)

working at home:
"she looks well to the ways of her household" (v. 27)
she provides food for her household (v. 15)
she makes bed coverings (v. 22)
she gardens (v. 16)
she makes extra clothing, and sells some to local merchants (v. 24)

i will add another category of what she focuses on: she does ministry:
she provides for the poor and needy (v. 20)
she teaches others to be virtuous (v. 26) maybe other women?  maybe her children?

this biblical mama spends much of her day loving and serving her family (and secondarily, her community).  she does what needs to be done, even when its hard (like waking up super early!), willing to lay down her life for their sake.  clearly, her husband and children feel loved and served, and they even exclaim "many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." they cant hold in their praise and appreciation.  and verse 30 sums it up well:  each aspect of her motherhood is fueled by her fear of the Lord.

we see from the dawn of creation that God made women to be puzzle pieces that complete our husbands.  he created us to come along side of them, to love and help them, using the same word "helper" that he uses to describe himself as a helper of Israel.  scripture goes on to describe this role as extending to loving our children.  the way this plays out is by being a household manager, "looking well to the ways of [our] household[s]".  and why do we do this?  that the word of God may not be reviled.

that the word of God may not be reviled.

God's word is reviled in our culture, and more heartbreaking, it is reviled by many children of christian parents.  could this be in part because mothers are rejecting their God-given role, thinking they have a better plan for their lives?

we may never know the answer to this question (until we can ask jesus, face to face), but until then it is certainly worth meditating on and prayerfully seeking God for answers so that we can be a part of pointing our husbands, children and neighbors to jesus, even "adorning the gospel of God" (c.f. titus 2:10) with our good works and godly living.

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