"A sentence from Psalm 101 has been both challenging and convicting for me: 'I will walk in my house with blameless heart' (Psalm 101:2, NIV). When God speaks to me about being more loving, this verse reminds me to make application in my family first -- and then to others. It forces me to ask, 'Am I more spiritual, more loving, or more fun somewhere else? Who gets my best -- my family or others?"
~Jean Fleming from "A Mother's Heart: A Look at Values, Vision and Character for the Christian Mother"
This is a question that I have pondered over the years, and quite honestly, I have agonized over this idea of whether or not I am "fun" with my family. It is not uncommon in my weekly IOW posts to take a bit different approach to the given quote for our consideration. And this week I guess will be no different. But before I share my thoughts on this particular quote, let me explain some of the reasons that I don't always see things the way many regular Christian girls do. ;o) I trust you will understand why I sometimes seem to come to our weekly task from "around the corner," or from a different slant than you will probably hear in your average Christian conversation.
Some of you know that I spent many, many years trying to figure out why MY home, MY family, MY marriage just didn't quite "measure up" to what I was observing around me in my church family. And so, when life in my little world was topsy-turvy and completely confusing, I assumed that it was because I was doing something I shouldn't be doing . . . . or not doing something that I should have been doing . . . . or I wasn't "nice" enough to my children, or I wasn't "fun" enough to keep up with the incessant demand in our home for "excitement," "adventure," and an every-increasing expectation that life should be "fun."
So I prayed, and prayed, and prayed . . . . for many, many years . . . . asking God to change me, to make me a "good" mommy, a better wife, a happier Christian. But no matter how much I prayed, or how much I determined to be "more spiritual, more loving, or more fun," I just never could quite reach that elusive goal. Every day, every week, every month, every year I struggled to understand how I could be so incapable of "getting it right." And every time I would hear one more sermon about how the mother is responsible for setting the "tone" in the home; she (apparently alone) is responsible to create a loving, nurturing, spiritual, happy home where her family is cheerfully growing in God's grace . . . . I would sink into an even deeper abyss of hopelessness.
Maybe it was because I didn't spend enough time in my daily devotions. Maybe it was because I had gained a few pounds from giving birth to four beautiful babies. Maybe it was because I believed that we should do things together as a family, and that idea was really annoying to those people who were my family at the time. Maybe it was because I worked so hard to be there for my children when they got home from school, to sit down and read with them, and then help them with their homework. My biggest failure in those days, however, was that I was continually pleading with my family to have dinner together, all at the same time, all at the same table. And I even expected that we should try to eat healthy foods, and treat each other with respect.
After years of being humiliated and criticized for trying to incorporate into our lives many of the principles that were being taught from the pulpit, from women's seminars, from Christian books, and from Christian radio programs . . . . . I just gave up. I quit. Because I couldn't understand why, in this family, all of those things that were being taught as "good" where condemned as preventing my family from having "fun." And of course, I failed. Miserably. Because after years of this, I really wasn't fun, or loving, or spiritual. I was broken and angry.
I recall one day, standing in my kitchen with a broom in hand (as I attempted to clean my house, which was also deemed "not fun" so I guess I had better just do it myself, and not EVER dare to ask for help), I was listening to a well-known Christian radio broadcast on the little radio I kept on the kitchen counter. When I heard the woman who was being interviewed claim that "a woman who does not create an atmosphere of joy, happiness, spirituality, and loving kindness in her home, really does not love her family and she does not love the Lord." I was done. The end. I collapsed in the middle of the kitchen and wept, begging God to tell me how I had failed so miserably. How could one woman, who so desperately wanted to honor God and raise her children to love the Lord, could be such a worthless example of Christian womanhood? What? What? What do you want me to do? I begged God to just show me what ELSE I could do. And the answer was silence.
Because, I discovered later, there was no way that I could overcome the powerful influence that had convinced my children that mommies are supposed to be "nice" and "fun" and NEVER, EVER address their children's behavior. A good mommy is just supposed to smile and say "Isn't that nice" ;o) no matter what her children or husband say or do to her. I learned that lesson very well! And for years, the silent smiles of pretense hid the growing rage that burned within my heart. Until, one day, it was just over. It was just over.
Now I know that not only must a mother be spiritual, loving, and kind, it is simply not possible for a mother to be "fun" at all cost. I am not my children's best friend, I am their mother. And sometimes that means being the boss, making decisions that may not be popular, and teaching my children to do the right thing. Even when they don't want to. That is the life lesson that all of this taught me: just do the right thing. Even if no one around you recognizes it, appreciates it, or even if they try to destroy you because of it. Do the right thing.
Now, when I am seeking God's guidance, I know that He will lead me if I just do the next thing in front of me. Step by step He will show me the path, and in the absence of a dysfunctional environment I have discovered that it is not that difficult to be spiritual, loving, and yes, even "fun." Because I am now free to be what a truly "good" mommy ought to be . . . . the mother of my children, not the convenient place to dump the guilt and blame for everything that isn't "perfect" in the world. I have learned that all the "junk" in the world is not because I wasn't "fun" enough. It is a result of sin, and every one of us needs to deal with the sin in our lives through the grace of God and by seeking His forgiveness.
So . . . . I've revealed a great deal about my own life in this post. That is because of another lesson I've learned while stumbling through the fires of failure: Talking about the problem is NOT the problem - THE PROBLEM is the problem. And if we never talk about it, we can never sort it out and solve it. But now you perhaps have a better idea of why my posts tend to push the edges a bit. I hope you do not take offense, and I apologize if you do, but trust me on this one . . . . pretense and silence never fix anything. In my life now, I am safe and loved, and free to be the kind of mommy that I always wanted to be. God is truly good!
Please visit our hostess this week, Loni at Writing Canvas, where you will find links to the other IOW participants for this week. Then, leave your link so we can visit you!