“I don’t want to be just a mom,” she said.
The phrasing stung a little. It made me feel like I wasn’t enough. Like my work was silly and to be pitied. Like maybe you could take one look at me and know that my car floorboard is 95 percent Cheerios.
I stay at home with my kids. Most of the time I love it. Sometimes I’m good at it, sometimes I’m not. “Did I matter more when I was a teacher?” I thought. Even so, I’ve heard working moms echo their own doubts. That not-good-enough feeling doesn’t discriminate.
I hate that feeling, but typically it’s a sign that I’ve got to get out of my own head. After all, my stay-at-home-mom-ness isn’t about me—it’s about these kids (cutest kids in the world) and God. He’s the one that orchestrated this particular line of work for me, and if He’d told me to keep being a teacher, well, then I wouldn’t need to feel weird about that either. “You’re okay, Caroline, keep going,” I tell myself.
But I’ve noticed that I tend to hoard identity-threatening statements: the times as girls when we were taught that the greatest thing we had to offer the world was to dress modestly, or when we watched movies where the “cool girl” is emotionally detached and overtly sexual. The vague feeling that we shouldn’t be too opinionated at the risk of being labeled with that mean word that only applies to girls. The “make me a sandwich” jokes. The stuff that reeks of “you’re too much” or “you’re not enough.”
So that baggage stacks inside my brain, right next to my ears, and it makes me hear things Instagram style—through a filter that distorts reality. Like this verse, for example:
“…train the young women 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 2:3-5
I mean, honestly, I’ve often read this and subconsciously clenched my teeth. It felt like God’s version of a “women belong in the kitchen” joke. I thought, “God, don’t young women matter to you? Can’t you use us?” It didn’t make sense that God would make women bearers of His image and then shut us inside to do laundry.
But one day I looked at my kids, and the verse popped into my head. I hit my knees, suddenly aware that my selfishness and baggage made me vastly underestimate what God had entrusted to me. These sweet, gorgeous kids, my strong and fearless husband—they’re in my influence. It’s not condescending or in opposition to my value as a woman to be my kids’ mom and my husband’s wife. Working in my home and making it a safe, loving place for them to land—that’s not menial. Providing for their needs is not small work, not silly work, not easy work. It’s missional, it’s insanely important. When I forget that, when I convince myself my home, my husband’s needs, or my kid’s needs are my enemies, my God-work is crippled.
Instead, I need to love my people and love them well! I need to work with self-control, keeping my mind focused on the truth that my work matters because my God matters and my people matter. I need to work with purity—not giving my babies or my husband any reason to doubt the God I ultimately serve. I need to do it with kindness so that my words and actions invite them to lean in closer.
I need to practice submission, not because I don’t understand my God-given value as a woman but because I do understand it, or at least I’m getting there. Sweet friend, it’s not what you think. Submission is a gross word when you hear it through wounded ears, at least until you take a good long look at Jesus. He submitted to the will of God and granted the whole world an opportunity for redemption. That’s not weakness. That’s daring and beautiful. When my husband and I submit first and foremost to God, when we serve one another, when I respect his leadership and he loves me the way God loves us—unconditionally and sacrificially—our marriage is the Gospel. Dear God, may our children know you are a loving Husband whom it is a joy to follow even when the following requires sacrifice.
Friends, this is hard, holy work. We work so “that the word of God may not be reviled.” Our wife-ing and mother-ing can help prove to observers that God’s word is exactly everything He said. It’s not about being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom or whatever. (The labels aren’t doing much for us, are they?) It’s recognizing what has been entrusted to us and working hard to love our people so that they will be better able to see Him, to love His word.
Some may taunt us that we belong in the kitchen and others may insist we need to get out of it to prove our worth, but through the swirling judgment, we can use that very kitchen to point people to Jesus.
Maybe I am “just a mom.” Maybe you are, too. But a mom in God’s hands may prove to be quite the weapon.
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