Archive for August, 2010
Recently I’ve been reading a great book by Tim Keller called Counterfeit Gods. I highly recommend it.
It’s gotten me thinking about all kinds of idols that we manage to make for ourselves. Money can become an idol. Or success. Or a political ideology. Or romantic love. But the book got me thinking especially about one idol Keller doesn’t talk about all that much: our families—or maybe specifically our kids.
Our kids?!! How can that be? Well, Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” (Counterfeit Gods, p. xvii) Hmm . . .
It’s food for thought, you must admit. Of course none of us would say out loud that we love our kids more than God. But what do our lives say? What do our thoughts say? Our worries? Our obsessions? Our preoccupations? Our discipline?
A terrifying verse from Scripture comes to mind. When the Old Testament priest Eli was confronted about his tragic negligence regarding the raising and conduct of his sons, God said to Eli, “ Why do you honor your sons more than me . . . ?” (I Samuel 2:29b)
“Why do you honor your sons more than me?” It’s a haunting question. A question that has pierced my parental heart over the years. I would think of it from time to time when grappling with a particular discipline problem. I didn’t like seeing my kids in pain of any kind—or sad, or disappointed, or mad as could be at me. But sometimes honoring God by disciplining them in a loving, Godly way meant that my kids wouldn’t be all that happy, for the moment anyway.
And how about my priorities? My choices about activities, about sports, about how we spend our time or our money?
Wait a minute, you may be thinking. Doesn’t God give us our kids? Doesn’t He want us to love them with everything we are and have? Well, yes, to a point. But let’s not get confused. It’s the Lord our God we are told to love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And after that, our neighbor. Starting at home, I would say. But let’s not confuse our kids with God!
It’s really a question of what—or Who—comes first, isn’t it? Naturally when you’re raising babies and toddlers, your mom-job with them will absorb huge chunks of your time—much, if not most, of your life, in fact. But will those kids become your life? In the big picture (not just a snapshot of one moment or another of your day), will they absorb so much of you that there is nothing left for your husband? Or for God? Will they become your ultimate source of worth and value, so that you feel personally responsible (and perhaps guilty) for every choice or decision they make even as adults?
“Idols are good things turned into ultimate things,” Keller reminds us (p. 148). It’s a question of alignment. Of what (or Whom) we worship. When God is truly first in our lives, our other relationships fall into much healthier alignment. Children raised in a home where God is first and their parents’ marriage second tend to be much healthier children (for those of you who are married—but this in no way discounts the potential effectiveness of Godly single moms). Children who themselves become objects of their mother’s worship grow up with a distorted view of themselves, of others—and most tragically, of God.
One last thought from Keller: Borrowing from Alexis de Tocqueville’s long-ago observations on Americans’ “strange melancholy,” I believe—Keller says that idolatry involves taking some “incomplete joy of this world” and building your life on it.
Oh, what joy our children can bring us (sometimes . . . see previous blog post). But even at best it’s an incomplete joy. Only God brings ultimate Joy. Building our lives on Him will make for much stronger family-building in the end!
“I Love My Children I Hate My Life.” That’s the title of a recent cover story in New York Magazine , written by Jennifer Senior. I learned about it through a Today Show segment in which the author was interviewed. I haven’t been able to get the question out of my mind since.
I went online and read the article, which is rather long but very interesting. Senior explores the question, “Does having kids make you happy?” She reports on all kinds of research on the subject, interspersed with personal experiences with her own 2 ½ year old and those of friends. Is parenting really “all joy but no fun” as one of her friends described it?
My first, kind of knee-jerk reaction was “Oh no, parenting can actually be a lot of fun. And I don’t think I hated my life when my kids were little.” (Of course I miss those days now! You will, too, one day!) But then I remembered some of my real-life-as-a-mom days. Days during my “three kids 5 and under living at the end of a dead-end street with Woody never home” era. Well . . . maybe I did hate my life from time to time. At least moments of my life.
Like when my only moments in days (or so it seemed) away from the kids were when I walked, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, down my driveway to get the mail while they were all safely napping or “resting” at the same time. Or when one was having a tantrum, the other in his “whining chair,” and the baby screaming her head off. Or when I’d flip on the news occasionally for a minute or two just to make sure the outside world was still there.
The interview and the article also reminded me of a conversation I had with two moms in Pennsylvania a while back. “How did you handle the daily boredom?’ they asked. “Sometimes I think that if I have to play Candyland one more time or read Goodnight Moon again for the hundredth time today, I am going to lose my mind!”
Sound familiar? I bet just about every mom can identify. Parenting is such a roller-coaster ride, isn’t it? It jerks you around like almost nothing else in life. The highs are so high and the lows can be so low.
That’s why we need each other, isn’t it? And God! I think it’s a major reason why Mom to Mom exists. To help us keep our balance, to help us hold on for the wild ride of being a mom.
It does help, doesn’t it, to know other moms have felt the same ambivalence you feel? Loving their kids beyond all words one minute and ready to trade them in the next! And it helps to be reminded that there’s a bigger picture out there. That you won’t be sleep deprived forever—really, trust me. That your two-year-old tantrum queen could actually one day turn out to be one of your best friends (I know, that’s a long way off—but I’ve seen it happen!) That your strong-willed teen may actually grow up to one day do amazing things for God.
I’d love to know how some of you feel when asked the question: “Do you love your kids but hate your life?” It may depend on how old your kids are. Or how many you have. Or how many days it is till school starts in your area. Or how many weeks it’s been since your Mom to Mom group met! Truthfully, it may depend on what hour of the day the question is asked—right?
Because I suspect we’ve all felt that way from time to time. Even while, at the same time insisting we wouldn’t trade being a mom for any other life in the world!