Jesus said it first: “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:12) It’s also where we start in the first lesson of Heart Talk, which I hope those of you in Mom to Mom will remember.
And it’s essentially what author Leslie Leyland Fields does for parents in her most recent book: she sets parents free by bringing us all back to God’s truth.
"Parenting Is Your Highest Calling" and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt is the title. When I first heard it, I was a bit puzzled. Then I read an excerpt from the book in Christianity Today’s January 2010 issue (It’s the cover story) and knew this was one book I wanted to read.
It did not disappoint, and I highly recommend it to you—especially to those of you who might ever have thought you must be doing something wrong if your “mom job” doesn’t bring you unbroken joy and fulfillment 24/7. Or who felt guilty because you aren’t doing enough. Or who don’t always love your child unconditionally. Or who have concluded you obviously don’t have the right techniques because your children aren’t happy all the time, or don’t seem to have turned our perfectly. Or those of you who have wondered why—if God has called you to be a mom—the job seems so exhausting and overwhelmingly difficult.
Have I got most of you covered by now?
This is a very real book—one of the many things I love about it. Leslie Leyland Fields is a real mom (she has six kids). But she is also an honest mom. She is not afraid to share the very real struggles and challenges—as well as the joys—of her mom-life.
She is also a very interesting mom. Her six kids range from pre-school to college age. She lives on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and she and her family run a commercial fishing business in the summer. During the school year, she teaches in Seattle Pacific’s Master of Fine Arts program—which may explain her excellent writing style. Many of you know I was an English teacher in a former life, and it was a joy to find great writing and solid truth on parenting in the same book!
Best of all, though, this book is founded on balanced Biblical truth. As the author moves us away from myths that have grown up around the subject of parenting both from our culture and from the Church, she continually points us back to Biblical stories and principles that shed the light of God’s truth on our parenting.
Which brings me to my one quibble with this book. On p. 105, she lists all the verses she has found in both Old and New Testaments that speak to the raising of children, but inexplicably omits what I think of as a pivotal passage: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and 20-25. Elsewhere (p. 49) she does refer to part of a parallel passage by citing Deuteronomy 11:19 as teaching us how to teach our children. But those of you in Mom to Mom know I have to ask how Deuteronomy 6 could possibly be left out of Biblical passages on parenting!
Other than that one exception, I found myself nodding and agreeing throughout this book. I kept thinking, “That sounds just like what we teach in Mom to Mom!”
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes, to whet your appetite:
“We cannot be Jesus; we can only need Jesus…We do the work of parents, which is to point our children to Jesus.” (p. 134-135)
“God is using our children to conform us to the image of His Son. . . . Our children reveal to us what we know we are: beggars before God.” (p. 26-27)
“This is what God wants most from all of us: our hearts. Godly parenting begins not in the rules we or other people make for our children but in pursuing a genuine relationship with God.” (p. 115)
Overall, Leslie Leyland Fields calls us back to solid reality about God, us, and our kids. Our children are, as we continually say at Mom to Mom, His first. God is not finished with them—or us!—yet. He loves them more than we do. We are called to be faithful—not necessarily “successful.” Ultimately, we are all called into relationship with Him first. As we get to know Him better through His Word, we will find, as Fields observes, that “God’s truths about parenting are as glorious and freeing as God Himself, while our own half-truths are as human and limited as we are…” (p. 9)
Fields describes her book (on p. 10) as “a deep gaze into the parenting heart of God, our Father.” He is our loving, merciful, grace-giving Father. What could be more freeing?