This post has been waiting its turn and today’s the day.
Perhaps you’re familiar with a very popular blog called, “The Better Mom.” I have read a dozen or so articles from the blog. Suffice it to say that I’ve read things I agree with and things I disagree with. The turmoil of reading the things I disagree with is enough for me not to read it regularly and I am not wanting to comment specifically on it.
But I do want to comment on this idea (which seems ever popular among Christian moms) that there is a formula to “better” and if we follow the three steps to finding a good attitude and take control of all the externals of our life, everything will sail along the way it’s supposed to.
I want to comment on it because it’s a flat out lie.
I can’t be The Better Mom, because I’m not better. I’m two things: I’m sinful and I’m redeemed. I’m broken and I’m healed. I’m dead and I’m alive. That’s it. Not better– as if I’m climbing my ladder toward good. All the needful things have been done for me. And what’s been done isn’t “better,” it’s The Best.
We so much want to be able to control things. If I eat this way, I’ll feel good all the time. If I read my Bible in the morning, I’ll never be grouchy with my kids. If I start training my kids at 1 month old how to sleep correctly, they’ll be great sleepers. If I have natural labor, my child will be healthy. If I’m always available to my husband, he’ll never look at porn. If I do do do, I will be be be.
That’s just backwards and untrue.
Here’s how it really is: Because of what He has done. He has done. He has done. I am His. I am His. I am His.
All of the sudden the three tips to a new attitude sound pretty small. Jesus bled and died to take away my sin. He was buried and three days later God made him alive again and not only have I died with him, I now live in him.
There’s my new attitude.
Life is filled with practicalities. We must DO things after all. We must eat something and therefore we must decide what it is we will eat. But if we think for one second that by putting the Gluten-Free Organic Whole Food Tofu in our mouth, or gutting out drug-free childbirth, or waking at 5am for devotions and free trade coffee puts stars on our holiness chart and somehow makes us a better mom, we’ve messed up the Gospel, big time.
It is for freedom that we have been set free. Must we submit again to our own yoke of slavery and law? Food and exercise and peculiar routines and habits do not commend us to God. Jesus commends us to God.
Better is never enough. Better is not good enough for God. But Jesus is Best. He is good enough for God. He is mine and I am His.
And with my life hidden with Christ in God, by His Spirit, a marvelous work happens that makes who I am forever: His daughter clothed in righteousness, match who I am right now: His daughter struggling against the remnants of sin (also clothed in righteousness). The Holy Spirit is aligning the two realities. It’s called sanctification.
Notice that I’m struggling against sin, not preferences. And what is sin? Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is not: eating donuts or surfing the web or fertilizing the lawn or having a bedtime at 9:00 o’clock. All of those things could be done by a sinful heart, which would make their action sinful, but they aren’t sin.
I could fertilize my grass because I want to look “better” than my neighbor. That’d be sin. Or I could fertilize my lawn because I love my neighbor and I don’t want to negatively impact his property values with my unsightly yard. Hearts are sinful, not fertilizer.
I guess that’s the long way of saying I’m not The Better Mom. But I am a redeemed mom. I am a needy, desperate, satisfied and loved mom. I am a sinner-saved-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone-because-of-Christ-alone mom. And that’s way better than all my efforts to be a better mom.
great post and a great reminder!
Thanks Jennie. Good to see you in the blogging world. 🙂
Or you could fertilize your lawn just because you like it that way. Or you could leave it weedy, but trimmed a bit, because you like it that way, sunny dandelions speckling the surface. I can’t say Amen enough to all you’ve said in this post. I’ve never read that other blog, but that pressure is put on people from so many Christian sources. Thank you for the encouragement to a truer and healthier perspective! <3
I must say I love a few cheerful dandelions!
I think you are right on when you say it is for freedom we are set free. We seem to want to create prisons for ourselves that only rob the joy we can find in Christ. I also think that you’ve set up a bit of a false dicotamy. I know that it’s not intentional but probably worth mentioning.
While it is true that there is no “better” involved in our salvation, there certainly is in our sanctification. That is a process of baby steps in an effort to become more Christlike. In my mind, maxims such as “if I read my bible I won’t be as grouchy to my kids” are similar to those found in proverbs, such as “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.” Not a promise, but good advice and true in many circumstances.
Again, I don’t think your goal was to separate these, but I thought it was worth pointing out.
I agree with your comment. An alternate title for the post could’ve been “What Sanctification Is and Isn’t.” In my mind, the whole thing was about sanctification. I didn’t communicate clearly if you read it feeling that sanctification was absent. Here’s some expanding..
I think sanctification is becoming what I already am: holy and perfect. So, when I read a promise like the one you mentioned (I think it’s a promise:) I read in light of Jesus. He fulfilled that promise. Peace and prosperity are mine in Christ FOREVER and even now. I have the riches of his grace and the peace of His Spirit–and my life is prolonged forever. Jesus kept the “commands” mentioned and He gave me a new heart with his Word (law) written on it. So I am no longer at odds with His law. It has been fulfilled, written on my heart and the Spirit enables me love it and to keep it in varying degrees.
I tried to give a picture of how sanctification works (for me at least) when I said that a new attitude springs from remembering what He has done:
“All of the sudden the three tips to a new attitude sound pretty small. Jesus bled and died to take away my sin. He was buried and three days later God made him alive again and not only have I died with him, I now live in him.
There’s my new attitude.”
For me remembering the Gospel and knowing the PErson of Jesus more is what sanctifies me and it isn’t through external controls (like food, sleep, habits, etc), it’s internal motives, etc. Those may effect external behaviors, but it’s secondary and it looks differently on people. The “better mom” phenomenon plays to external controls of tertiary things. I want to push back on that.
Hope that clarifies! Thanks for the feedback!
Ab, I think I chose poorly on an example of a Proverb. Consider Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I think you would agree that while this is generally good advice, it is simply not a promise. I can think of plenty of examples of Godly parents whose children have more than departed from the way they should go. I think there is tremendous value in consciously making a change to an external factor in our lives with the goal of influencing our internal character. When we do that, it is indicative of a positive desire to grow.
It would seem that your big concern is that organic food or free trade coffee (or a million other trendy things) can become idols that distract from bigger issues, and here we totally agree. However, I think we have to be careful that the negation of those extremes doesn’t do the same. In other words railing against these issues and becoming prideful on the other side is just as dangerous. Lynette and I have spent a great deal of time thinking about both ends of this spectrum.
An article I found on the topic of Proverbs and promises:
I agree Brad. Well said.
And you’re right that my concern is the hipster-mom/homeschool-purist idols of the day (which strangely have some overlap). After being immersed in them for 8 plus yrs (my tenure as a mom), I’ve begun to twitch a little. I’m passionate about offering moms the freedom from made-up rules that’s found in the Good News of Jesus! But you’re wise to point out the potential for pride. That’s definitely not the direction I want to go and it’s good to be reminded of it.
thanks for sharing this, I haven’t read that blog before (am I living under a rock??) the content looked interesting but the title concerns me. you always have such wisdom, so glad you can blog these thoughts and share!
Thanks Julia. I wouldn’t have known about The Better Mom blog, but I see it linked to fairly often, so have clicked over. It’s got some good stuff, for sure. But also some things that make me cringe, so I avoid it.
Hi friend…I’m a writer for The Better Mom, and I agree with so much of what you’ve said here. I even wrote an article for TBM a few months ago about how parenting is not a formula (find it here http://www.thebettermom.com/2012/01/when-youre-not-good-enough-and-the-right-things-dont-work/).
But as someone who knows Ruth (the owner) I want to very respectfully say that I think you’re missing out on her heart and the vision for the whole blog.
Ruth’s heart isn’t to give you sure-fire formulas to change the hearts of your children, but instead, to offer a community of moms tools and articles to challenge us, inspire us, and give us the opportunity to grow as mothers. I’ve never read an article there that implied, “do it this way or you’re not doing it the right way,” or “do it this way and your kids are sure to turn out well,” because I don’t believe Ruth would allow that. (If I’m wrong, and I’ve missed a post, please feel free to link me to it friend).
As Christian moms, we’ve all been given the very best help for our parenting in Jesus and His Word. But I find it incredibly encouraging to hear from other moms who want to honor God in their parenting the very best way they know how. I may not agree with everything they say, and I may not choose to apply their tips or tricks in my home if they’re not right for our family, but I enjoy the opportunity to be challenged in my thinking. Even if I don’t agree, I’ve had the chance to process why and become more firm in the path God has chosen for my family.
I hope that helps friend. In no way do I mean that to sound at all disrespectful, so I beg you not to take it that way. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts. Keep on following hard after Jesus friend.
Thanks for weighing in Brooke.
The article you wrote is wonderful and I was blessed by how you pointed to Jesus and the glorious Gospel as our only hope. Thank you for sharing it.
I don’t know anyone at TBM and did not wish to criticize anyone in particular. My post was about the attitude I see in so many Christian moms (myself included!) that prefer the tips and tricks regarding non-moral issues to the Gospel. The tips and tricks can become rules that guide a false sanctification rather than seeing the truth of the sin in the heart and doing business with that by the power of the Gospel. The reliance on diet and sleep training and tips as a means towards godliness can actually become sin, in a sad irony. I’ve seen it in my own life.
I don’t discourage anyone from reading TBM, but I do think more articles like yours, less on diet and externals and a different name would be “better.” 🙂 I don’t read it regularly but I sincerely hope and pray that it blesses many women and points them to Jesus and the Word.
Thanks again for your graciousness and for commenting. May the Lord use you mightily in your blogging to point to our great Savior.
I’m curious about your comments regarding “free trade coffee” and “non-moral issues.” I believe you meant “fair-trade” as free trade is the exact opposite of fair wages for workers.
My husband and I run a christian cafe and we DO see fair trade sourcing as a moral issue. We are not legalistic (we realize that most people cannot afford to purchase everything fair trade, and that all products don’t exist fair trade). But we do realize that as Americans our purchases and money power is sending a message into the world. Is it a message of freedom? Or is it a message of slavery? In particular, the industries of cocoa, tea, and coffee, along with sugar and bananas, are particularly ridden with slave labor. In my mind, these luxury products that we don’t NEED should be purchased fairly when purchased. Men, women, and children are held in slavery in EVERY country of our world today. Children are sprayed with harmful pesticides so that you can have a cheap banana. How is that not a moral issue?
I worry that as Christians we bow out of engaging these hard issues….because we see them as too hard. The Gospel is amazingly simple. Praise God for that! But our walk towards santification is anything but simple! Did God intend it to be simple? Or did Christ warn us about the difficult and narrow road?
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I meant fair-trade coffee! Whoops. I apologize in advance as this might be a long reply.
I do want to respond as clearly as I can from Scripture, because I think this is such a pertinent topic, just as it was in Paul’s time. Picture a “Christian” eating meat–meat that had come from a temple where what we would consider to be child prostitution was happening, not to mention that the meat had been sacrificed to an idol. That’s the situation the Corinthians were in. Here’s what Paul says:
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
(1 Corinthians 10:25-33 ESV)
Paul also says this:
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
(Romans 14:5-8 ESV)
From that I conclude that it is not wrong to drink Foldgers or any other coffee that I can buy at my local grocery store. I am not accountable for the acts of the people selling it. But, if I’m dining with someone whose conscience would be pricked if I did so, I should abstain. It’s like not drinking around someone who feels convicted that all alcohol is wrong.
That doesn’t mean that as a Christian I should be indifferent to idols, or prostitution or slavery, etc. By no means! Idols are worthless, man-made prisons. I should speak against them. Slavery and prostitution and abortion are wicked. I work against them. I participate in adoptions and volunteer or give to CPC’s and other mercy ministries. Yet, the main way I do that is with the Good News. Also, I resolve to live this way:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
(1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)
I pray for leaders etc, who have the power to undo slavery and other evils, and who are required to punish evildoers.
Finally, you said that our salvation is simple, but our sanctification is anything but. I disagree with that (although my sin is always trying to complicate things). I believe that the same simple Gospel that saved me, sanctifies me and is sanctifying me. Obedience doesn’t sanctify me, the Gospel does. Obedience comes from a heart that has been changed by the Gospel, and its fruit will be evident. And obedience takes discernment, but it isn’t complicated either.
The narrow way of the Gospel is narrow, not because of the work it requires, but because it is counterintuitive to our sin nature that would prefer works-based righteousness to grace. Acknowledging our utter sinfulness and needfulness of a Savior, acknowledging that our biggest problem is our own wicked heart, not gov’t or institutions, or anything else, is against our nature. Acknowledging that salvation is pure grace and there’s nothing I did to earn it goes against the grain. It is the narrow road. Looking at a tortured, crucified God-man and seeing redemption and the Savior is the narrow road.
Here’s an article by R.C. Sproul Jr that talks about tax money going toward abortion and how a Christian should think about that:
Hope this has been helpful. I want to let God’s Word guide me and bring myself in submission to that, because it is Truth! May the Lord bless you as you seek to honor him.
Some of your thoughts make sense, thank you for sharing them!
I struggle with the idea (especially in the article you posted) of “I am responsible for nothing but me.”
What is your race, I wonder? Do you remember the time of horrible slavery in our own country’s recent history? Would it have been ok, as believer in Jesus, to sit by (not owning slaves) and to not take action against this monstrosity? Are we not our brother’s keepers? Does God say that true religion is caring for the orphan and widow? In particular the prophets of old spoke over and over against those who stood by and did nothing.
I think your questions are good ones, and you’re absolutely right. We are supposed to care for others around us and speak up for those who aren’t able or allowed to speak for themselves. Amen.
I think what the article linked to meant when saying that we’re accountable for our own actions, not other people’s, is that we’re not accountable for the evil someone else does. I *am* accountable to speak up for the oppressed, help them, advocate for them, feed them, keep them alive, inasmuch I can. I thought Sproul did a good job of demonstrating that by saying, yes we pay taxes and are not responsible for the wickedness of the gov’t. But we are responsible to help the people in need and we should do more than we are doing re:abortion (and other areas, I would add).
I do come back to the passages I mentioned above as my guide as to how to interact w/ the sinfulness (oppression, false gods, etc) in the world and in the market in particular–if I had to be accountable for all the wrong-doing of the people from whom I purchase a good or service, I would have to leave this world entirely–because it’s everywhere. Hope that’s helpful, Abigail
Thanks for the reminder Abigail! A constant battle we often face as moms. I am regularly reminding myself that A+B does not always equal C. I “know” this (in my head) but my actions or heart don’t always believe this as I find myself thinking that if I just did this or that, I might get the “perfect results”. It’s the constant joining of faithfulness in doing what God’s called me to do and God’s grace being poured out over and over to bring about His purposes and plans.
Amen! Beautifully said!
Years ago, I read your blog regularly. For some reason, I stepped away. Yesterday, I was going through bookmarks and things and came across your blog again! You have no idea how much I needed to read these posts that showed up first. I chose to comment on this one because it so fully expressed what God has been teaching me and reminding me of!
Thanks for the “leftovers” even though you are blogging over here now! I am going to make sure you are on my list again. I don’t even know how or why I ever stopped reading.
Thanks for commenting. Blessings to you as you follow Him!
I just can’t imagine I landed up at your blog today, because God wanted me to hear just what he was trying to tell me all along the week!!! This is beautiful!!! Its blessed me today 🙂