New parents are overwhelmed with advice. There are websites, blogs, and, of course, people full of opinions on how you should raise your children. There are theories, experts, and condemnation on everything from diapering to sleep.
The message that Christian women receive all too often from the church isn’t merely advice on good parenting. It is far more insidious than that–it tells women that motherhood is the core of their identity. When women receive this message, it is all too easy to lose sight of their identity in Christ. Galatians 3:26 teaches that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”
When you replace Christ with motherhood, there is also great pressure to be perfect. After all, if being a mother is all that you are, then you’d better be a great one!
I went into motherhood fully prepared to buck tradition. I was going to defy stereotypes! I was going to blaze my own trail! I did not anticipate how heavily the expectations of what a Christian mother should be would weigh on me. I felt that I had to be perfect. I needed to raise a perfect Christian, keep a clean home, host church functions, and teach Sunday school. It didn’t matter that I felt the Spirit was calling me to do these things; it was just what Christian mothers did. Through conversations with my friends, I found that many women feel like me, bogged down with expectations and stereotypes and unable to freely follow the Spirit’s prompting to become Christ-like women. Too often, Christians take time to carefully debunk the mistaken messages we receive from the outside world without taking time to examine the false messages we receive inside church walls.
Fully embracing my identity in Christ has set me free from the pressure that cultural expectations places on me. I don’t have to be the perfect mother or the perfect wife. Instead of striving for false perfection, I turn to Christ, who forms, renews, and continuously shapes me into his image. My primary goal as a wife and mother is to lean continuously on him as I navigate my days. In Christ, I find grace instead of condemnation in all things, including my parenting skills.
Being a mother or a father is a high calling. It is a self-sacrificial, Christ-like enterprise. My three-year-old has taught me what it means to lay down my life for another. Parenting is sacrificial and beautiful, but it is not the core of my identity. It does not define me in the same way that Christ defines me. My son will grow up in a culture that will seek to define him by what he owns, what he wears, and what he earns. I hope I will demonstrate this important lesson to him–that his identity is in the risen Christ, who frees him to serve the world without the baggage of cultural expectations.