Last September, as our third child began her senior year of high school in the home, a bittersweet awareness came over me. On the “sweet” side, our children fared well with home-based learning. They took the Christian faith with them through the frenzied teen-age years. Also, by the prospering of God, we surpassed our own academic goals. Our oldest son graduated magna cum laude from university and is working in a business career; the middle daughter, a college senior, is on target for the same high-honors graduation; and the youngest daughter will attend an outstanding Christian college in the fall with academic and voice scholarships. The task and experience of home schooling have yielded a cherished cache of sweet memories.
The “bitter” aspects of the recollections stemmed from the spiritual abuses we had suffered as a result of erroneous religious teachings. In some home schooling ministries, legalism (righteous standing conferred through adherence to rules and regulations) is prevalent. Had it not been for my husband’s and my childhood mooring in “Sola Fide” — justification by faith alone as taught in the Lutheran faith — we may well have become spiritual casualties. God, in his grace, had fortified us against an outright slide into the abyss of a performance-based faith, but there was other harm to be suffered.
For me, one lingering and taunting spiritual annoyance involved, of all things, child-bearing! The Christian duty to bear many children had become vogue within the Christian home schooling community. Accompanying the emphasis on “fruitfulness” was a fascination with children. A manufactured glow punctuated motherhood, home-birthing and breastfeeding, and a pedestal was erected for the famed acquiescent female. These external particulars, while possessing a presumable gloss, inwardly bristled my spirit. The “push to procreate” especially struck me as a huge intrusion into a private matter. As my childbearing years passed, I could not understand why I continued to ponder and fret. I cried out to God for answers.
At this time, and hardly by coincidence, a friend gave me a CBE catalog. Numerous book titles competed for my attention. I went to the CBE Web site, explained my personal dilemma regarding childbearing through an email, and requested a book that would speak to my quandary on what a Christian woman is supposed to be and do! Within days I devoured Balancing Act: How Women Can Lose Their Roles and Find Their Callings by Mary Ellen Ashcroft.
Ashcroft’s revealing commentary spoke precisely to my plight. She explained that the idea that a really good woman focuses only on being a wife, mother and homemaker is not really found in the Bible. The “domestic angel myth,” as she calls it, is actually a Victorian idea popularized by a man named John Ruskin, who wrote a popular and influential essay about the separate spheres of men and women.
My adverse spiritual reaction to the prescribed standards assigned to the godly woman sprang from flawed theology’s invasion into my soul. Additionally, the preeminence ascribed to works of the flesh constituted idolatry. The error does not lie in the number of children born, but in the degree of esteem conferred. Women in their reproductive roles, and the stair-step families that result, merit no special regard. We must not sport one rag of our own performance. Ashcroft’s expert analysis of issues related to the woman in her domestic role and the supporting Scriptures exposed the serious spiritual ramifications of this genre of teaching, and supplied me with the biblical perspective I yearned for.
My heart swelled in thanksgiving as I finished the book at 3:00 a.m. in a one-sit reading. You cannot fight an enemy you cannot identify. Pinpointing error, which had come to me as brilliantly adorned truth, put my disquieted spirit to rest. I was immediately reminded of II Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
God worked a releasing power in my life through Balancing Act. This book exposes the heretical prompts in the plethora of messages that advance performance agendas for women who have the simple and humble desire to please God.