I work at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where we are unabashedly and full-throatedly “For the Church.” We have only this one note to strike to the glory of God. We don’t shy away from this. Along with this territory comes a necessary gravity towards training up steely, carnivorous preacher types. We’re cranking these men off the assembly line like gospel-built locomotives from a Chevy factory somewhere in Detroit. We’re catapulting them off our campus into the sin-dark corners of the earth, to ungospelled regions of North America, and into rural, dying churches. These are hardy, gospel-saturated, manly expository machines.
But what I’ve noticed over my time at Midwestern is that behind most of these expository machines is often an even more impressive wife! She’s often the steel spine of this dude! Usually she’s also a mom with kids in tow. What’s more, these amazing “mom-wives” have quite literally given their lives away for the gospel ministry, thus evidencing Jesus as their obvious Lord. They are the often-unsung heroes of ministry. They have unflinchingly run headlong into the supposed storm of our culture, that is, what America calls an “identity crisis.” They hear regularly from feminists, family, culture, and even their own self-condemning inner voice, “Stay-at-home-mom, huh?” “So, why did I send you to college, then?” “Why would you waste your life like that?” “So you’re going to give up your career to wipe snotty noses!” “Don’t lose your dreams following your man around!”
If it’s true, and it is, that the first shall be last and the last first, there are going to be a lot of moms who wind up first in the ultimate line. My suspicion is that they’re going to have some fairly heavy crowns to cast before their Lord (cf. Revelation 4:10).
If you’ve ever had occasion to run into one of these selfless, majestic, mom-creatures, you know they are no normal “moms.” It’s sort of like bumping into velvet steel! They live their lives by their Lord’s leave. They don’t know when or where they’ll receive their deployment orders, but go they will. These are disciples of Christ, gospel soldiers of which the world is not worthy. They don’t talk about following Jesus in theory. No, they do it every day in an Ephesians 5 way. They are blazing a trail, with their husband at the helm, and they’re eager to glorify God with all their minutes, pennies, and tears. They’re wicked smart—no mindless drones here. No, these are calculated, sharp, and cunning kingdom women. They walk a road in life that is peppered with geographical moves, hard good-byes, and at times dark loneliness. But yet they abide! They stay the course.
This post is written in praise of these majestic mom-creatures. I salute you, mom! I raise my metaphorical Southern Baptist grape juice glass to you. You’re God’s beauteous, gospel-bearing feet that occupy his deployed boots-on-the-ground!
What I want to do in the rest of this post is to help you see the evangelistic and/or discipleship thread that streams through all the normalcy of everyday mom life. My aim is to transform in your mind what seems to be merely normal into the eternal. I am intentionally conflating the categories of evangelism and discipleship because in the theater of the home, they often collapse on themselves to the visible eye (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). The category would be most strongly expressed through “the fear of the Lord.” That is what you are doing, moms, you are teaching your children to fear the Lord above all else.
Mom, the raw materials of the kingdom are sitting before you in all of their diaper-bound, sticky-fingered, snot-prone glory. As you teach them to use a fork properly, to say “please,” to wipe their mouth, and not to burp aloud, you are laying the groundwork for Christian hospitality, that most important reality to the Christian faith, the field upon which Christians relate to one another in homes.
Hospitality is one of the most important means by which Christians are viewed as an attractively peculiar people in this world. It is how we care for one another. It is also how we bring a lost world into our homes to see a loving, well-ordered household. Hospitality is the oft-viewed theater in which the world becomes convinced that the Gospel powerfully changes people. You, dear mom, are laying the groundwork for your child’s hospitality, not to mention that you are constantly doing hospitality yourself. Imagine if your child never learned these basic manners! They would be a social pariah. You may think what you are doing is the height of normalcy, but the Bible would say you are the mechanism of God’s great boon of discipleship.
What Deuteronomy 8 teaches us is that God brought Israel out into the desert, at least in part, to show them their utter dependence upon him as their guiding Shepherd. They had no food or water without God providing it. Not one ounce! This is likened to your feeding of the five children! They are helpless without you. They are not even equipped to fend for themselves without you. Ultimately, you are one of the many building blocks that God is using to teach your children their dependence upon him for everything. You may even be the most important building block in that particular foundation. They are helpless outside the help of the Lord. And you are the hinge point, daily, that stands between that knowledge of God and your child. You’re a living parable of the care and sustenance we have in the Father as well as a parable of our utter reliance upon him. So, when you repeat to your baby one hundred times over, “Here comes the airplane!” you are evangelizing and discipling. You are teaching them the fear of the Lord. Just like Israel, it’s not really about the bread; it’s about God.
When you teach, or better yet, enforce, your children to adhere to a sleep schedule, you are upholding the long-prescribed practice of Sabbath rest. It’s through sleep that God gets at our finitude. Sleep is an acknowledgement of our humanness. It’s one of the ways we maintain the Creator/creature distinction. We are unarguably dependent upon the Lord. Set in the DNA of your child is the need for Sabbath, and you are helping them to see that. You are helping them to realize their absolute dependence upon their good Creator for provision and all things good.
The world has realities that are bigger than we are and that stand outside of us. Realities such as: Adultery brings utter destruction. Cops have the power to arrest you. There are consequences for your choices. If you ride your bike into the road, you can be killed. If you jump off the counter, it’s highly likely you’ll be maimed. When you teach your child to understand these realities using the word, the truth vehicle, “no,” you are evangelizing and discipling. Maybe it is more proper to say you are laying the groundwork for the Holy Spirit to convict and enliven (salvation), but evangelizing and discipling you are, nonetheless.
The concepts your children associate with “no” are the very foundational building blocks that God uses to help lost image bearers grasp their need for his forgiveness. This is the fodder of regeneration. The realities that accompany the concept of “no” are often how God displays our need for Christ’s substitutionary cross work in our stead. You’re teaching them the Law, mom. You’re “doing Torah.” Don’t fall to the sin of minimizing your role. These children are the future inhabiters of the New Heavens and the New Earth! These are the future justice-makers, lawyers, teachers, counselors, preachers, moms, and dads. Take heart, dear struggling mom, you are pointing the way to the narrow road. You are indispensable as a means of God’s grace in your children’s lives.
Mom, you will be the precious touchpoint between your child and his/her reading the Word of God! The mechanics of learning to read are the eventual lens through which your child’s eyes will be opened to the basics of the world and to the magnificent universes of knowledge that rest in God, just waiting to be discovered. Imagine all the frontiers they’ll discover in God! You are the foundation of this. Imagine what they would miss if you didn’t teach them A, B, C, D, E…. Again, A, B, C, D, E. Never lose heart. God is using you to shape the inhabiters of eternity. Those little pudgy-faced gremlins are actually immortal, and you’ve been called before the foundation of the earth to be a tool in the hands of God to mint them into his image.
Mom, with every wiped nose you stand in utter defiance of the abortion culture. Our age has tragically fallen into the sin of slaughtering image bearers. We as a nation, and notion, have called light, darkness. We have attempted to construe blessings as curses. But you, mom, stand against this every day. With every hug, every meal, every answered question, you are picketing Planned Parenthood. You don't simply espouse sanctity of life; you live it! So teach the elementary principles of logic to those babies to the glory of God. Answer a thousand and one seemingly aimless questions to the glory of God. Adopt too many children to the glory of God. Clean up dropped bowls of food 37½ times to the glory of God. The world needs you to be the most glorious mother you can possibly be—the world needs your mothering, in a manner of speaking.
So, moms, you are a bright-shining city on a hill. You are the means by which God unleashes his compassion on the world. And by the grace of God and the love of Christ, you will stand resurrected before your Lord and Savior something different than you currently are, not that what you are isn’t already the stuff of amazement; but know that God is transforming you. God is discipling you as you disciple your children. He is running you through the gauntlet of motherhood with great purpose. He is changing you as your children change before your eyes. And your children are the next era of the kingdom.