I’ve learned that my influence on my children is limited only by the smallness of my dreams and my lack of commitment to the Lord and his purposes.
-SALLY CLARKSON (THE MISSION OF MOTHERHOOD)
Sipping coffee from a mug on a snowy Colorado day brought pleasure to my weary soul. As the mother of two children under three years old, I was in need of a break. Clay volunteered to take Sarah, almost three, and Joel, just shy of six months, for a couple of hours so that I could visit with a friend of mine I had met as a young missionary in Eastern Europe.
She was eight years older than me, and much further along the path of motherhood with her children approaching teen years at the time. I deeply valued her wisdom and had always looked forward to our times together in the past. And yet today, something she said to me did not sit well with my spirit. Always I had longed for encouragement in my role as a mom, but her words made my heart feel uneasy.
“Sally, you are so talented in ministry and such a great speaker. You and Clay should just decide not to have any more children. You have your daughter and now a son, so you don’t need any more kids. It would be a waste of your ministry skills and training to further distract yourself with the burden of more children.”
Our time ended shortly after her unsolicited and unexpected counsel, but I couldn’t shake the dark feeling her words had brought. The next morning, I rose early, before the two little ones called for me, and began to look up scripture about motherhood and children. “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth ...’” (Genesis 1:28).
Eve’s nature as the first woman, and as the “mother of all the living,” was established before the fall. Motherhood was an important part of God’s design for man and woman before sin ever came into the world. God’s original intent for motherhood was not changed by the fall. This seemed to elevate motherhood biblically.
Since I had been trained to disciple adults as a missionary, I began to realize that God had created me as a mother to disciple my children, the future adults in my own home. The more I have studied this topic in thirty-plus years of motherhood, the more I have become convinced of the importance of a mother as a disciple maker. That has inspired me to write six books on motherhood, and I am not sure I am finished yet! I have come to believe that mothers have the power to civilize nations by taking seriously the opportunity they have to disciple their children and to raise them to be godly leaders.
Though my friend had good intentions in giving her advice, I instinctively knew that childbearing was imbued with eternal significance—raising children, building a home, and passing on a legacy of righteousness was part of God’s eternal design for the family.
My investment in my children as a strategic ministry of faith was no less important than the ministry I had outside of my home. That encounter, and the study that followed, paved the way for us to decide to have more children, and for me to put aside the demands of public ministry in order to focus on the new personal ministry in my home.
Now, as a mother who has raised four children from birth into adulthood, I can affirm that engaging my life and faith in the lives of my children has been the most fulfilling and fruitful work I have ever pursued. I have never regretted the decision to do less ministry, have more children, and give myself fully to the ministry of raising them. It was a challenge every day, but giving up my life to serve my precious children formed my character and faith as God’s child.
My investment in my children was about more than all the routine work of motherhood, and even more than my spiritual influence as a discipler. In the bigger picture of my life at home, I was civilizing my children, and shaping their hearts and lives. I was cooperating with God to mold them into well-rounded adults.
To “civilize” means “to create a high level of culture” and “to teach somebody to behave in a more socially, morally and culturally acceptable way” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I believe home, by God’s design, is the fountain of civilization, and the incubator of mental, moral, and spiritual character, appetites, habits, and values.
“Mothers, you are the divinely-appointed teachers and guides of your children; and any attempt to free yourselves of this duty is in direct opposition to the will of God. If you neglect them, the consequences are swift and sure. … Spend most of your time with your children. Sleep near them, attend and dress and wash them; let them eat with their mother and father; be their companion and friend in all things and at all times.”
The above quotation was gleaned from a wonderful book a friend gave to me called Golden Thoughts on Mother, Home, and Heaven, published in 1878.
The words still resonate, especially in today’s culture where the imagination for how mothers can affect the overall well-being of the soul of the next generation has been lost.
It's not to say that women can't work or do other kinds of ministry. But a culture who has lost the imagination of the importance of motherhood, leaves children at risk. Children are the next generation of adults who will make decisions from the foundations of their souls. If wisdom, righteousness, faith, education has not been a priority of shaping for them, they will be deplete of wisdom, and they will go into adulthood with sawdust souls.
So, each mom has a different puzzle, but she has to keep what is a priority to God at the center of her decisions in life, and when she seeks the heart of God, her legacy will be one of faith and faithfulness and will have implications for eternity.
Write down two specific things you can do to cultivate a more meaningful spiritual impact on your children--or in the lives of children you know.
An excerpt from Own Your Life.