Yesterday I posted a Facebook status that sparked several comments:
It may be possible that the most graceless subculture in our society is the mommy subculture. We moms are super hard on ourselves because we think we fall short of the “good mom” standard in so many areas, then we turn around and inflict that pressure and guilt on other moms who, in our eyes, don’t measure up as much as we do. If you’re a mom struggling with the pressure to be perfect, here’s the …good news–you can’t do it. But Jesus was perfect for you, so run to Him and rest in His grace. And if you are thinking or speaking critical thoughts about another mom because she doesn’t breastfeed or homeschool or do home births or eat whole foods or because she lets her kids watch TV or stay up late or because she doesn’t have all the right products for her baby or because she spends too much on her kids’ clothes or WHATEVER—-give her the same grace you’ve received. Let’s quit comparing ourselves, quit carrying around the guilt of not measuring up, quit putting other moms down to make us feel better about our own shortcomings. Let’s rest in the grace of the cross in our mothering, and let’s fill the mommy subculture with that grace.
I absolutely stand by that status. But as I thought about it throughout the rest of the day, I realized that it is out of balance. So let me clarify:
Yes, there is grace in mothering. But grace does not equal “anything goes.” I realized that my wording could make it seem that any decision you make in your mothering is okay because of grace. But I don’t believe that is true. I think there are clear guidelines in Scripture that form boundaries within which grace abounds.
For example: I mentioned in the status that it’s ok to let your kids watch TV. My own kids end up watching way too much TV, I admit. There’s grace to cover that. But that doesn’t mean we can just let them have control of the remote. TV, sure, but what are they watching? Scripture gives guidelines here, believe it or not. “Love is not rude.” So we should not watch, or allow our children to watch shows that glorify rudeness (think potty humor and rude noises). It would take a saint of a kid, to be sure, to regularly watch shows filled with rudeness, and then not spout that rudeness out to others to get a laugh or just simply to be rude, and Scripture says love is not rude. Also, “let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.” If our kids are regularly ingesting unwholesome talk on the TV, it is bound to come out of their mouth, for “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Then there is the verse that commands us to “flee sexual immorality.” It’s sad and shocking to me how many kid shows center around dating and flirting. What does that encourage our children toward, if not sexual immorality? Also, how much are they watching? The proverbs are full of cautions to the lazy. So yes, there is grace for watching TV, but it is grace within boundaries.
What about the food we feed our children? Do we have to go with raw, organic, gluten-free whole foods? Of course not. You may choose to do so, sure, but there is grace either way. But again, that doesn’t mean anything goes. Wisdom and common sense would dictate that we, for example, do not need to give our children cotton candy for breakfast every morning. (Okay, I know that is silly, but you get my point.) Grace within the boundaries of wisdom. What about bedtime? Families can differ widely here, but common sense tells us that our kids need a certain amount of sleep and just because you are a night owl doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your child to be awake with you at 1 or 2 am. Grace within the boundaries of wisdom.
How about discipline/behavior/obedience issues? We’ve all seen them, those children who are obviously the boss (tyrant) of their home, whose parents have absolutely no authority or control over them. Anything goes? No, grace within boundaries. Scripture commands us to discipline our children, to train them to obey, to teach them appropriate behavior. Will this work perfectly? No, for two main reasons: your children are sinners, and so are you. You won’t discipline perfectly, and they won’t respond perfectly. But you try to be faithful to discipline, train, and teach consistently, and trust Jesus where you fall short, and where they have a deaf ear. That’s where the grace comes in. There can also be much grace in methodology. I’ll be perfectly honest: I know Scripture teaches physical discipline (i.e. spanking), and that continues to be the main standby at our house, at least for the younger children. But, sometimes, the child just doesn’t care if they get spanked or not. There have been times I could actually see the wheels turning in a little Hall kid’s head, and watched them decide that the disobedience was worth the spanking, and they went right ahead and did whatever it was they were tempted to do. So we have had to come up with other methods that “hurt” more than spankings. There is grace for how you discipline, but it is grace within the boundaries of the call to discipline and train your children.
I’m sure you get my point by now. Pick an area of contention or differing opinions among mommies, and there is grace there. But it is always grace within boundaries. Romans 6:15 says, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Grace does not mean anything goes. So rest in His grace in your mothering, but make sure that it is grace within boundaries.