"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:3-5
Before becoming a mother I read that passage and was left with uneasy feelings. The "subject to their husbands" did not phase me because I understood it and experienced the beauty of it as it was intended. However, the "be busy at home" part left me cringing. If that didn't feed the false narrative many like to accentuate of biblical woman principles, I don't know what would.
But God reminded me of something very important: When a verse leaves me uneasy, I need to trust him with the instruction and he will lead me to the understanding.
And he did.
After becoming a mother I wrestled for a while with balance, responsibilities, and priorities. What was I 'supposed' to prioritize? What was I 'supposed' to do with my other roles some of which I was now fulfilling out of obligation not overflow? What was I suppose to do with the areas of my life that seemed to drag me away from my daughter, husband, and home? And by drag I mean they had suddenly become a drag. I wanted to handle everything the way God wanted me to because only through that way would I be refreshed, enlivened, and living abundantly. Only through Him could I be guaranteed to make the wisest choice leading to the greatest peace. And so I prayed. A lot. And had others praying for me.
God began directing, clarifying, and speaking to me through many modes, affirming himself over and over. Different ministries, pastors, faith-based podcasts, fellow believers, mentors, circumstances, and scriptures all were saying the same thing. And that's how I knew it was God.
Pastor Craig Groschel's words were incredibly powerful, "Balance isn't the goal. Faithfulness is. If you are striving for balance, you will be frustrated. But if you respect the season you are in and are faithful to do what is most important in this season in life, you will find peace." I was attempting to find peace through arranging my plate differently but I needed to respect the magnitude of the changes in this season and all they required. To respect the season I was in meant admitting my limitations and making adjustments. This season would be short and it would be sweet. It would be monumentally important and it would require a level of selflessness and sacrifice unlike ever before. I would be misunderstood and disappoint plenty of people, but it was pleasing God I was after not people. Now that I respected it, I had to be faithful to what is most important in it. Then I would have the peace I was after.
My spiritual health would be most important through every season of life, but how do I decide what is "most important" specifically to this season of life?
When I am the only one who can fulfill a certain responsibility that is inherently connected to my life, that can be considered most important. When someone is 100% dependent on me to survive and thrive, that is most important. When if I were to neglect that role, others would suffer extremely, that is most important. When I have entered into a covenant before God of marriage and thus an unbreakable relationship which is to demonstrate Christ's love for his church and the gospel, that is most important.
I don't want to give the best of myself to everyone else and leftovers to the most important people in my life. No one else can be Liv's mother and no one else can be Chad's wife. Never again in Liv's life will she be so dependent on me for everything and because of the attention Liv needs, never again in Chad's life will I need to place so much intention behind my love for him. Faithfulness in those most important areas will lead to peace because those roles are what God has specifically and undeniably called me steward for his glory in this short, sweet season.
So I understood that I needed to be faithful to my family foremost during this season from a pastor's words, but where was that encouragement specifically in scripture?
And then I came across that verse again in my quiet time.
" Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:3-5
This time I read that verse through the lens of a new mother, and I felt an enormous wave of freedom, permission, and affirmation wash over me. It was a breath of fresh air to my tired, busy body. It was warm sunshine on my face. It was a period to my several months of prayers for direction on how to handle life and my responsibilities now.
Really, it read something like this to me: "Older Godly, faithful women, assure the younger, new mothers that they have the freedom and permission to love their husbands and children and direct their busy lives inward toward their families instead of all outward. They don't have to exhaust themselves for everyone else at the cost of their families. They will honor God by devoting attention, energy, and sacrifice to their home and family, one of the greatest ministries of all."
Before I was fearful of becoming a mother because I envisioned it being so restricting; however, it was through becoming a mother I understood a new level of freedom. The words to love my husband, my children, and be busy at home were designed to bring out the best in me AND provide me with the freedom, permission, and affirmation I wanted. I wanted to invest in my family. I wanted to sacrifice for them. I wanted to know I was pursuing God's will and purpose for me and not being selfish in that pursuit. To love someone so much and to be given purpose behind that love and permission to give them your best is the most wonderful gift. Something the world rarely esteemed was held in high regard in scripture.
I was free from working from obligation and free to work FROM an overflow of love that was absolutely incapacitating, a love that put joy and purpose into even the mundane, and a love that reflects the gospel on so many levels. I was free from wearing too many hats and stretching myself thin and instead free to place tremendous importance and action around loving my family and home well. That verse was permission to lay aside some of my external obligations I had grown weary of in order to invest more into the humble, quiet, unseen work of motherhood. It was affirmation that God valued motherhood as a high calling and ministry in itself. It was affirmation that God wanted me to lay aside and change some things for the sake of a few greater things and hone in on his calling for my life. He would prune some areas and have me cut loose others that I was never meant to grasp so tightly or invest in so heavily. He gave clarity through this passage. My purpose and calling was narrowing and that was enlivening. God knew long before any of us had children the deep love we would have for our children and he knew the words of permission we would need to read in order to unashamedly invest our lives into them.
That is the beautiful thing about motherhood I could have never fathomed before having a child. You love this tiny person SO much that not only are they a gift but it is a PRIVILEGE to in gratitude work FROM this love. IT is working out of OVERFLOW. We ALL want to work from the overflow of our hearts, right? Think about one thing you love SO much, would sacrifice everything for, and find so much purpose in. What if you had all the blessing, permission, affirmation, and freedom in the world to pursue that thing whole heartedly? This verse provides that.
Being a jack of all trades and master of none is not God's plan for me. He wants me to be a master at the roles he has specifically called me to so that I live in and work from my purpose, calling, and potential. That will result in the most fulfillment of all.
But balance is essential. I'm not saying we should be self absorbed and neglect everything outside of motherhood. It is a slippery slope to let our families and homes become idols but we can guard against this by never placing our spiritual life on hold. We should walk in our God-given potential of every season in every season. Our faith and the ministry we are called to do will always, through every season of life, be most important. As Shauna Niequist said, "When your inner connectedness to quiet and God gets edged out by the franticness of your life, it is time to trim." Connecting to God, our church, and our faith family are constants that should be an unceasing priority. If we invest in and maintain those three essential connections, we can be assured we are leading lives of spiritual investment and not self-absorption.
Living life in pursuit of Jesus will always require sacrifice. He tells us to be a follower we must "deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him" (Matthew 16:24-27). The tricky part is we have to be sure we are taking up our crosses (or giving up things) to follow HIM and not to follow the world or our own selfish desires. If our sacrifices are resulting in knowing Jesus and making him known in our sphere of influence, we can rest assured we sacrificing for the right reasons.
I could not joyfully, wholeheartedly, and unashamedly lay other things aside to invest in my family and home without that verse. Without that specific encouragement to mothers in scripture, I believe women would be left more tired, more stretched thin, more akin to listen to the world, and more likely to wear too many hats. We would try to live up to too many expectations for everyone else except Who matters most. We would have no assurance that caring for our families and homes monumentally matters. That verse provides empowerment for women as it magnifies the tremendous importance of one role many women steward in this world.
Women are told by this world they need to do what they want, when they want, at the cost of whoever they don't want. Self-fulfillment is the goal at the cost of anything and anyone. And that cost includes a woman's heart, soul, and life. But we know fulfillment doesn't occur through self but through God. The world offers confusing voices of bondage, but we can always find a steady voice of freedom in scripture. A voice that says we don't have to impress to rise the ladder. We don't have to prove to find our worth. We don't have to work for acceptance in this work-driven world.
Remembering I live under grace always leads to a freeing feeling of relief. My standing before God does not depend on my working for him. It doesn't depend on how many roles and responsibilities I can juggle in motherhood as the world demands. It doesn't depend on what everyone else thinks about my choices in this new season. It doesn't depend on anything I could ever think to boast about and thus not on me at all. I can rest in HIS finished work, be faithful to what is most important in this season of life, and work from the overflow of my heart found in Him. That will glorify him and give me the peace I desire.
Signs I knew a change was needed:
Observing my quiet time becoming inconsistent or non-existent. Meeting with the Lord in His Word every day should remain a priority through every season of life. We should never become comfortable knowing we are neglecting our daily time with the Lord. Like the the bible says it should be as important as eating!
Feeling like I was running from one thing to another to another
Doing stuff I once did from a sacrificial place of overflow for the mission I was now doing solely out of obligation and guilt
Having guilt when away from my family/husband. Yes there is a balance that needs to take place and sometimes you do just have to leave and the guilt is false but sometimes it is reflecting your true desires and its okay to listen to it!
Thinking about my daughter incessantly while doing something I had been doing for years, knowing I was missing out on something in her life by continuing to pursue that activity.
Feeling drained and discouraged instead of energized, encouraged, and at peace.
Seeing new chaos and frustration arise in Chad or me as a result of my absence.
Tangible changes I had to make in order to WALK in the freedom, permission, and affirmation the verse gave me:
I had to stop exercising at 5:00am. My mornings are when I am at my best. They are the most quiet, the most predictable, and can be the most chaotic if I am not careful. They are guaranteed time with the Lord and I must have my quiet time first thing in the morning or else it aint happening and it sure isn't going to be of good quality. I had to start valuing my quiet time more than my work out time and accept that some days, with the busy life I lead, exercise wouldn't happen. But as long as time with The Lord did, that is what truly mattered. If I can exercise that day, its an awesome day. And if not, I don't beat myself up about it but realize I tended to what was most important: my spiritual health and my family.
We had to change the time and day our couples group met. We met every other Sunday evening for years but felt the nudge to change from Sunday to Tuesday. We wanted Sundays to be a time of rest and family. Meeting on Sunday nights started to become hard because we would spend hours Sunday preparing after a morning in church and have no restful, quality family time. Changing to Tuesdays helped this tremendously, but this did not come without push back. Luckily the majority also wanted and voted for this change. . In the end, it was the hard choice, but the right and best choice. We sought God's direction in doing this and he was faithful to guide us.
I had to change the time and day my 6:15am girls small group met. Mornings were hard once Liv came but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I would feel so bad seeing her for only a few minutes on that morning. All along it was incredibly chaotic although I tried to stay in denial. I was rushing through both my small group time and my time with Liv. But I wanted unrushed time with both. In order to maintain the most peaceful, conducive mornings for our family and the best quality time with my group, I changed the day and time. So we will start meeting a few Wednesday nights per month when Chad is serving in our student ministry after I have put Liv to bed. Still determined to see how this change goes but I am excited about it! And thankful for girls who are so understanding!
I had to stop volunteering in one area at church, but did not stop the other areas. My two small groups are my people, my faith family, and my community and thus incredibly important to my spiritual health. The other area I continue to serve in is in line with my spiritual gifts and God's purpose for me. I felt no nudge whatsoever to let that go. But the area I gave up I was doing more from obligation than overflow although I loved it's mission, its leaders, and its results! It was hard to possibly disappoint the leaders and admit I was at my limit, but it was freeing.