May 2017 – Charles Spurgeon once said: “You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.”
Life with little ones is beautifully hard. Understanding motherhood from the perspective of Spurgeon makes all the difference in the theory, practice, and appreciation of this high calling.
AFA Journal recently spoke with two godly women who see it this way. They are from different parts of the country and have different family dynamics, but both agree in their understanding that motherhood is “fundamentally about your relationship to God.”
Those are the words of Idaho native Rachel Jankovic, mother of four girls and three boys ages 1 to 12. She is married to Luke, and they live less than a mile from where she was born. Jankovic is a homemaker, blogger, and author.
Janovic family 2013
An avid runner and experienced homeschool teacher, Esther Sanders is a Wisconsin native but now lives in Mississippi where she and her husband Greg parent seven girls ages 8 to 20. A family friend describes them this way: “Greg and Esther are outstanding parents not because they have a formula but because they have created in their home a family culture that orbits around their faith in Christ, rather than the world.”
Sanders family 2016
AFA Journal asked Jankovic and Sanders to talk about being a mother:
AFA Journal: How do you define motherhood?
Rachel Jankovic: In the very simplest way – being the female parent of a child. Motherhood is so symbolic that we say many things are motherly or many things might remind us of a mother, but at the very center, this is what it means.
Esther Sanders: Selflessness! You give … and then give a little more … all the while knowing that you will receive “in due season” a bountiful harvest (Galatians 6:9).
AFAJ: What are some practical ways that you keep your role as a mother in perspective and keep order and balance in your home?
RJ: I’m not more wife than I am mother, or more woman than I am wife. The one thing that I am that swallows up all the rest is that I am a Christian, first. So that relationship defines all of my other relationships [and responsibilities].
ES: My husband has encouraged me to create margins (down time) so that when the unexpected comes – and it will – I have time to stop and discipline my kids, talk things out, and rearrange my schedule to best be the mom I need to be. We were very intentional about disciplining our children and pressing the gospel to their hearts, especially while they were young.
Another great idea that my husband gets credit for is reminding me to “do the ordinary.” Many people are looking for the next big thing that they can be part of, but being a mom and doing it well is the next big thing.
AFAJ: Why is it important that your role as a mother comes second to your role as a wife?
ES: Our children need to see good role models from their sin-flawed mom and dad. We are created in God’s image and need to mirror Him. My role as a wife must be of more importance than my role as a mother because we are training disciples, not making friends with our children. The payoff will be great in the years ahead because then we will enjoy friendships with our children in a new and special way.
AFAJ: What encouragement would you give to single and/or widowed mothers who are seeking to raise children to love the Lord but feel all alone?
ES: I would encourage them by saying that God’s mercies “are new each day” (Lamentations 3:23). He will only give us today what we can handle, and we need not worry about tomorrow. There are so many promises in Scripture that tell us these things. We must go to the Source. We can’t do it on our own, whether single, divorced, widowed, or married.
AFAJ: What do you do when you feel overwhelmed and like you’ve totally messed up?
RJ: Whenever you are being tempted to get introspective and despairing, the answer is the same: Look to Christ. The more you dig around in your heart, the more nastiness you will find. Look to your Savior. Thank the Lord that your mothering is not dependent on you doing the right things at all the right moments and having all the strength within yourself.
ES: I confess my sin – first to God and then to my children. They need to see that their mom is a sinner “saved by grace” (Ephesians 2:8), the same grace that has saved them. Humanly speaking, I look forward to the next day when I can start fresh and consciously ask the Spirit for help to lead them.
AFAJ: How should Christian women respond to the feminist agenda that is being embraced by our culture today?
RJ: The most important thing for Christian women is to stay focused on what the Bible teaches. … Our actual obedience to the Word of God is very simple: I will do it; use me Lord. You need to have that attitude when you approach your work and calling. The Bible is not feminist, and much of it sounds horrible to a feminist. But obedience is still real freedom, no matter what people say.
AFAJ: What do you do daily to keep Jesus at the center of it all?
ES: Spend time in the Word – simple reading of the Bible, memorizing it, listening to podcasts, playing great hymns of the faith on the piano, meeting and being accountable to other moms who are raising their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
AFAJ: What one piece of advice would you give to mothers?
RJ: Do your work joyfully, patiently, kindly, and thoughtfully. Don’t buy into the things the world says about motherhood and homemaking. The world of your home, your children, and the domestic arts are neither unimportant nor irrelevant. … Make beautiful things; make joyful people. Make full tables and lives full of laughter. Make memories of faithfulness. It won’t be easy, but it will be so rich.
ES: Do the ordinary. It may not be praiseworthy in this world, but its eternal rewards are priceless.
In addition to the Bible, Esther Sanders recommends these books about motherhood:
▶ Give them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
▶ Praise Her in the Gates by Nancy Wilson
▶ Mother by Kathleen Norris
▶ Unseduced and Unshaken by Rosalie de Rosset
Rachel Jankovic has authored two books: Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches and Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood both available at bookstores and online. She also blogs at feminagirls.com.