Motherhood Is Not A Detour: A Call to Discipleship in the Home and the Local Church
Words by Cassi Crowley
In the last several years, a new trend has emerged in Silicon Valley among our technology giants— namely Google, Apple, and Facebook. In addition to bringing your dog to work, enjoying massages by certified masseuses, and partaking from endless organic cuisine in the employee cafeteria, if you are a female employee, these companies will now finance oocyte cryopreservation, also known as egg freezing. It’s no secret that the “mommy track” is now a bonafide reality in the workplace. That is, becoming a mother effectively ends one’s career or, at the very least, minimizes the chances of promotions and overall influence within the corporate structure. Some have gone so far as to describe motherhood in the corporate world as “the kiss of death.” Thankfully, you can now freeze your eggs so as not to interrupt your ascension to the highest corporate echelons. In our culture’s obsession with gender parity in the workplace, we’ve now determined that kids are, effectively, the worst. Women are constantly told they must choose between career and family, unless they are wealthy enough to outsource the burdens of motherhood and attempt to “have it all.” In the eyes of popular culture, children are an interruption, a burden, a financial drain, an inconvenience, and a distraction; motherhood is a fast track to cultural insignificance.
The economy of God could not take a more opposite view on motherhood and child-rearing. Psalm 127:3 exuberantly states, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Children are a gift from God to their parents, not a burden. Likewise, Jesus does not dismiss children from his ministry, but invites them into his presence and even goes so far as to say that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as they (Luke 18:16). So, why do we doubt the dignity and value inherent in child-rearing? Like Eve, do we find ourselves listening to the evil one as he seductively whispers, “Did God really say…?” Do we willingly ingest gospel-void cultural perspectives about motherhood, thereby questioning God’s good gifts?
If you’re like me, you might be prone to this doubt and needless wondering. Perhaps motherhood has felt like a detour from ministry, from professional ascension, from long-held personal goals. While you joyfully love your children, perhaps there is a part of you that wonders if you’ve been “mommy tracked” in the economy of God. In the sea of soiled diapers, reheated cups of coffee, mountains of laundry, and the evasive goal of “balancing it all” (which, in my opinion, should be erased from our cultural vernacular), perhaps you are discouraged and disoriented. Perhaps you feel that the world has moved on without you and that the Lord is using everyone else but you.
Be encouraged. Our culture has created a dichotomy that needs not exist, thanks to the liberating and life-giving message of the gospel. Motherhood is not a detour, a burden, or a hiatus from the rest of your life—it is an invitation to minister and serve in new ways. Work in the economy of God is not measured by paychecks, 401k balances, promotions, book signings, or worldly influence. Work is measured by the glory given to God in whatever we set our hand to do, or whatever our hands are given to do. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). The work we do only matters insofar as it glorifies God. But, sister, how do we bring glory to God in our everyday lives? I offer two thoughts for you to consider, both inextricably founded in the gospel-call of discipleship.
The first is simply to acknowledge that motherhood should, at its very core, concern itself with the discipleship of children. The discipleship of children in our homes is critically important ministry, not just something we do until we can “get back” to ministry work. Moreover, the goal of our motherhood should not be that we raise culturally moral children but that we endeavor to provide care and nurture that proclaims the gospel.
Let me be clear, we cannot make our children love Jesus; it is only the mysterious work of God that changes hearts and leads his people to repentance and reconciliation with him. However, we can and should teach our children about the saving work of Jesus through stories and Sunday school, through family devotions and daily prayers, through their growing experience with the wonders of physical creation. Even before our children can speak and fully comprehend, we emulate the sacrifice of Jesus as we begin motherhood by literally sacrificing our bodies for the purpose of giving life, as we patiently endure another sleepless night, as we attend to the unending physical demands of a baby, as we reprioritize our needs and wants to meet the needs and wants of a child. In every moment, we proclaim that our lives are not about serving ourselves but humbly and winsomely serving others in order that the gospel “might not be reviled” (Titus 2:3–6).
Secondly, motherhood does not negate our calling to discipleship outside the home. Sister, whether you know it or not, younger women are watching you and learning from you. As you sit in church, speak to and about your husband (or other family members in your life), encourage and admonish your children, cope with frustration and disappointment, there are young women who are taking their cues from you. Likewise, there are young women who desperately long to know what biblical womanhood (and motherhood!) look like in a world that scorns and reviles the gospel. We have a unique opportunity, as mothers, to let younger women into the daily ministry chaos of our lives.
Discipleship does not require you to have “all the answers,” nor is it only for those who have attended seminary. Discipleship, at its core, is proclaiming the gospel and encouraging believers to walk in faith and obedience to the teachings of Jesus (Matt. 28:19–20). If you fear the Lord and are daily seeking him, you are qualified. Sister, you are not just qualified—you are called! Will discipleship look different in the little years? Absolutely. There might be some days you sit across from a young woman in a coffee shop with your Bibles open, pens in hand, jotting notes and diving deep into theology. There might be some days she sits at your kitchen table and you talk in between your toddler’s squeals and interruptions. In either case, you are entering into critical kingdom work and teaching this young woman what it means to be faithful in the chaos of motherhood.
Motherhood is not a detour from your calling, as a believer, to ministry and discipleship. We should not take “maternity leave” from our spiritual lives and callings as we raise our children, believing the someday we’ll “get back to work.” The time is now, sister. The call to glorify God is a call we lovingly respond to every day, not just in seasons when it might feel more convenient. This should not be added as one more burden on our list or prescription for the Christian life, void of faith and daily obedience. Rather, let us consider the glorious and eternal purposes of this particular season in life, in which, despite the rhetoric of popular culture, there is tremendous influence! Discipleship invites others to experience the saving work of the gospel in everyday life, leading us to do what we were created to do: glorify God and enjoy him forever.