Thanks for joining in this week’s series “Radical Exemptions“. If you missed the first two days, feel free to refer back! I kicked the week off with some musings, and then I passed the baton to my friends who can talk more soundly and from experience about the subject of parenting. I hope you’ll continue to join us all week as we continue this discussion.
I met Molly during freshman orientation at Asbury College. She and I lived on the same hall and fast became dear friends. Molly’s resoluteness about her faith is one of the things that initially drew me to her, and has continued to inspire and challenge me. She has met each season of life with resolve and conviction from teaching to graduate school to marriage to parenting. Molly and her husband Nate make their home in Alabama with their three boys: Mark, Tim, and Peter.
I read Radical back in the fall of 2010 during a perplexing, exciting, and hopeful time when God seemed to be leading my husband and me to adopt our first child. We had been trying to conceive for over a year, and after the Lord led me on an incredible journey out of anger and bitterness and into the sweet rest of surrender, He instilled in us the desire to adopt. As He did this, He renewed in me a passion for His glory; I wanted to live so that others would see how great He is. So the ideas in Radical completely resounded with the path on which God had put me. And let’s face it: intending to stop the process of trying to have a biological child at the age of 28 and pursue adoption was somewhat radical. And so the book was very reassuring.
And then God stopped us in our tracks as we were about to begin the adoption paperwork by giving us not one, but two, babies. Twin boys. We also moved at this time to a different town in our state because of my husband’s job change. And so suddenly our lives didn’t “look” so radical on the outside. We moved from one subdivision to the next in smallish-town America, though our neighborhood demographics did shift quite dramatically from one filled with young families and couples to a street made up almost entirely of retired couples and elderly widows. I stopped working and became a stay-at-home mother, and we also found and joined a local church plant.
But even with the major changes God brought to us, the need to apply the premise of Radical in our lives didn’t change because the premise of Radical is based on the Word of God and the commands of Jesus in it. What are these commands? One, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39). And two, to make disciples of Christ as we go where God has placed us (Mt. 28:19-20).
Why are these commands “radical?” They are radical because they do not come naturally. And they do not come naturally because they are costly to one’s self. They are not convenient. They require planning, intentionality, and sacrifice. And so as a mother, for example, rather than follow Christ’s commands, it’s easy to slip into the “let’s just raise nice, moral, and respectful young men” parenting mindset. And accompanied by this mode of mothering is an entire turn inward, to where I receive God’s blessings in my life with the end goal of merely wanting to be blessed more, rather than to be a blessing to others.
This two-fold worldview as a mother becomes my default mindset if my heart, mind, and soul are not utterly captivated by the Gospel. The Gospel is the only antidote to my selfish cravings to live to please myself. And the more I am consumed by the Gospel, the less radical Christ’s commands actually seem.
So what is the connection between the Gospel and my heart to love God and others? God saved me so that I would make his glory known among the nations, beginning in my home and them extending outwardly (Eph. 1:11-12, Ps. 67:1-2). He has transformed me from an object of his wrath to an object of the riches of his mercy (Eph. 2:3-7). He bought me with the precious blood of his Son and adopted me into his family (Eph. 1:5-7). Once an orphan and now his child, how can I not love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love others selflessly? With the Holy Spirit in me, this is not radical. Living for His glory should define the culture of my family. With eyes of faith, following God’s commands, loving others, and discipling my children are merely the fruit of seeking first the Kingdom of God.
And so I’ll give you a glimpse into how living out the culture of the Kingdom of God looks for me in this season of young motherhood, in no particular order:
- Reading the Word of God when I’d rather stay in bed, catch up on Facebook’s morning news, or watch the Today Show
- Practicing hospitality, even when it’s uncomfortable, risky, and takes a lot of effort
- Sharing with others, even when my budget is tight, when it means I might not have leftovers for the next night’s dinner, or when it might involve an extra trip to the store with three children
- Searching the Word of God for passages that apply to the sinful attitudes of the heart that I see in my toddlers, and then applying it verbally as I correct them.
- Searching my own heart after I correct my toddlers and repenting of the same sinful attitude I see in myself
- Visiting the widows on our street when I’d rather have a playdate or get the laundry done
- Praying that God would show me who the “least of these” is in our lives and sharing our lives when He brings them our way, even if it means a homeless man who visits our church and needs a home-cooked meal and a shower
- Seeking to do all things in our home excellently and to the glory of God so that He would look beautiful to my children—things like unloading the dishwasher or cleaning the bathroom without pushing my boys out of the way and getting angry when they mess something up or try to help
- Serving faithfully with a local body of believers as part of a church plant, which sometimes looks like taking the whole family on a Saturday morning to scrub bathrooms and vacuum
- Living simply, choosing household projects wisely, and not accumulating any debt so that we can give to others and also hopefully be in a financial position to adopt a child one day.
- Taking time to clean our home or call a friend, even if it means abandoning my selfish demand for “me-time”
I’m not going to lie. Each one of the things I have listed is an ongoing battle. They’re not easy. I’m a homebody, an introvert, and I’m frugal. I’m also a control freak and a perfectionist. I’m a people-pleaser and don’t like to risk rejection by sharing the Gospel. Seeking to obey God, love others selflessly, and disciple my children faithfully are at war against those characteristics every single day. But I’ve learned that when the commands of Jesus feel too radical, too inconvenient, and when they feel like items on a to-do list, it’s time for me to soak myself in God’s Word. It’s time for me to pray that the Lord would overwhelm me with the Gospel once again. And He is faithful and has, and will continue, to do it. And then obedience—this living “radically”–becomes pure delight.
If you would like to read more on living out the Gospel in the midst of the mundane, I highly recommend the blog Domestic Kingdom. It has been a source of great challenge and encouragement to my soul.