Last week I introduced you to a man named Francois Fenelon and I promised we would take some time walking through the principles he laid out for parenting in his book entitled “The Education of A Child.” We are starting with Fenelon’s first thoughts about childhood as he highlights the importance of the mother in a child’s life.
I love that one of the first things he does in his book is honor moms. The home lays the foundation of a child’s future and the virtues of both parents willl contribute. Our reflection of God’s love to our children sets their compass for the direction of their character and choices. Fenelon says, “It is the woman who holds the key to her children’s heart in the early years of childhood.”
Sitting here in the 21st century, you might not be knocked off your sofa hearing those words of Fenelon’s, but go back with me to the mid 1600s when women did not receive as much freedom and respect as they do now. Fenelon said things like,
“A woman who is a mother, is she not greater than he that ruleth a city? Are not her children the foundation of all human life?”
He went on to call us “the soul of the family.” The soul of the family – that is what you are. The Greek word for soul, “psyche” and the Hebrew word, “nephesh” both mean that which breathes and gives life. The Greek goes further by saying, the seat of the feelings, desires, affections and aversions. We are giving breath of life to this family of ours. We are the heartbeat and the emotion. No wonder the saying goes, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”
Because of this, our God given gift is to be the mother in the home and the wife to our husband. I think of all the roles in my life: daughter, sister, friend, church and ministry, employee, etc. When I consider these roles, none of them belong solely to me. There are other sisters, daughters, friends and servants. But only I will mother my children and only I will be the wife to my husband. I don’t hold to the line of thinking which says, “Jesus first, husband second, children third, etc.” God doesn’t work in straight lines and heirarchies the way we are prone to do. He makes it possible to simultaneously love God wholeheartedly and devote ourselves to our children and husband while serving others in the mix. We don’t have to make these roles compete. We do have to choose wisely so that we know when to let others fill certain roles so that we do not neglect our own. Certain roles (wife and mother) are exclusively mine and because of that fact I need to take great care in those because no one else is going to pick up the slack.
And, I hear you, dear friend, when you sigh right now. I hear you thinking of the weariness of your role as mother or wife. I know what you mean and I’m walking with you. I know what it is to have long, draining nights. I have had knees worn white from times of prayer over children who are struggling. I have experienced the burnt-out, end-of-the-rope feelings that come when it’s been one of those days (or weeks!). I know.
Yet, I’m hearing more clearly from Fenelon and from my time reflecting on his writing that we are privileged and called to a virtuous role in our children’s lives. And only we can fulfill this role for them. We get one shot. We are impacting the world as we wipe noses, snuggle on the couch, read books, push swings, play checkers and bake cookies. Conversely, we impact the world when we choose Facebook over family time, neglect ourselves and end up having nothing to give, or spend the bulk of our time at church “serving God” while our children are shuffled around from care giver to care giver. We impact them if we raise our voice, act impatiently and demand perfection. All of these seeds grow roots into their little hearts and bear fruit in later seasons.
I’m here shoulder to shoulder with you and I’ve got a bag of regrets which I’ve poured out at the foot of the Cross. I have made mistakes as a mother and I have spent time wishing I had known better, done better and loved better. But, I’m not looking back over mistakes I’ve made. Jesus has taken each one and absorbed it. He has cleansed me and restored me and brought beauty from ashes. My regrets thankfully don’t outnumber God’s redemptive mercy in our home. I’m stepping forward into what I’ve become and am becoming. Year after year He has brought me along. He has healed my heart and through that He has healed my mothering.
You and I, we are molding lives which go on beyond our four walls. We are sending our children out past these moments. We are raising up the next generation. When we do it with grace, love and virtue, we are setting stones in a foundation which will last into future generations. This is your high calling. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. I grasp at this fact and the depth still eludes me. It is a picture of motherhood. As we stoop to bless we join Him in loving our children. And He meets us there in those moments when we are bent low. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Consider your calling and the One who has called you. It can feel so mundane, invisible and unimportant, but don’t be decieved. You hold a key to something beautiful, eternal and infinitely significant.
Photos courtesy of WikiCommons